“How on earth do you work down there?” asked my daughter, who needed to do something on the family computer. My hole “office” is the tiny vestibule at the bottom of our basement staircase which leads to our airy and spacious guest room, my husband’s spacious office, and our spacious garage. My desk is wedged into the not-so-spacious area between the bottom of our stairs and the wall. As opposed to other rooms in the vicinity which have bookcases, large desks, and proper lighting, my office has a garbage pail and convenient access to our collection of dusty suitcases, usually located under the staircase but which were temporarily removed due to a recent flood.
Don’t ask. All of my binders, notebooks, and files containing the byproducts of my unmatched creativity sit precariously on the three-square inches of space located on both sides of my computer screen, which clearly cannot possibly house all of my creative writing stuff. Somehow, I managed to carve out two tiny spots for milchik and fleishik coasters on which I can place my hot drinks, but there is, unfortunately, no room for my elbows. But I’m not complaining. No sir, not me. I’m just not that type. In addition to having windows that allow for the flow of fresh air, other rooms in the vicinity are comfortably climate controlled. From my office, I can hear sounds emanating from nearby rooms, the humming of air conditioners in the summer, and heaters in the winter. But unfortunately, the air doesn’t reach my little spot. So, I’m often either bundled up in layers or sweating. But I’m not complaining. No, not me. Never! Other rooms in the vicinity have computers with working cameras for Zoom, along with a working printer for things like, you know, printing. But I, as a writer, obviously would have no use for such silly gadgets. So, I don’t have them. But I don’t complain. Not me!
Make no mistake. This cramped and claustrophobic situation is no one’s fault but my own. My husband graciously offered to let me have his office. How kind is that? But how can I expect him to crawl into my hole? He also offered to move our computer upstairs to a bedroom that hosts our overflow guests sometimes and our overflow laundry always. The pretty wooden desk in the room has a nice-sized surface as well as drawers where one can actually put things. I would even have space to put a framed family photo right there on my desk! Can you imagine? This option is a real possibility. But it would involve bringing in a professional to properly relocate our computer. My husband also offered to buy me a laptop. This has the obvious advantage that I’d be able to take my work anywhere I choose. I could be like those trendy people who open their sleek laptops in a Starbucks while sipping their aromatic flavored brewed coffee. I’d also be able to take my laptop to exotic destinations which would infuse me with inspiration that would flow out through my fingertips directly onto my keyboard. I imagine myself, laptop in hand, comfortably nestled between the rocks of the Grand Canyon, typing away as I would describe the majestic colors of the sunset reflected off of the rock formations, all in the company of other visitors who are transfixed into awed silence. Quite tempting. But being that a laptop is no small expenditure, I decided to experiment to see if it is worth the investment. Will I really take my writing on the road?
My daughter left her laptop at home the other day. Perfect! I packed it up and was on my way. I decided to delay my morning coffee and head out to a new café overlooking the beautiful Park Yarmut, a four-minute drive from my home. I would certainly be inspired by the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful scenery. They say that the change of scenery that causes us to be happier, excited, and more relaxed, can also stimulate creativity. I was happy to test this out as well.
I did not expect to come face to face with every tractor involved in the never-ending construction in the Ramat Beit Shemesh area as they rumbled down the street lining the park. This situation did not contribute to a relaxed feeling. Despite the fact that I got stuck in a major construction traffic jam on the way, the street where the café is located was practically asleep. No trouble parking at all. Even though it was almost noon, the outdoor tables of the café were not yet set up. The workers quickly set up the tables and I set up shop. My hands were positioned on my keyboard ready to type away. I was ready. Yes, I was ready - but nothing happened. The table was wobbly and my coffee was constantly on the verge of spilling. I realized that if I stepped with force on the legs of the table, I could stop the shaking but it wasn’t so comfortable to sit that way. My coffee also needed a bit more sugar but I was afraid to leave my daughter’s laptop unattended while the workers from the adjacent makolet (grocery store) were smoking nearby while speaking in an unsettling language. While I was figuring this all out, a special needs class on a field trip came by. One cute girl sat herself down at my table and proudly showed me the variety of colorful peppers in her bag. I tried to strike up a conversation with her and some of the other girls but they were clearly not in a talkative mood. Soon a large group of loudly chattering high school girls walked by me on their way to the makolet. They were followed by a team of yeshiva boys dribbling their basketball on their way to the park. I tried to settle down and concentrate but I had to play a continuous game of musical chairs to avoid the heat of the sun. I barely managed to eke out a couple of paragraphs before I packed up and headed home, a bit disappointed.
Don’t think I’m complaining. You know me by now. I’m not the type. Well, on second thought, maybe I am complaining just a bit. And now I’m wondering. Maybe the change of scenery that would be helpful to me needs to be inside my head. Maybe I should try my laptop experiment at a different venue, and possibly a different time of day. It’s possible that sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t. And that’s okay. And maybe I can learn to appreciate my home “office” which provides me with a space that’s generally free of distractions, a sturdy desk, close access to my kitchen, and full protection from the sun and rain. Nothing is perfect, yet a positive side can be found in most situations. It all depends on where we decide to place our focus. To a large extent, we can create our own scenery and we can make it beautiful!