Freaky Fortnight

My First Real Weekend in Years.
Watch as a husband and wife switch places.
Oct. 9 2009 6:20 PM

Freaky Fortnight

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My first real weekend in years.

It's the middle of Friday afternoon and by now I'm aware of the big news about Barack Obama. Compared with my colleagues, I was a little slow on the uptake. At home this morning, we broke our no-DVDs-on-weekday-mornings rule. So while other people were getting the news from Oslo, I was waiting for word of the Great Pumpkin. On top of this, our broadband was out, and by the time I downloaded e-mail to my phone, we were already on the bus to school. Will, our 1-year-old, was with me this morning; he stood on my lap, straining to see industrial Brooklyn, getting dusty footprints all over my good skirt. I held the phone way out to the side where he couldn't bat at it. From the first lines of the e-mails that showed up on my screen, I gathered pretty quickly that somebody unexpected (perhaps unsuitable) had won the Nobel Peace Prize, and that that somebody was Barack Obama. Still, I was so frazzled, and still so in kid-world, that later, when I saw that a friend had posted the following Facebook status update—Happy birthday Bo Obama!—I felt it necessary to pause for a second and recheck my information. Is this the reason for all of the fuss about Obama today? The birthday of his hypoallergenic family pet?

By the time I arrived at Mike's desk, two of his co-workers had already filed Obama/Nobel stories, and the e-mail chain was electric with planning and questions. At 11, I heard Obama's calm, intelligent voice; I rose from the desk, stood in the common area, and saw the president's face on a flat-screen TV. His face was also on Slate's home page, as if the plan had been for him to be the cover all along. I felt impressed and proud, even from my tangential perch. Later, when Mike tweeted about missing the exhilarating, behind-the-scenes feeling of pulling it all together for a breaking news story, I understood what he meant.

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Anyway, it's the end of Week 1, which requires a little summation. We're wired; we're tired. But at the same time it's like anything: You get used to the routine. I pad along the hallway to this white office, sit at the giant monitor, click around. I like the communal feeling of writing my pieces at the same time other staffers are writing things, too. It's challenging to be publishing every day; I've never had to go this fast. (One day next week I will force myself to compose with the Write or Die Web app, which punishes you for slowness by erasing the words already on your screen.)

Now I will shyly stand before the class and list today's dumb blunders: sent the wrong document to the copy desk, failed to update my colleagues on my plans for next week, missed two details in an edit.

OK, that's out of the way.

Everyone makes jokes like, "What if we like you better than Michael?!" but the fact that they make these jokes makes it clear that they are eager to have him back. One nice thing about this switch is that I'm getting a sense of who Mike is at work. I now know that a file drawer in his office serves as Slate's unofficial squash equipment locker, and that he's really good at headlines. Today a writer who was uncertain about the last sentence of a piece explained, "As Mike can tell you, I have kicker anxiety," and I wished, for the writer's sake, that I could just turn into Mike: the remark suggested an established relationship, trust, kindness, understanding of quirks.

One thing that's wild: This is the first real weekend I've had in years. Every Friday, Nick's school sends around an e-mail that ends, "Wishing everyone a relaxing weekend." Whenever I get this note, I long for more demarcation of my days. I wish for the tightly scheduled work weeks that would make my weekends feel loose, frivolous. Being a freelancer, the days are all kind of the same. Often I do a lot of work on Saturday and Sunday because Mike can be with the kids. But tomorrow will be different. We'll wake up maybe to pancakes, definitely to coffee, and we'll turn on NPR, in case there's any more news about celebrity pets.

Wishing everyone a relaxing weekend.

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