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The Adventures of Steve


Friday, March 12, 2004

Columbus Day 16: Well, things have taken quite the turn. When we last heard from me, I was exuberantly declaring my luck in getting hired seven days after arriving in the old town of Columbus, Ohio. And now, more than a week later, I'm a little windswept at how things have shifted.

No need for wireless-equipped cafes anymore; I have my own space now. I'm living in the northeast corner of Columbus near the intersections of the roads affectionately known as Cleveland Avenue and S.R. 161. While it's real near my work (12-minute walk), it's about 8 miles from downtown and therein lies a big problem.

It has come to my attention that I will probably always be a downtown guy. Nature is nice, certainly--I remember fondly the summer I spent cycling beyond the south hills of Eugene--but I need people around me, I really do. No matter where you go, the suburbs are all the same. The seven-lane roads, the same fast-food chains, the same box stores, the same unlikely chance to see a pedestrian enjoying himself in this free auto range.

Sadly, that's exactly where I am now. I can't do it. Now I know.

Besides the crappy location, my employment is almost satisfactory. The CEO is interested in getting me involved in systems improvement, since I can do it and they need it. I also have to do all the things my predecessor did: run copies, change light bulbs, ship packets. In about five weeks, we'll all be trucking down to Cincinnati for the week-long National Leadership Conference, and I have gobs and gobs of copies to make before then.

So in the office, there're six other people there. And except for the UPS driver, that's all the people I see in my eight hours there. Which has led me to realization number two: I'm a customer-service type, and I mean the face-to-face type. Gary took me to a Borders last weekend, and I took one look around and realized I'd rather be working there at minimum wage than doing what I'm doing now.

So I realize now that I made a big mistake by taking this job at the BPA. I thought about quitting at the top of this week, but I did promise that I'd help them through the NLC at the very least, and that I will do. Naturally I received two other requests to interview this week.

Some of you must be laughing at the idea that I'd be working at any place that has the word "business" or "professional" in its title. Don't assume too much: this place is a small, dusty, used two-story place with a huge parking lot way out in the sticks. It's not that different from working at CAT or Bike Friday.

Others must be shaking heads imagining me working full-time. For the record, I don't need to wear a coat and tie, but I am complying with the "business casual" dress code. So no blue leopard spot fleece pants.

In my various travels through and around town, I kept finding myself in an area of town, not far from downtown, referred to as "Short North." Now this is a part of Columbus that is working. Retail and housing mixed perfectly, almost no chain stores, lots of art galleries, clubs, cafes, now this is what I'm talking about. So last weekend I was looking for a place to live in this area.

I found a few that would work, for certain. But the bus rides out to Cleveland and 161 were driving me crazy: nearly two hours including nearly an hour of waiting. So once I decided to stick with my promise, I knew I had to put Short North on hold as well.

I looked at this place on Tuesday and moved in Wednesday night. It's certainly pleasant enough, a furnished little studio with a "Murphy bed" that folds up into a closet when not in use. I must say, any place you can call your own, even for a little while, is a nice thing. But there isn't much charm here; I doubt it will grow on me.

There's a giant box store / grocery across the seven-lane road from where I work called "Meijer." (There was certainly an odd sense of deja vu the first time I ran across the road to get some lunch there. It's even pronounced "Meyer.") Anyway, I've found this store useful for stocking my apartment with essentials. Let's see, what did I get that first night? A 70-piece kitchen set (bowls, pots, can openers, etc) for $40, a pack of toilet paper, some hangers for my shirts and jackets, sheets, a LEGO set, and a little poster of sunset at what can only be the Oregon coast.

Using an Xacto blade, a bit from my spiral notebook, and a sizeable length of dental floss, I just hung that poster on my west wall, to help me remember what that home was like.

I've got a few more things to do to really move in. Soon, though, I must settle in and begin my real work.

From what I've heard, the 2004 presidential election will hinge on just a few swing states. The list is short: Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio. Ohio, with its 20 electoral votes, tends to get more Republican as you go south. Cleveland (where Kucinich is from) is much more Democratic than Cincinnati, while Columbus is split right down the middle. Which means that I'm at the epicenter of where it's all going to come down.

Already I've accidentally witnessed a Bush ad. "I have a vision--I know exactly where I want to take this country." Yes, and I'm sure you've got your handbasket picked out too.

So I've decided that I'm going to really go to town in getting northeast Columbus registered to vote while I'm stuck here in the boonies. I'm going to be launching my own effort next week, to time it with Dr. Dean's announcement for DFA2. Hopefully I'll be able to stir up a hornet's nest in this seemingly sleepy suburb. Of course, I'll keep you posted as things develop.

And hey, if you want to send me postcards, my new address is 2363 Parkgreen Place, Columbus 43229. I'm also open to phone calls; I still have my Sacramento-based (area code 916) cell phone number 730-0038.

So I have some work to do. Luckily, there aren't any cool art galleries, pubs or cafes up here to distract me.


All of the Adventures of Steve

   Episode 1: In which Steve leaves Eugene and arrives in Rancho Cordova.
   Episode 2: In which Steve visits the Jelly Belly factory and gets a haircut.
   Episode 3: In which Steve gets a cold, a big box, and a seat on a train.
   Episode 4: In which Steve receives shiny new toys and loyal old friends.
   Episode 5: In which Steve departs for Iowa and rants a bit about why.
   Episode 6: In which Steve takes a trip to Des Moines.
   Episode 7: In which Steve gets really involved.
   Episode 8: In which Steve starts hobnobbing but is haunted by Arne Baker.
   Episode 9: In which Steve becomes a groupie and is informed that we all have love in our hearts.
   Episode 10: In which Steve becomes a media whore.
   Episode 11: In which Steve takes on Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine and Michigan.
   Episode 12: In which Steve is pitted against Fort Dodge, Iowa and seven vans of unruly Texans.
   Episode 13: In which Steve learns that all his hard work wasn't enough to put the candidate back together again.
   Episode 14: In which Steve does nothing.
   Episode 15: In which Steve reaches a decision and attempts to get virtually hired.
   Episode 16: In which we thank the good doctor for all he did.
   Episode 17: In which Steve suits up for a new life in the Cap City!
   Episode 18: In which Steve starts to realize he’s not in Eugene anymore.
   Episode 19: In which Steve switches from job seeking to home seeking.
   Episode 20: In which Steve starts to learn some things via the error side of trial and error.
   Episode 21: In which Steve experiences his first blizzard.
   Episode 22: In which Steve contemplates his next move.
   Episode 23: In which Steve prepares to switch gears... again.
   Episode 24: In which Steve spends a week in a hotel with four thousand teenagers and then gives his 30-day notice.
   Episode 25: In which Steve reminisces about his 10 weeks in Columbus while waiting in the wings.
   Episode 26: In which the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
   Episode 27: In which Steve changes everything.
   Episode 28: In which Steve finds Brood X, gets a teeny crush on a fellow trainee and learns where he's going, approximately.
   Episode 29: In which Steve starts to see how politics really works.
   Episode 30: In which Steve writes a letter to Kelly, executive director of the group that fired me.
   Episode 31: In which Steve spends a tentative week commuting to work in Maine.
   Episode 32: In which Steve learns he's just one piece on the board.
   Episode 33: In which Steve settles in for three months of intense campaigning.
   Episode 34: In which Steve is deep into the final countdown.
   Episode 35: In which Maine wins, the nation loses and Steve heads home.
   Episode 36: In which Steve doesn’t do much more than comb the classifieds and update his Web site.
   Episode 37: In which Steve slips into a normal life.

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