Friday, March 06 2020

pizza, ninja turtles, and our european friends



Dear Journal,

Goedemorgen, mijn vrienden! Hoe gaat het vandag? I hope you’re all feeling good today. It’s Friday, and looking outside, there is plenty to be thankful for. I’m thankful that we’re heading into a weekend, which will yield lots of time to catch up on things around the house and find some rest.

I’m feeling good today. I decided to work from home today. With the coronavirus scare still building to a crescendo, the remote work option has become very popular, even to the point where staying home is encouraged. And before climbing into bed last night, I stood for a moment staring at my desk. Comfortable, well-lit, a good pair of headphones and a good microphone - I’m looking forward to spending the work day here.

Yesterday was another busy work day where I was in and out of meeting rooms… pretty much all day. Some point between all the bouncing back and forth, I joined my desk neighbor Julia back in our corner. “We have… thirty minutes until the next meeting. What are we even supposed to do?” I griped. Julia laughed. “I know, right?” she replied. “It’s not even enough time to start anything.”

Around lunch time, I took advantage of another half hour micro break to walk across the street to pick up my favorite sandwich from the cheese shop. As I usually do, I cut the sandwich in half, labeling, bagging, and sticking the extra wedge in the fridge to save for Marissa. And as I’m writing this now, I realize that I had no further plans for that half of sandwich. We’ll see if it’s still there when I return to work on Monday.

I finished our final meeting at 4, where are team remotely introduced ourselves to a new engineering manager we hired. My laptop was practically depleted from all the running around I did away from my desk, and when the meeting wrapped my battery was literally at 1%. I shut the lid and jumped on a bus homeward.

I wanted to get home a little early to get a jump on the pizza. Last night, I invited Rafael and Miguel, who were visiting from our Dublin office, over for dinner. When I walked in the door, Marissa was already busily putting things away. Rodney emerged from his room cradling a hand full of Ninja Turtles action figures. In the kitchen, I got to making the pizza, beginning with the sauce.

Olive oil, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and two cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes later, I left the sauce on the stove to simmer and began making the dough. Marissa joined me in the kitchen to wash the lettuce for the salad.

“I admire how hosting people brings out the best in you,” I said to Marissa breaking the busy silence. I chuckled, realizing my spontaneous complement could be received as a sleight. What about when we’re not having people over? Is she at her worst then? The road to offending your wife is usually paved with good intentions.

I kid. Marissa was gracious about it. Touched - not offended.

“So what are their names again?” asked Marissa, straightening up the pillows in the living room.

“Rafael and Miguel,” I replied. “They work in Dublin, but I think they are both from Spain.”

Marissa stood thinking for a minute. “Man,” she said. “It’s going to be really difficult not referring to them as Rafael and Michaelangelo,” laughed Marissa.

Our guests arrived at the front door. Marissa greeted them as I herded the dogs into the back yard. Rodney handed them each a foam sword on entry before they even had a chance to remove their quotes. Rafael and Miguel rose to the occasion, joining Rodney in sword combat before even learning his name, and you have to admire that easy going attitude.

“This is Rodney. Excuse him, he is really into Ninja Turtles right now,” I said. Marissa’s eyes lit up, as if she had a joke at the ready.

“In fact,” she said. “We were sort of tempted to refer to you two as Rafael and Michaelangelo.”

“My name is Michaelangelo!” Miguel replied enthusiastically. “Well, really it’s Miguelangelo.”

“That’s close enough!” I said. How strange of a coincidence! In the past week, it feels like the theme of Ninja Turtles has descended on my life. I see it everywhere.

After Rodney’s excitement subsided, we released the dogs from the backyard into the house, and they incited a second wave of enthusiasm in the living room. “They’ll calm down after five minutes,” Marissa clarified.

We ushered Rafael and Miguel into the living room, took their coats, and hooked them up with some beer from a sampler pack Marissa had picked up from Hy-Vee. Miguel presented us some chocolate they had brought from Ireland.

As the pizzas finished in the oven, we made our way back to the living room and rested on the couch with TMNT playing quietly in the background. We got to chatting, covering the basics - how long they’ve each been with the company, their role, and what got them there.

Sitting down at the table with pizza and salad, I finally steered the conversation into cultural curiosity. “So I just have to say it,” I opened boisterously. “That double kiss thing you guys do at the door is pretty damn charming. Do you just do that for the ladies, or was I supposed to kiss you too?” Rafael and Miguel blushed in embarrassment, laughing. “You know it gets awkward sometimes,” said Rafael. “Sometimes you go to kiss someone twice, and they were only expecting to kiss once.” He mimed the awkward situation, bobbing his head around and widening his eyes.

“Ah, that’s like your version of the handshake-fistbump debacle that can happen sometimes,” I laughed. “I wonder what it would take to bring that to the US?” I laughed. “We could just start kissing people, and I’m sure it would catch on eventually.”

Rafael and Miguel spoke more to their unique perspective of Ireland, originally emigrating from Spain. “I almost gave up and moved back on the first day,” Miguel shared. “I just arrived in Ireland. Exhausted, carrying a hundred pounds of luggage. I wanted to order a big mac. ‘Big Mac’ I said, then they guy behind the counter asked me a question, and I had no idea what he was saying.”

“He got frustrated,” continued Miguel. “Then finally looked at me and gestured.” Miguel silently used his hands to gesture ‘big one’ or ‘little one’. “How was I going to live there, find my way around, attend meetings at work, when I couldn’t even order a Big Mac?”

Rafael chimed in. “I get frustrated in cabs. I thought I could speak English, but I can’t understand cab drivers.”

The conversation wandered from accents, to politics, to culture. I was a little fuzzy on Irish & UK relations, and at one point I had completely forgotten that Spain got quite a bit of snow. “Have you guys ever made a snowball?” I asked condescendingly. Rafael’s eyes widened. “Alex! Spain has snowy mountains! Of course I’ve made a snowball.”

“We’re grateful you guys visited with us,” I said as our evening came to a close. “You see, as Americans we can now brag that we were entertaining our European friends,” I said twirling my hand to emphasize the exotic appeal. “Everyone’s going to think we’re so cultured now.”

We’re grateful Rafael and Miguel spent time with us. What a wonderful evening. Thanks for stopping by this morning. Stay safe out there. To our Zendesk friends visiting the Madison office, I hope you make it home safely and remain healthy in the coming months. Have a great Friday, everyone!