Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Cherry Colored Memories

For Proust it was madeleines. For me, it's cherries.
This time of the year, when I sit at my desk eating cherries, I travel in time. Back to the summer of 1982.
I was 20. Home from college for the summer and working temporary jobs in Manhattan. Long hot trips on the #1 IRT line, back when the walls were covered by graffitti and air conditioning was a luxury. No cell phones back then, no IPods--heck I didn't acquire a "Walkman" cassette player till the following year, and they were bigger than the box most player come in now--and a lot heavier!
First there was the shoe factory near the Empire State Building Station where I worked as a file clerk, and because I was competent enough to file correctly, I wasn't allowed to do anything else. While the cuter, twittier girl was allowed to run errands. When the job ended after a week, I was thrilled.
Then there were 4-6 long weeks at an insurance company where people were nice, but you had to clock out for every meal and break, something I'd never had to do before. The work was boring and repetitive. The main perk was being right by Penn Station and the row of fast food places by Macy's. By which I mean a Chinese fast food joint that made fabulous chicken wings and a terrific Greek gyro place. And "Peppermint Park" ice cream right over by Penn Station.
But then there was a week working in a company down around Fulton Street--not far fro the South Street Seaport.
I don't remember what the company was--maybe accountants, maybe lawyers.  No idea. But then I didn't need to know. They were reorganizing their filing systems, and my job was to relabel their files folders. I don't remember doing much else.
For a week I got to sit in a quiet office, listening to the radio and working on the files. No one rushed me--I don't remember anything about the staff now, except that they were all nice to me.
And every lunch break--without a time clock-- I got to wander around the Seaport shopping area, or the pedestrian mall that had been set up on Fulton Street. And I always bought cherries from one of the vendors on the mall.

I'd sit at my work station, labeling files and eating cherries. I can see myself, wearing my favorite outfit of the time--a black prairie skirt and a red striped blouse with a big white sailor collar. I miss that blouse.
And here I am, nearly 30 years later. Sitting in my office at my very permanent job, eating cherries in the afternoon.

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