The New Girl
to go: 1,262.17
New Girl wants to
know if there are any 'good restaurants' in the neighborhood. "You know
what I mean, right?" she says hopefully. "Someplace close I can walk to
on my lunch hour?"
and I exchange a
very slowly -- I can tell she's struggling to sound nonchalent here --
"we either bring our lunch in, or else we go out together as a group."
She smiles at The New Girl: a bright, practiced smile, full of easy
insincerity and false reassurance.
then she scurries
back to her office to finish filling out the latest police report.
telling The New Girl, of course, is this: Basically
we try not to wander around this neighborhood unless we're desperate
... or armed.
The New Girl about the Dirt Company truck being stolen from the parking
lot, over the weekend, nor the fact that this is the second
truck-jacking we've endured in as many months. She doesn't mention the
most recent laboratory break-in, earlier this month (who the hell
steals DIRT SAMPLES??
I ask you?) ... nor does she mention the thief who walked into our
office last fall, off the street, and stole JoAnne's purse right off
her desk while she was in the next room making copies. She doesn't
Close Encounter of the Gangsta Kind.
She certainly doesn't mention the nice little maintenance guy being
beaten to a bloody pulp in the parking lot last week.
use terrifying a
perfectly good new employee on her first day here ... right?
New Girl looks at me
with wide, unblinking blue eyes. She looks a little like Gwyneth
Paltrow: all long blonde hair and gangly elegance. It's clear that she
doesn't really *get* this whole quadruple-paranoia-security stuff. She
was startled, for instance, when we gave her a bathroom key. "You guys
lock your bathroom?,"
she said, looking genuinely shocked. (Just wait till we give her an ELEVATOR
key.) Now, as I carefully explain that she probably shouldn't go
downstairs to the mailbox by herself -- or that if she does, she should
at least carry a cell phone with her -- she's looking at me with an
expression that says Lady, I think you've been watching too many
that's OK. I
understand. *I* didn't get it right away, either. If The Totem Pole
Company had nothing else going for it -- and trust me, it didn't -- it
at least had location, location, location. Every day I could escape the
lunacy for one blissful hour, in the middle of my workday, and walk
around downtown Oakland, shopping for books and birthday presents
I guess I became spoiled by the ease and the convenience of it all.
When I started working here at The Dirt Company last fall, I
expected it to be more of the same. This was still Oakland, right?
People have still got to eat and shop and power-walk in the Coliseum
area, right? It took a disastrous lunch hour trip to Pay 'n Pak (where
young man in orange dreadlocks actually spit on my open-toed sandals),
plus a couple more of those scary/annoying Thug Encounters in the
parking lot (Hey Mama how you
doin) for me to understand
why my co-workers travel everywhere in packs.
says The New
Girl, when I've finished debriefing her. I don't know whether she'll
pay any attention to what we've told her. If she's silly enough to risk
her life (or her handbag) crossing the highway for a Coliseum Burger,
at least we can't say she wasn't warned.
in the day, I'm
coming back to my desk after lunch. (Today's ultra-healthy/ultra-boring
menu: melon cubes, green grapes, bottled water and half a *FootNotes*
entry, enjoyed in the privacy -- and security -- of the empty CAD
cubicle.) Suddenly The New Girl comes careening around the corner, like
the Richmond-Fremont skidding off the BART tracks. She's got an open
bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in one hand, a bag of Double-Stuf Oreos and a
couple of Kit-Kats in the other hand, and an enormous chug of chocolate
milk tucked under one arm. Her new Dirt Company key ring dangles from
cheerfully, through a mouthful of security keys. "You guys have got a
lotta good stuff
in your kitchen! No WONDER
you never go anywhere!" And she slinks off down the hallway toward her
cubicle, lugging her armload of "lunch."
think I'm going to be
hating The New Girl before too very long.
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