Friday, March 07, 2008

Personal time

On Thursday I took some "personal time" after I completed my office hours. Having spent the previous three days grading essays like a machine, I felt like I deserved it. I went to the mall and dropped into a hair salon to make an appointment to cut my hair, since it had started feeling like frayed rope at the ends. So much for growing out my hair. I felt like it was overtaking my face. While I waited for my appointment at 1 p.m., I decided to buy a sandwich at a nearby cafe.

The woman taking orders was busy preparing something behind a metal counter off to the side of the main counter. "Can I help you?" she asked. She was an older woman, in her mid-40s about, and she seemed like a foreigner, from Germany, maybe, from the way she spoke. I went over there and placed my order for a turkey panini. I wasn't sure that she heard me, so I stood around and gave her a puzzled look until she finally said, "I am preparing it." The only other people in the cafe were a couple of Asian guys. It looked like they were waiting, too, and were in line ahead of me. From the woman's slow demeanor, I had a feeling it was going to take a looong time to get my food.

It was 12:35 when I sat down at an aluminum cafe table. The cafe had glass walls and so you could see out into pink-tiled mall. Two teenage couples with babies passed by. A woman in white pants, a white sweater, and black sunglasses passed by, looked at the cafe hopefully for a second, then walked past in a rush. I looked up at the white beams converging in the center of the ceiling, sunlight coming through in between the beams through translucent white glass. Ah, sunshine. But I felt bummed. Can I ever not be grumpy? I thought to myself. Finally, I was free. No work to do, no homework looming ahead. Here I was sitting idly in a nice cafe, but I still felt like a grumpy old lady. Maybe I still felt machine-like from the activity of the past few days. Maybe I was annoyed at having to wait for an overpriced sandwich. Maybe I was ashamed of sitting in a restaurant alone. Again. This happens all too often.

A family came in for gelato, further distrupting my sandwich getting made. I considered cancelling my order, but then the two Asian guys finally got their orders, also paninis, a hopeful sign. Finally, the lady delivered it to me: a turkey panini on round focaccia bread, marked with brown waffle-like marks from the griller. It turned out to be delicious, with two round slices of smoked turkey, feta cheese, and roasted red peppers. A side salad consisted of leafy greens, croutons, cheese, and spicy dressing. Everything seemed to be fresh. Thank God--if I had waited 20 minutes for a bad sandwich, I was really going to be angry. By this time it was 12:55, so I ate in a bit of a rush to meet my hair appointment.

Summary of the rest of the afternoon: I got my hair shampooed, cut, and styled by a guy that I am going to guess is gay. I bought three shirts at Sears, and the total price was $16 (what a steal, really). I went to Wal-Mart to buy candy and some personal items.

It was a pleasant afternoon, after which I felt less like a grumpy old lady and more like my usual occasionally grumpy but cautiously optimistic self. I think this is one of the things I like most about my job, being able to spend an occasional Thursday afternoon on myself when I find it necessary. True happiness may not be tied directly to pleasure, but it sure is nice to take a break to go out and buy a bunch of stuff for myself once in a while.

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