Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Past Perfect

My years in Boston often feel like another lifetime to me. If I refer in my classroom to an experience from another career, I'll joke "in my past life, before I was a teacher." For the decade that is my past life, I tried new things and experimented with new careers. I would even joke at interviews, which occurred approximately every 2 years, about my checkered past, taking poetic license with an expression meant to convey a shameful past in order to relax myself and my interviewers.

That I have been teaching for more than ten years (notice I didn't say "over ten years," which was one of the usage-error-pet peeves of my executive editor when I was a textbook editor) still astounds me, especially since my job satisfaction waxes and wanes. Life was easy in my twenties when, if Boredom came knocking, or Disinterest tempted its evil twin: Poor Performance, I looked for a new job, or it looked for me, which is--in fact-- how I came to be a textbook editor after a stint as a Coordinator of Adolescent Services at a health clinic in Boston (a "settlement house" in Dorchester, to be more precise).

I loved that job. I loved the physicians with whom I worked and ordered pho from the Vietnamese restaurant across the street during Thursday night clinic. I loved the doctors who chose to practice medicine there and do rounds at Boston City Hospital rather than at one of the hospitals in the Longwood medical area. They were some of the most intelligent and compassionate people I have ever met or had the pleasure to learn from and work alongside. I loved also the nursing assistants who taught me how to take blood pressure readings and liked to order from the Irish deli down the street. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the adolescents I tried to help I still think about. One patient in particular, I wonder about often.

Looking back on that lifetime ago makes me nostalgic. I shared an apartment on Beacon Street between Cleveland Circle and Coolidge Corner. I didn't own a car and took the T to work. Not surprisingly, I read more than 50 books that year, all purchased from the Brookline Booksmith to which I would walk often--especially on Saturday afternoons, where I would spend hours but only a few dollars, mostly on hardcover bargains. I discovered new authors and great books while standing on those creaky floors, checking out the shelves of employee recommendations. I went to readings and sat rapt, then waited in line to meet some of those authors, in the basement there. If I had extra money after my book purchase, I might stop for a falafel sandwich to go from Shawarma King that would take the rest of Saturday to eat.

My Friday night treat was even simpler. Although I was younger then, I was still tired at the end of the work week. Thursday nights our adolescent clinic ran until 9 pm and I didn't get home until at least 10. I'd watch ER, and start all over again at 9 in the morning and be exhausted on the T ride home. If I had an extra 10 dollars in my messenger bag I'd ride past my stop and take the T all the way to Cleveland Circle. I'd walk in my favorite Thai restaurant and would order 1/2 pint of white rice and a side of peanut sauce. In the five minutes I was asked to wait, I'd walk to the end of the block and buy a six pack of Rolling Rock. When I got home, I made it through half the rice and sauce, stopping occasionally to wipe my brow and sip 3 or 4 of the beers before going to bed happy. Especially if my roommate wasn't home.

Last night, on my drive home from a great dinner with a great friend at a great little Thai restaurant, as I worried about my missing brake light (I wonder if that would bug by former supervisor; should we call it a broken or non-functioning brake light?) and reminded myself to record the $40 debit in my check book, I couldn't help but think that a brown paper bag with a $1.50 worth of rice and peanut sauce and a $6 six pack of beer used to do the trick.

At least I don't have a roommate to worry about anymore.

1 comment:

Tam said...

Love it...I miss Boston too. MORE THAN anything.

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