Mysteries of Philadelphia



Amazing as it sounds, I have two full-time day jobs, each one exactly 40 hours long. I’ve been trying to figure out how this is possible.

My first job… eh, I don’t even like to talk about it. Really. People ask me what I do for a living, I just say, “I work in a cubicle,” like I’m apologizing for something and try to change the subject as fast as I can, perhaps by pointing out the large spider that may be just behind them.

It is not an exciting job. There is no world-saving going on. There is no artistic-expression. I take a train into Philadelphia along with hundreds of other commuters, we shuffle through the station and down a couple of city blocks, I scan myself in through the electronically-locked turnstiles, up three floors, through a set of electronically-sealed doors, round about identical cubicles in which people chat in hushed tones, the patter of tiny fingers across keyboards.

It is then that I take my seat, sit before my glowing computer and read through the e-mails that came in while I had slept the night before. Cracking my knuckles dramatically, I begin eight hours of answering e-mails in a professional tone to people that I will most likely never meet in real life.

This tedium is sometimes broken by meetings I have with my colleagues behind glass doors, in which the people who lead the meeting and do the most amount of talking are the ones on speakerphone, so that if anyone were to walk by, they would see only the lot of us staring silently at a dormant phone.

So, forget about that job. I don’t know why I even bothered mentioning it. My second job is really the much more interesting of the two.

For my second full-time job, I work for an international corporation headquartered in the Netherlands, but with offices all over the world, including right here in the heart of Philadelphia. I spend each day in meetings and on the phone, e-mailing back and forth with colleagues in London, in India, in Israel, in Iran, in Japan… I keep close, working relationships with co-workers in our New York and Baltimore offices. Together we strategize ways of improving processes which will affect hundreds – nay, thousands – of doctors, nurses and medical specialists all over the planet.

There I sit, at the hub of all medical knowledge and information! Me!

I waffle between these two jobs. There’s no consistency. Sometimes it seems I spend an hour at one, then an hour at the other, and then alternate between them in that way. Sometimes I spend so long at the first job that, so filled with ennui, I even forget the second job exists.

It can be disconcerting, and stranger still, despite having these two jobs, I only get one paycheck.

In a similar vein, did you know there are two different Suburban Stations in the city? It’s true! I’ve checked the maps, and even though there’s only one listed, I know from experience that there are two distinct venues which share the same name.

There’s the one which I get off at most of the time, and it is little more than a packed, filthy den, filled with commuters like me, quickly shuffling from gate to platform and back again, talking into cell phones, trying to get around each other without knocking the other guy down… too hard. Typical train station, nothing special.

But this other Suburban Station… it’s something else! It’s a vibrant place, filled with people from all different backgrounds, all different nationalities, all existing in one place. There’s a dude playing a banjo, there are scary people lurking in the bathrooms. There’re Homeless Outreach units , there’re police with their drug-sniffing dogs, there’re kids on their way to college, there are the little old Jehovah’s Witnesses disinterestedly holding out tracts… the entirety of the human experience, right there! Sometimes I just have to stop to take it all in.

Two stations, overlapping. I exist in one, I blink, and its gone.

I need the tools, man. I can’t navigate these two jobs alone. I can’t possibly hope to figure out the mysteries of the overlapping train stations without some help. Tomorrow, when I get on the train to go to work, to which job will I be going?

Jonathan Kemmerer-Scovner


Parting Ways

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