March 12, 2000


I held my breath the first time David drove me through the Posey Tube.

Not because the Tube is dark and damp and smells like the inside of your tenth grade boyfriend's father's garage, especially when you forget to roll up the car windows and close the sun roof before you enter the tunnel.

Although it is, and it does.

And not because we were surrounded by daredevil California drivers -- [now THERE is redundancy for you] -- tailgating and blaring their horns and swerving wildly from one lane to another, hellbent on breaking all land/speed records getting from the Alameda side to the Oakland side.

Although we were.

And not because I experienced a major Claustrophobia Moment, knowing that midway through the Tube we were actually 68 feet below sea level. ["Do NOT think about earthquakes  ...  do NOT think about earthquakes ..."]

Although we were, and I did.

my daily eighty seconds of 

No.  I held my breath because everybody knows that holding your breath all the way through a tunnel is the very best kind of good luck. And even though *I* personally don't have a single superstitious molecule in my entire body ... shut up! shut up! ... I still thought it might be worth a shot.  So as David plunged the Subaru into the Alameda entrance of the Posey Street Tube -- at one time the largest immersed tube tunnel in the world, when it was built back in the 1920's -- I pulled several metric gallons of air into my lungs. And I held it there.

For eighty seconds.

David had no clue what I was up to. We were driving towards Oakland for a little sightseeing -- it was my first weekend in California, and we were trying to cram as much fun, food, and local culture into me as humanly possible -- and he was totally engrossed in his travelogue. He didn't even notice that his passenger had suddenly gone very quiet and rigid.

Thirty seconds into the Tube, I was seeing those little twinkly *stars* on the periphery of my field of vision. Sixty seconds into it, I was turning an elegant eggplant color.

Halfway through, we passed the little "Alameda/Oakland" marker -- nothing more than tiny letters written on the wall, really -- and I could finally [thank god] see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. "Just a few seconds more," I told myself.

It was agony.

By the time we emerged from the Tube -- eighty seconds after we entered -- I was ready to explode. As we emerged on the far side of the Tube, blinking in sudden Oakland sunshine, I exhaled in a noisy, unladylike rush.

David looked at me in surprise. "You OK?" he asked, and I mumbled something about "hiccups." Apparently he bought it, because he immediately resumed his travelogue. I sat beside him and panted quietly, waiting for my heart to stop hammering in my chest ... waiting for my breathing to return to normal ... waiting for my *wish* to come true.

  *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

At the risk of using an obvious and gimmicky analogy, that's what the last week of my life at The Totem Pole Company has been like: one long, smelly ride through the tunnel, with me holding my breath till it hurts ... followed by blessed light at the other end.

*New & Improved Franz* lasted for approximately two weeks ... or about as long as it took for his voicemail box to exceed its storage limit again. All of a sudden it's right back to blowing off appointments and ignoring his mail and issuing imperious commands to take his tuna sandwich back to the Corner Café and exchange it for salad. ["This time, open it up and make sure it's a salad, not a sandwich."]  Wednesday night we reached critical mass when he came into my office, as I was putting on my coat and gathering up my Tupperware, and ordered me -- at 5:26 p.m. -- to "run" the six blocks to the Fed Ex drop box, in time to catch the final 5:30 p.m. pickup.

In high heels. In the dark. In the rain.

I refused.

"I will be glad to fax it wherever it needs to go, Franz," I said. "And I'll send out a hard copy first thing tomorrow morning ... by courier, if you want. But there's no way I'm going to make it all the way down the street in time." I didn't bother pointing out that he'd had all day to decide he wanted to send a copy of this particular proposal to his buddy in Yountville. I didn't bother pointing out that what he was asking was excessive and unreasonable, even for him.

I didn't bother pointing out that he is a horse's ass of epic propotions.

I was calm. I was pleasant. I was professional.

And -- judging from the expression on his face -- I was fucked.

[I knew I could pretty much expect all 1,927 of those limit-exceeding voicemails to be in my voicemail box the next morning.]

When David picked me up that night, I sagged against him in the elevator and cried like a baby into his chest. "I can't doooo this anymore," I wailed. Review or no review ... teeny-tiny salary increase or no teeny-tiny salary increase ... groovy view of the Tribune Tower or no groovy view of The Tribune Tower ..  NO job is worth this amount of aggravation.

But that was Wednesday.

By Thursday -- when Franz left for an extended family ski trip that will keep him out of the office [AND out of cell phone range] until Tuesday of next week -- I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel again. The usual blanket of calm and good cheer descended on the entire office, the moment he was gone.

By Friday morning I was humming again ... even when he called me from the chairlift to see if I'd remembered to pick up his ironing board for him. [Don't ask. I'm saving that one for the screenplay.]

By Friday afternoon ... I felt like I was emerging on the Oakland side of the Posey Tube, once again.

It's a feeling that has persisted all weekend, as I've enjoyed two long, lazy days of books and naps and Girl Scout cookies and laying in bed holding feet with the Other 50% of the Population. The difficult thing has been trying not to dwell on the fact that, come Monday morning, I'm plunging right back into the Tube for another eighty seconds of darkness ...

... and that holding my breath just makes it seem to last that much longer.

Even when there's a wish waiting for me on the other side.