June 30, 2005
Puley's Rules

Better Living

Secra got her final paycheck today.  

She was on her way out the door to run some errands -- taking the overdue Denis Leary DVDs back to Blockbuster, dropping off a couple of bills at the Post Office, picking up milk and coffee at the little Mom-and-Pop on the corner -- all the basic day-to-day sort of stuff she never seems to have time for when she's working fulltime. She was feeling pretty good about it, too: the sun was shining, birds were singing, she was having an undeservedly fabulous Hair Day (considering that she hasn't so much as looked at a bottle of Pantene Pro V in five days).  Plus, she admitted to me, it felt good just to be out of the apartment for a little while. 

"What did I TELL you?" I said smugly. Puley's Rule #1, during this temporary period of Career Realignment: Secra is required to get out of the apartment every single day, without fail ... even if it's just a trip up the street to the newspaper stand. 

As she was leaving the apartment building, she decided to stop and check her mail. 

And there it was. The very last Dirt Company paycheck.

She set her purse and her MP3 player down on the ground, for a moment, and tore the envelope open, right there in the middle of the mail lobby. The first surprise: the amount was more than she'd expected. Like three TIMES more, actually. She'd only worked half a pay-period, just before she'd quit, so she thought she would be looking at half a final paycheck. She'd forgotten about the vacation time she'd managed to accrue lately. (She and David had been planning to take a long weekend in L.A. sometime this fall, to see the King Tut exhibit, so she'd been trying to build up some paid time off.) It wasn't a fortune, by any means ... she was still going to have to dip into her savings, over the next month or two (or however long it takes for her to become gainfully employed again) ... but at least she'd be able to pay her late fees at Blockbuster.

The second surprise: the painful way her heart hiccuped, seeing four years' worth of Dirt Company career summed up in one final paycheck. 

It wasn't the greatest job in the world ... especially towards the end, when she and Bob The Temporary Office Manager Guy were butting heads over whether she was an Administrative Assistant or an answering machine with boobs. (Bob The TOMG: "You're a powder keg. You're trouble. I want you out of here.") But it was her job, and she did it really well, and there were moments when she derived a fabulous sense of satisfaction from it.  Plus there were people for whom she'd developed genuine affection, over the years. Now it was over, just like that, and all she had to show for it was this crummy piece of paper.

(That, and a handful of obsolete business cards, and a groovy red stapler, and a little ceramic plaque that says "Because Nice Matters.")

Hands shaking, just the tiniest bit, she pulled a pen out of her purse and endorsed the back of the check. Then she stuffed it into her Day-Timer, slung her purse over her shoulder and headed out the door of the apartment building, mentally adding a trip to the bank to her list of errands.  

As soon as she hit the sidewalk, she flipped the switch on her MP3 player and pushed 'random.'  First song out of the box: Moby, in all of his affectedly melancholy glory.

"Why does my heart feel so bad?
Why does my soul feel so bad?
Why does my heart feel so bad?
Why does my soul feel so bad?"

God. 43,897,621 songs on her player, and THIS is what comes up first? It was like having someone take a W16 Gauge Pneumatic Staple Gun to what was left of her heart.  

"Hit the button!"  I shrieked at her. "HIT THE BUTTON!!"  Puley's Rule #2, during this temporary period of Emotional Realignment: no wallowing in affectedly melancholy music, especially MOBY. Obediently, she reached into her jacket pocket, found the 'next' button and pressed it for all she was worth.  

"My heart is low.
My heart is so low
As only a woman's heart can be  ..."
 

"Hit it again!" I said. We love us some Eleanor McEvoy, as a general rule, but today isn't the day for sweetly weepy Celtic songs all about the trials and tribulations of being a woman.

"Puff the Magic Dragon
Lived by the sea  ... "


GOD NO!!  All of a sudden she's four years old again, weeping in front of her mother's record player. "Hit it again!" I barked.

Finally -- on the fourth attempt -- the one song that never fails to lift her spirits, embolden her heart, put the brisk back in her step. This song literally saved her life, eight years ago, and it still has a nearly magical effect on her mood and her outlook.

"I get knocked down
but I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down!
I get knocked down
but I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down  ... "


"There you go," I told her, and she nodded in agreement, cranking the song up to eleven. And then she strode off down the street, towards the bank to deposit her final Dirt Company paycheck ... feeling, once again, just the teeniest bit in control of her life and her destiny.  

a


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she's not allowed to listen to bob dylan, either.
(although  --  interestingly  --  she doesn't seem to be fighting me on that one.)