Thursday, October 01, 2009

World Without Weekends

From (my other blog) Blog-By-Bike:

There are a lot of different worlds in New York City. About 8 million or so. In mine, weekends no longer exist. Even after just one month working two different jobs, I already feel like I'm going into human interaction overload. I've always been one who valued alone time. Now I crave it. Perhaps 10 months of craving isolation will amplify the worth of the open road across North America next summer.

In the meantime, I am trying to find balance in my new world of dual employment - in two jobs that are as distinct in roles as they are in attire. It is slightly frustrating and sufficiently humbling to go from a corporate environment, where I am a relatively respected upper-level executive assistant, to "entry-level" cocktail server. Monday through Friday, my knowledge and experience in the inner workings of the company are often sought in coordinating a variety of tasks, projects and events. On the weekends, I shed my pantsuits and pencil skirts for a push-up bra and minuscule shorts. While my expertise was held in significant regard just hours earlier, a bartender is now making little attempt to hide her irritation that it's taking way too long for me to remember what garnishes a Summer Wind versus a Sinfully Gin.

But there is something wonderfully cliché about serving cocktails on the top floor of a high rise building in Midtown, overlooking the bright lights and excitement of Times Square. On Friday and Saturday evenings, I trot out of my four-floor walk-up apartment (real estate speak for "fifth floor sans elevator") in Hell's Kitchen, with its exposed brick walls and rickety fire escape, and walk north on Eighth Avenue. Dressed in a brown hoodie drawn over my freshly flat-ironed hair and matching sweatpants concealing my revealing cocktail serving outfit, I stop by Starbucks and order a grande skinny vanilla latte to fuel the caffeine rush for my 11-hour shift.

Fridays are tough. After eight hours in the office, dealing with the wear and tear of executive assistant busy work, meeting coordination, travel management and expense reporting, I have roughly an hour to get home, darken my eye makeup, change clothes and roles, and reset my mind from professional corporate woman to demure cocktail-toting vixen. I ascend the elevator to the penthouse of a Midtown hotel, where the lounge and rooftop bar already have the inaudible hum of simultaneous conversations. Music by Jay-Z and Biggie blare from the lounge's DJ booth while the giant billboard of Sean "Diddy" Combs - which has become a staple where Broadway crosses Seventh Avenue - is framed in the floor-to-ceiling windows of the hotel's southern exposure. If you are at all partial to hip hop, it's a constant reminder of the quintessential hustle through the struggle of New York City.

When the lounge slows down between the happy hour rush and the nightlife crowd, I find myself staring at neighboring penthouse apartments and often catching the silhouettes of their occupants illuminated inside. Sometimes I think about how little the $15,000 that I'm trying to save to cycle across North America must seem to people like them. It's hard not to envy Manhattan's elite - to covet thy neighbor's paycheck and penthouse.

But most of the time, I crave the New York City clichés. The cozy walk-up apartment above congested, street-level bars. The quaint, tree-lined neighborhood with hidden gourmet gems just off the beaten path of Times Square. And the little transplant New Yorker with a small presence and big dreams, asking if you want your martini on the rocks or straight up.