Two months after 9/11: Trying to make work normal again


My husband takes the subway to work every morning and gets off right in front of the NBC building in Manhattan. That subway stop — Rockefeller Center — is huge and very busy in rush hour, and I'm sure the stop has come up in conversation among insane but unfortunately still-crafty terrorists.

I have asked my husband to get off at a stop right after or right before Rockefeller Center. At first I asked really nicely, like, “I know you really like to get Jamba Juice at the store in the subway station on your way to work, but could you please get off at another station?”

When it was clear he was ignoring me, I tried bribery: I make the bed every morning to compensate for his extra four-block walk to work. He said “Forget it, you never tuck the sheets in tightly.”

Finally, when there was Anthrax at the Post I said, “You are going to die and I am going to be pissed off because when you die, you aren't the one who is home crying, I am. So if you are going to stay married to me, you have to get off at a different stop.” My husband told me that I was overreacting, but as a compromise, he helped me stock up on bottled water as a nod to my water-supply paranoia.

But then NBC got anthrax, just one block away from him. I called him to tell him not to open any mail. He said the only mail he gets at work is the stuff I buy on the Internet and have shipped to his office. I called him back to tell him that his mail was probably in the same post office as the NBC mail. He said then I should probably stop having stuff sent to his office.

He came home from work with tales of troubles that had nothing to do with Anthrax. “The German sales team wants a whole new product in German by the end of the week. It's impossible.” He got hot and sweaty like a person whose life is in danger and then said, “Sales people are always so unreasonable. They should have to be developers for a month before they can make requests of development.”

I felt snitty. I felt like if he was going to downplay my worries, I would downplay his. I decided to say, ” Maybe if you understood the sales process then you'd have more sympathy.” But then I didn't say that because really, it is admirable that he can go on with his work. It is admirable, really, that the European offices are still talking to the American offices when most reports say Europeans are sick of us. I told him I was sorry. I told him not to eat the canned soup because it's part of my emergency supply.

We usually meet on Thursdays for dinner at Rockefeller Center. If I lived anywhere else in America I would suggest that we eat at home. But New Yorkers don’t do that. I met him at the subway stop before Rockefeller Center. We ate at a place on 59th and 6th, which seemed safe as long as no one set Central Park on fire.

He said, “My boss was on the phone all day. His daughter is too scared to go to school. And a guy in my office came into work at 11 a.m. so he didn't have to go through the Lincoln tunnel during rush hour.”

The next day my husband called when he got to work. He said, “I am sweating. I got off the subway one stop early, and I walked seven extra blocks to another juice place.” I said, “Thanks,” and then he said, “I need to work on the German project late tonight. Don't wait up for me.”