"So, how's the job going?"
Well, since you asked ...
The job is good. It's an adjustment to go from the autonomy of self-employment, but that adjustment is greatly eased by the check slipped into my top desk drawer every other week. My assignments are interesting and challenging and I get really useful and positive feedback on a regular basis, which can't always be said for either retail or motherhood. My team is very friendly and generous, and although we all seem to take an interest in each other's lives, we just haven't forged a personal connection - they noticed my tattoo, but not my new haircut. And the rest of the company is ... well, I can't really say. Not because it's bad, just because I don't really know anyone outside of the three other people in my department. Those other people seem nice, when they're talking to each other in the breakroom or having work-stalling conversations over the cube walls, but I tend to feel invisible when I'm moving in their midst. I know this is partly because a) I'm conversationally stunted and will never take the opportunity to jump into a discussion uninvited, even when the women down the row are saying that breastfeeding makes babies spoiled, and b) about 25% of our division has been hired in the last quarter and so there are a whole lot of newbies walking around. And then just to complicate social matters, my team was moved down a floor last week, so those people whose shoes I was just about to get brave enough to compliment are now an even more gaping distance away.
Some people would solve this issue by putting on a brave new-kid face and charging in, confident that their charms would win out. But I've been the new kid so many times that my instinct is to lay low and hope my greenness doesn't expose me to scorn or ridicule. And just like elementary school, the biggest struggle of the day is deciding where to eat. Since the idea of sitting alone and eating lunch in the breakroom turned my stomach, I did a quick Google Map search of the area and found a restaurant within walking distance from my office. "Restaurant" might be stretching it a bit, really, but tucked inside an office building in the Ridgeway Loop, with no outdoor signage or any indication that it's there (oh, I already loved its humility), is Lisa's Lunchbox.
When I walked in the first day, Lauren at the counter took my name as well as my order. Which seemed like a fairly standard, Starbucksy thing to do, but then I noticed that she was greeting everyone who came in by name. I got a pre-boxed turkey and swiss special for five bucks (home-made chess bar and chips included) and took it back to my cubicle. The chess bar alone brought me back the next day, and when I got to the front of the line, Lauren said, "It's SAM, right?" Why, yes, it is.
The food is great (I'm deeply fond of the ham and swiss panini, which they serve with a side of ranch dressing for dippin'), but what really draws me back (multiple times a week) is the atmosphere. Not the brightly lit, styrofoam cup ambiance, but the actual tone of the place. I sit alone reading a book, but I don't ever feel like I'm by myself. I listen to the gossip behind the counter and follow the conversations with other customers. I hear Lisa talking about the challenges of small business ownership and I feel like part of the same club. These t-shirt-clad thirtysomething women (Lisa and Lauren are joined by Laura - oh, the alliteration alone delights my writing heart) seem more like my people than the other business casual corporate types sitting around me.
If you come out east to have lunch with me, know that I will suggest Lisa's. And if you're anywhere near Ridegway without me, seek it out yourself. And then go back again, because the trip's even more worthwhile when the minute you walk in, they say, "Hey, cute haircut!"