Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The 59th Street Bridge Song

I just spent a three-day weekend at Oxford and Cambridge. Oxford and Cambridge are cool places. People cycle around town and punt on the river and park Austin Sevens on the Senate House roof. They wear T-shirts which say, “Do NOT ask me about my thesis.” But what struck me most was how quiet these places are compared to London, just as – when I first moved to London – I was struck by how quiet it is compared to Calcutta.

The thing about a fast city is that, well, it is fast. And if you work in a law firm, the pace is positively frenetic. It is almost an experiment in practical philosophy – when you frequently work fifteen-hour days, you learn surprising things about yourself. You learn a little more about what makes you happy, what makes you sad. In a particularly busy week, when free time means a half-hour interval after you return from work and before you go to sleep, you learn what your priorities are. You learn about the incredible awesomeness of weekends.

You also make interesting adaptations in behaviour, and pick up new skills. I can now carry out a credit card transaction while talking on the phone, I can read a book while walking and step onto a moving escalator without taking my eyes off the page. I no longer behave like a complete idiot at supermarkets and airport security. One day, in the course of an hour-long lunch break, I managed to buy a sandwich, sushi and an overcoat, eat the first two, and still have half an hour to sit in the park and watch people go by. Of course, the desirability of being in a situation where you have to pick up skills like this is debatable.

When I was small, I would read whilst eating, and this was a perpetual bone of contention with my parents. They argued that it was unsocial, that it was an injustice to the food (and to the book), and that, on a more practical level, I would spill gravy on the pages. Now I have a better appreciation for what a luxury it is to do just one thing at a time.

15 comments:

Rahul Saha said...

Slow down you crazy child.
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while.
You can afford to lose a day or two.
When will you realize, Vienna waits for you.

Indecision Personified said...

"In a particularly busy week, when free time means a half-hour interval after you return from work and before you go to sleep, you learn what your priorities are. You learn about the incredible awesomeness of weekends.
....Now I have a better appreciation for what a luxury it is to do just one thing at a time."

How true. Brilliant post. Also sums up law firm life perfectly.

Anjana Talapatra said...

Need to get one of those 'Do NOT ask me about my thesis' tshirts now!
Loved this post Sroyon :)..haven't figured out yet what chord it struck in me but just needed to comment!

nina said...

its happening to you too. the law firm nonsense.

all i can say is, been there. still there on most days.

Tommy said...

I remember talking to someone and discovering that we both liked to read while eating and he said he'd read the cereal box when nothing else was available and I knew just how he felt.

When I lived in Manhattan in 1980, the 59th Street Bridge was in poor repair--the outer lanes on the lower level in particular, which were blocked off but which were used by bicyclists anyway. I remember riding across one night and having to steer around holes in the roadway, large enough to for a person to fall through, that gave an unobstructed view of the river below.

Anonymous said...

Slow down, you move too fast / Got to make the moment last...

and then another post related to the paucity of time. Now you know why marijuana is the preferred intoxicants and continues to grow......

Shrabasti Banerjee said...

But I thought you lived and loved to multitask! But again, multitasking by force and by choice aren't the same :( What's sushi like?

Sondwip said...

Bugai, 'of' in "... without taking my eyes of the page" should be ____. And please don't try those tricks on Calcutta roads, even if you get a chance.

Sroyon said...

@Saha: Maybe, someday...

@IP: I'm glad that an ex-associate approves. :)

@AT: Thanks :)

@nina: No no, that's the point: it's not always pleasant, but it's not nonsense either.

@Tommy: Maybe the holes made people slow down, if they moved too fast.

@Shrabasti: Nice enough. It's very light, which is what I like most about it.

@SM: Corrected. :)

Indecision Personified said...

@Sroyon: 'ex-associate'. :) Wow.. it still makes me happy. :D

Karthy said...

you too? I wish this was a rite of passage - this reaction to law firm life...problem is I am still to hear anyone have a different stand on it - like does it get easier or do you just learn to stagger around much more efficiently? sigh sigh sigh.

nina said...

naah, what i was referring to was not the content of the post - ive noticed that invariably, people who start working in law firms start to talk about the pace of life and wish for the slower, easier days. I suppose its but natural for that to happen... but anyway.

cheers.

Aditi said...

lovely post...and they say men cannot multitask!

Sroyon said...

@Aditi: Haha, only in extreme circumstances. :)

fleur-de-lis said...

Me too, me too!
(reading and eating, and eating and reading, while Momma Gnashes her beautiful white teeth at me and Papa gives me Looks)