toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

January 13, 2007

breakfast at tiffany's

Susan is flat out all day at work, and when she gets home at night her time is consumed with housework and children. Her only time to herself is something she makes time for -- it's breakfast every morning at Tiffany's.

"I get up very early and have an hour of blissful peace and quiet at a breakfast diner," explains Susan. "It’s not only how I survive a busy job, but also how I survive the stressful existence of being a working mother."

"Amid so much gloom and doom in the workplace," says Susan, "it's important to keep your spirits high. My job survival strategy is to focus every day on something I like about my work routine. For most people that would be the euphoric feeling of going home at night, but for me it is breakfast at Tiffany’s!"

What Susan loves most about her workday is having breakfast at a place she calls Tiffany's. Even if there are no diamonds in sight, she likes to imagine she is Audrey Hepburn in that glorious film that made her famous.

"I get up very early in order to enjoy this part of her day, and leave the children for my husband to attend to."

"He goes to a bar after work," laughs Susan, "so he doesn’t begrudge me time to myself."

Early in the morning, the city is relatively quiet -- most people are still sleeping -- and there is generally an early morning mist shrouding the skyscrapers. Susan can actually hear her footsteps on the pavement as she makes her way to Tiffany's.

When she arrives at her destination, the glorious aromas of freshly brewed coffee and freshly baked bread greet her.

The proprietor of Tiffany’s -- Spiro, a cheerful Greek, and his two assistants Alex and Maria -- also greet her.

After experiencing the dour faces of dawn commuters on the train, Susan says it is incredibly uplifting to receive smiles and warm greetings before she starts her workday.

"Without these glorious aromas and warm greetings to start my day," says Susan, "I don't think I could face work."

But that is just the beginning of Susan’s breakfast at Tiffany's!

What comes next is an hour of absolute bliss.

The staff at Tiffany’s know Susan well enough to leave her in peace during her hour of tranquility before she faces the music -- or, more appropriately, the cacophony -- at work.

Without that hour of peace she would never be able to get through her day.

Breakfasting at Tiffany's gives Susan time to collect her thoughts, compose herself and prepare herself for a hard day at work. It provides an environment that is a neutral transitional ground between the sanctity of her home and the salt-mine that is her workplace.

There are two more pleasures that Susan enjoys at Tiffany's.

"It is the one place where I actually get to handle and read a real newspaper," laughs Susan. "So much information comes to us via radio, television and the Internet these days that it is easy to forget the tactile -- as well as visual -- pleasure of reading printed material."

And it doesn't bother Susan that her fingers get inky from handling newspapers fresh off the printing press. She enjoys the experience. She reads the morning newspaper from front to back and everything in between.

"Yes," laughs Susan, "even the advertisements."

The other pleasure, of course, is the freshly brewed coffee and the freshly baked bread.

"It will be a good four hours or more before I get time off to drink or eat anything," explains Susan, "so I savor every sip of coffee and every morsel of bread."

All too soon her hour is up and she must make her way to work. By now the city is filled with thousands of commuters scurrying like rats to their workplaces.

She can no longer hear her footsteps on the pavement.

She is no longer Audrey Hepburn.

Susan has become another rat.

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