Jonathan Greenberg,

Jonathan Greenberg,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Sept. 29 1998 12:30 AM

Jonathan Greenberg,

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       Monday morning. There's a thin line between working at home and being unemployed. And when you're working at home on a graduate dissertation in English, well, let's just say that sometimes the line goes from being thin to being purely theoretical.
       Self-employment does afford a wonderful freedom. I work out in the middle of the day, when I have the gym to myself. I run errands at a leisurely pace. I'm home if the cable guy has to make a visit. I can stay in bed till noon.
       But the most surprising fact about the whole self-employment deal is that I am not alone in my strange universe. When I go out in the middle of the day to buy groceries or pick up dry cleaning, there are people everywhere. I can't help thinking, don't these people have jobs?! At 3 in the afternoon, the coffee bar on the corner of Broadway and 76th Street is full! And it's not all high-school kids either. There are clusters of creative types wearing expensive sunglasses having earnest conversations and writing things on legal pads. Even my own little brownstone is a buzz of activity during what should be those deathly quiet 9-to-5 hours. What do all these people do with their lives? Why aren't they at work? How can they afford to pass their afternoons in fancy cafés?
       Of course, they're asking the same things about me.
       Monday afternoon. Back from lunch with an old college acquaintance, Elliot. Elliot and I met during a course in Chomskian linguistics and never saw each other again until he had jury duty with my twin brother and, mistaking David for me, introduced himself. He and David became pals, and after brief chats at a couple of David's parties, we decided to have lunch ourselves. Elliot is also self-employed, so we took a long lunch without worrying about getting back to the office.
       I had made the mistake of telling Elliot via e-mail that I only ate kosher vegan. He took me seriously, and we lunched at what he thought was a kosher vegetarian place--the next best thing. I had a falafel sandwich; he had tuna salad. (The place, you will discern, turned out not to be vegetarian.)
       I attributed Elliot's failure to get my joke (there's no such thing as kosher vegan) to the limitations of electronic correspondence. Since everything you say on e-mail can't help but carry smug overtones, it's much harder on the Internet to discern irony than it is in real life. But Elliot insisted the problem was due to my being recently married. He said that since so many Jews are turning fundamentalist these days (Joe Lieberman?) he thought I might have adopted eccentric dietary habits in deference to my new wife. He clearly doesn't know my wife. Anyway, "kosher vegan" is redundant, since vegans don't bother with either the calf or the mother's milk, much less the combination.
       Well, I suppose I'd better get back to "work."