The Naked City

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The Naked City

“There are a million stories in the naked city…”

As a writer, I hadn’t worked for anyone but myself in more than a decade. The thought of working in a cubicle, versus my own home-office with its dual views… to the right, a huge picture window overlooking my gardens; to the left, glass pocket doors overlooking my pool, myriad of trees, and meandering wildlife-inhabited canal, left me totally uninspired.

In addition, as a travel writer, my off-site offices had always been in places like the French and Mexican Rivieras, the Caribbean via luxury sailing yachts, filming (me) on location in Paradise – you name it, I’ve been there – or on a luxury Baltic Sea Cruise. Toss in Asia, Europe, Central and South America, and well, you get the idea.

This coupled with the office politics that inevitably come hand- in-hand with working for a corporation, instilled within me a sense of sheer dread at having to go “to work.” But changes in the economy, the publishing industry and the advent of blogging – which, in many cases and no offense intended, devalued the true profession of writing – made this ominous leap a financial necessity.

My first week in Grand Incentives’ corporate office was serendipitous. My “boss” (what’s that?) agreed to give me the flexibility to work a couple of days a week at home! However, he neglected to inform HR. On my first work-at-home day, I received a call from the HR VP. I happened to be in the middle of writing a story about China, to be posted on the company’s website. Having never been to China, I immersed myself in videos, music and articles about the country in order to get a true sense of the place. I was in the zone. “Lisa, where are you?” Asked our HR VP. “I’m in China!”, I replied, with all sincerity, since I had managed to place myself there in my mind. “REALLY?!”

Fast forward to three weeks later. I’m lovin’ the wooden deck overlooking the lake adjacent to the office building… turtles, fish, ducks, herons… I even saw an endangered woodstork. We call this lake our own Walden Pond. It’s not only inspirational but also where those of us who know better but still smoke find a welcome release. There is, of course, no smoking in the building.

HOWEVER… at this particular juncture in time I was sitting at my desk, focused on writing, and, as I tend to do mindlessly at home, lit up a cigarette.

I didn’t realize it at first… it was the smell of smoke, not the lit cigarette in my hand, that alerted me to the fact that something was terribly wrong.

HOLY SMOKES! I smashed the cigarette out in my glass heart-shaped paper clip dish while flapping my hands in the air to dissipate the tell-tale smoke. I ran to the break room to ditch the butt and wash the ashes out of the paper clips. Why, why, why would I light up a cigarette in THE OFFICE? It was at that moment I realized… I truly felt at home.

It’s been nearly a year since I embarked on this curious journey, one that has been unexpectedly rewarding in so many ways. I’ve found inner resources I never knew I had. Yes, I’ve grown professionally – who wouldn’t?

But the best news is the relationships I’ve forged. The million stories I am privy to, the endings to which I might have some positive impact. Ever try to pick up an inebriated co-worker twice your size from having fallen in your bathtub? Console a colleague whose parent is dying? Be there for an office-mate who is battling divorce? On the other hand, ever received a hug at the EXACT moment you needed one?

The point is, it’s not just about a profession and it’s not at all about politics. It’s about caring about people and people who care. And that’s the best part about working for – or rather, being a member of – the Grand Incentives family.

— Editorial by Lisa Codianne Fowler

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