Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My provential suburbanism

I live outside of a Big City. I am not a part of that City. It is theoretically possible for me to partake of the life that the City engages in and occupies its time with, but more often than not, this remains a theory untested.

Let me explain . . .

Yesterday, Sarah began a Summer Writing Camp sponsored by The Thurber House. This is a good thing, to be sure, as it gives Sarah the opportunity to work on her writing with other children and gives her perspective on her own writing, the life of writing, and (maybe?) introduces some skills and techniques that can make her a better writer. Yet, the Thurber House is located in downtown Columbus, the aforementioned City that I orbit and bounce against from time to time.

The week of the camp, I take off work at noon, pick Sarah up at her summer daycare and take her down the Interstate to the Thurber House. The workshop lasts three and a half hours, so I decided to take this opportunity to live within the wireless office that we hear so much about. I would take my laptop--the device that allows me to work remotely with my work files from wherever I choose--outside of the building, living the hip office lifestyle that is so often depicted on the wireless network card commercials that I see on the TV every night.

And yet . . . and yet . . . I am not of the City. I am a suburbanite. I am a neophyte in the ways of urban authenticity, parking garages, parking meters, one-way streets, skyscrapers, and the like. I am an adult, to be sure, and I spent a few years of my life on the OSU campus, which is close by to the urbanity that I am attempting to inhabit this week. But, the campus is its own fortress, separate from the City. You won't be surprised to know that when I was on campus daily, I rarely ventured from it, living within that other enclosed environment away from The Other.

But, I can deal. I'm not afraid (as I once was many, many years ago) that I could not find my way around in cities. I know how to read signs, anticipate lane changes, go with the traffic flow, adapt. Even so . . . after I dropped Sarah off Monday afternoon, I set off.

I figured I'd try out the downtown main branch of the Library. It's large, it has WiFi. I could link up to the office, settle on an upper floor overlooking the windows and Do Some Work. But I had not doublechecked my directions on how to get to the Main Branch. I had no printed map. I was relying on old memories and instinct. You can guess how that ended up.

I was in the area, I knew. But the one-way streets and the unique rules of downtown confunded me and I found myself drifting away from the area I knew I needed to be, being pulled by the current of incompetence and incomplete information out of the City core and into areas less known and on ramps unwanted. Many times I doubled back, determined by sonar or some unknown memory sense to stumble my way to the Main Branch. But I failed yet again.

Soon I found myself carried toward areas I recognized as Campus-related. I knew that I could swerve my way into a local Campus parking garage, find a WiFi enabled coffee shop and reassess. This I eventually did and I bought a latte, hooked up the computer, and called up the needed directions to get me from where I was to where I wanted to be. I also got directions from Sarah's class to where I wanted to end up later in the week. At last! I was armed and ready to re-enter the City. But before I left the coffee shop, I checked in with the office email, ensuring that I wasn't cutting myself off from the crises of the day. All was calm.

I paid my parking garage fee and confidently struck back on the road. Very quickly, I found the Library, right where I KNEW it was. I parked, got out, and found my way to the table that I had seen in my head, overlooking the urban landscape that had so recently mocked me. I turned on the computer, connected to the Library network . . . and found that I needed a library card number to sign into said network! Well, okay. I HAD a card, but it (like me) belonged to the suburban library and was not part of the urban network. I had another card for a branch that I thought was part of the main network, but there was another problem . . .

I had left my wallet back in the car, parked below me in the garage four stories down. I had pulled the wallet out when I paid the first garage fee outside the campus-area coffee shop. At the time, I had made a mental note to myself to remember where my wallet was . . . but promptly shoved it aside as I consulted maps/directions/twists and turns.

I could not remember my alternate card # and I suspected that this card was out-of-date anyway. I guess I could have packed up all of my stuff, gone downstairs, retrieved the wallet, come back upstairs, and tried again. But I really didn't feel like it. I had some paper-based work I could do and I would just have to trust that emails could wait. I would check them when I got home later that day.

When I finished my time at the library--about an hour and a half less than I had anticipated and not nearly as productive as I had imagined--I got Sarah and headed home. Naturally, my remote connectivity with the office didn't work at home either (why? don't know) and so I had to further trust that any office-based problems could wait until Tuesday.


Even though Monday wasn't a great time, I was better prepared on Tuesday. I had my directions. I had doublechecked my laptop with Tech Support. I figured that all things were ready. So, I dropped Sarah off, hit the library lickety split, and set up shop with a newly renewed card and the appropriate username. Wireless was on, time was well spent . . . and my remote connection continued to fail.

So, the office remains distant. Potential crises must sit unresolved. I can continue to work on paper-based work, but beyond that, I am impotent. I still have not achieved the effortless urbanity that I desire. I am not part of the paperless world. I need help.

Perhaps the new iPhone is the answer?

Hmmm . . .

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