301 Arizona Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90401
The phone was buzzing in my bag, but I ignored it; I was mid-negotiation in an email.
If it’s important, whoever it is will leave a message.
Five minutes later, the phone was buzzing again. I clumsily fished around inside the unnecessarily oversized bag under my desk, curious, but without any real intention of answering. I had to get my unread Inbox down to at least half, a third if I wanted to leave the office before midnight.
The digital green numbers didn’t even have to register. Oh.
I set the phone down on my mousepad to let it buzz itself it out.
If it’s important, he’ll leave a message.
Not 30 seconds after the buzzing died down, it started for a third time.
At what point in this cellular fantasy did the outgoing greeting of “please leave a message” translate to “keep calling until I answer?” I snapped open the phone and answered with a very professional “Sarah speaking” for the benefit of anyone in our open office space within earshot. As soon as I stepped into the semi-privacy of the hallway, the smart, professional tone became a hiss-per.
“I am at work.” With the em-PHA-sis on work, it wasn’t so much an informative statement as it was a demand for an explanation. What is not important enough to not be left as a voicemail, but so important that it requires three buzzing bat signals all within the span of five minutes and 30 seconds?
“I know.” The pleasant tone of his voice was a clear indication that he did not know.
“I’m outside your office. Come down and take a break.”
Take a break? It was a Thursday afternoon. Most normal people have normal jobs in which they are working on Thursday afternoons. He is not normal. I am not normal. I don’t have a normal job. On Thursday afternoons, or any weekday afternoon for that matter, and if we’re getting technical, weekend afternoons, too, I am beyond working. I am slaving. I am turbo-toiling at the speed of the interweb. If I don’t have time to f*cking answer a f*cking phone call, I most certainly don’t have f*cking time to “take a (f*cking) break!” The four letter words were flooding my internal monologue.
And what the hell was he doing outside my office anyway?
“I can’t. I am up to my f–” I searched for my inner elusive lady. “…f-eyeballs in emails that I have to answer.”
“Exactly why you need a break. Fifteen minutes away will do you good.”
I was silent. I am sure I rolled my eyes. I needed to get back to work before my email account crumbled under the weight of my Inbox.
“And…it’s gorgeous outside.”
As annoyed as I was, I could feel the beginnings of a smile creep up on my big fat bloggy lips that were pressed into a thin, frustrated line. He actually thought that “gorgeous outside” would persuade me. He had no idea.
He had no idea that “I am at work” was not a Westside urban way of saying “Hey, I’m just hanging out in a room full of desks.” He had no idea that a 15 minute break could mean the difference between my 15 minutes of corporate fame and a destiny of destitution. He had no idea, even though I have told him, oh, about eleventeen bazillion times that I not only work, but I wooooork at not only a job, but a jooooob. He just didn’t really have a concept of projects, spreadsheets, flowcharts, whiteboards, powerpoints, power breakfasts, power hours, deadlines, prioritizing, multi-tasking, multi-tabbing, multi-coloring inside the lines, and teaming, if “teaming” is even a word. I don’t know, but everyone uses it.
That’s precisely what was attractive about him. He was the opposite of me.
No, not opposite, for “opposite” implies that there is some common or corresponding variable of which we would be contrasting, or even complementary, values. Black and white. Hot and cold. Tall and short. These are opposing values of color, temperature, and height. No, we weren’t just opposing variables. We weren’t even in the same equation. If I am black, he is rhinoceros. We were from completely different worlds.
It was kind of…refreshing.
“I’ll be down in three minutes. Which counts toward the 15.”
There’s no such thing as “too late in the afternoon for coffee,” but I had already consumed enough caffeine by 9 AM to keep me amped past page 6 of my Inbox. Still, I suggested the nearest cafe to reduce the risk of break-lag. He counter-suggested ice cream to match the sunshine. Rhinoceros. We were down to 11 minutes. Angelato Cafe is only a block from my office.
Something about Angelato Cafe had deterred me from trying it before. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason why I wasn’t necessarily opposed to ever going in, but didn’t have any real attraction to it. Perhaps it was the signage in a typeface inspired by a tapeworm inside the GI tract of Rainbow Brite. The bright white and abstract neon aesthetic of the interior was in stark contrast to the soft, rustic, Italian village charm that I mentally associated with “gelato.”
We made ourselves an addendum to the short line in front of the bright turquoise blue, slightly serpentine counter neatly packed with gelato, ice cream, and sorbet bins. Angelato’s annelid font style made sense to me now — it was a graphical representation of the gelato case in front of us.
The ordering process at Angelato was confusing, if not slightly off-putting. Not only did we have to pay for our order before we ordered, but we had to pay in cash. From an Operations perspective, payment is the shorter, more objective step of the process, so it is more efficient to get it out of the way before sending customers into a 100-flavor selection step that has the potential to be drawn out into a decision-making meltdown. My inner process engineer appreciated the concept. My outer marketer-with-8-minutes-left-on-a-break did not.
We sat at a table on the sidewalk in front of Angelato, under an umbrella to protect my pasty LCD-kissed skin from the sun. He was asking questions about how my day at work was going. We were down to two minutes and I was sure that the clock on my phone was slow. Rhinoceros.
I had no idea what he had ordered for us to share but it was good. I had no idea, but it was refreshing.
I got back to my desk. In the 15 minutes I was gone, I had received 17 new emails.