The Solitary Writer

I’m tired of working alone. Working alone is a writer’s curse because there’s no other way to do what we do. I could write at a cafe or one of those shared open working spaces, but it would still amount to the same thing: Sharing my thoughts exclusively with my keyboard.

The reason that I’m tired of working alone has nothing to do with the absence of social interaction. I don’t mind being alone. If I wanted company during the day, I could go to a coffee shop, join a club, or hang out at a bar. Or chat with my cat.

The reason I don’t enjoy working alone is that the answer to the question that my friends ask, “How was your day?” is always the same. It’s, “Fine. I wrote.” Or, “Okay, I guess. I didn’t write as russia-95311_960_720much as I wanted to.” Sometimes I add information like, “I took a break and read,” Or, “I walked a couple of blocks to the sandwich shop and bought something different.”

There’s no more boring a person to talk to after 5 PM than a writer.

My office-dwelling friends have interesting days. Not always great days, of course, given the intrigue, backstabbing, and mayhem that goes on in a typical office. But their reports are engrossing: “My boss suddenly quit and I had to decide whether or not to spend $2.5 million on new company binders,” or “Dennis, who sits behind me, clips his fingernails every day at 1 PM. I swear he clips his toenails, too, but I’ve never looked.”

My friends always have something to say when I inquire about their workdays.

So I’ve invented coworkers. There’s Bob, who I suspect regularly steals my sandwiches from the fridge. (Though I won’t accuse him until I’m certain). Carrie never tells anyone that we’re out of K-Cups coffees if she uses the last one. (I’m sure I’m not the only person bothered by that.) Stephanie, my boss, assigns me tasks like tax documents and health insurance forms to prepare — and she invariably does so just when I’m on an inspired writing jig. Amy borrows my Business Week magazine without asking, which I don’t mind, because she returns it. But what I do mind is that Amy somehow gets it wet every time. Brad, the newest person in my office, thinks that he can do a better job than me, but he can’t — he’s mostly using his good looks to pull the wool over our boss’ eyes. Brad’s a jerk. Boss Stephanie falls for it.

And John, who works in PR, rejects 75% of my ideas out of hand. Take my idea for a story about how a virus wipes out coffee plants around the world, but an enterprising app developer saves civilization by creating a caffeine-simulating phone app (subplot: the app developer may be an alien). John thought that was a stupid idea. John’s the one who’s stupid.

I feel better having coworkers, who provide me with the enviable angst of a real office.

Now when you ask me “How was your day, Bill?” I’ll tell you all about my coworkers. Just don’t tell me that they’re made up. They were once, but not any longer.

Washington, DC Switches from Fahrenheit to Celsius

“DC Switches to Celsius” was originally published as a fake news story on the Cleveland Park Listserv, in the summer of 2010. If you’re just about anywhere in the scorching northern hemisphere this summer, you’ll appreciate the idea. 


In an emergency effort to reduce electricity consumption during this heat wave, the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments will be making all future weather announcements and forecasts in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, Maxine Roberts, WMCOG spokesperson announced today.

This is the hottest June in 50 years and electricity use is at an all-time high. “By converting to Celsius, people will perceive a lower temperature and not feel like they have to turn their air conditioning up so high,” Roberts said. “97F is 37.1C, for example. Even 90F, which often feels hot, especially if you’re a transplant from New Hampshire, is only 32.2 Celsius. ‘Mind over matter’ matters when it comes to heat and humidity. Everyone here knows that visualizing icebergs, thinking about cool waterfalls, and seeing a lower thermometer reading in your mind’s eye is all you need to feel better in this heat.”

RobSun in red hot summer skyerts pointed out that there are several additional advantages to converting from Fahrenheit. “Because Celsius is a one syllable word, it’s easier to spell than Fahrenheit,” she said.

Roberts also noted that using Celsius is part of DC’s “Go Metric” campaign. “We have an added incentive to put ourselves in sync with the rest of the planet when it comes to measurements.” She added, “Americans who travel to other countries will be grateful that they finally know Celsius.”

“This will probably become a permanent change,” Roberts observed. “We considered making a twice-a-year switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit to coincide with the daylight saving time clock change, but it makes sense to go metric and stick with that.” She acknowledged that the DC City Council could override the WMCOG’s decision and use either Celsius or Fahrenheit, but that would make things very confusing if other jurisdictions stuck with Celsius. “It would be worse than living in Arizona, which doesn’t observe daylight saving time at all, and is, for that reason, disconnected with the rest of the nation.”

The Washington chapter of the Sierra Club applauded WMCOG’s move toward Celsius. “We’re in favor of anything that gets people to conserve energy,” said Whit Greenacre. “At the Sierra Club, we’ve been using our imaginations for decades to pretend we’re someplace else.”

You can follow Bill Adler on Twitter @billadler.