Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Post That's Actually About Telecommuting (Sort Of)

Did you know that Zoe's Mom is my colleague? Ms. Musing's husband also works with me. You didn't? Well, I wouldn't, either, if there didn't happen to be this organization chart on our company's intranet site that includes their names on it. You see, I never run into either one of them in the hallway. We don't chat with each other in the kitchen while heating up our lunches. We don't join each other at after-work happy hours, and when we attend meetings together, I never see them. In fact, I have absolutely no idea they are there, because none of us ever speaks up in company-wide meetings.

I am, these days, most definitely finding myself in a telecommuting slump, which has me thinking about the whole nature of telecommuting and what it is doing in terms of company loyalty. The job is great. I'm still enjoying what I am doing, but I am feeling completely disconnected. This is an odd feeling. Telecommuting is not new for me. I've been doing this now for nearly five years. It's just that, in the old days, I worked for a company where we telecommuters were a small minority. I went up to the office about once a month. We had departmental meetings on a regular basis, and I traveled to conferences and sales meetings with my colleagues.

Now that I work for a company that is probably somewhere around 50/50 onsite/telecommuters, I have done none of that. I have not even met everyone in my own department, let alone met people in other departments. In fact, I haven't seen my boss since I began this job. Fortunately, I knew a lot of my colleagues before I started here (including my boss). I can't imagine how disconnected I'd be feeling if I didn't. Still, I was speaking with one of these colleagues the other day (I feel myself practically leaping at the phone when it rings and the caller i.d. announces it's one of my colleagues. Those of you who know how much I hate to talk on the phone know how bizarre that is), and I said, "It's weird. I have absolutely no clue what the culture at this company is like."

It's an interesting situation companies that have embraced telecommuting are in right now. I am sure it saves them a bundle not to have to house all these people in one place (especially since many companies tend to be located in places where real estate ain't cheap). However, the costs of bringing everyone together when they are all scattered all over the country could end up outweighing those savings if companies aren't careful. It makes sense not to do that too often. Still, it doesn't do much to encourage company loyalty if companies make no effort to get to know their employees and to have their employees get to know them.

Of course, we've been shying away from the notion of "company loyalty" for years. No one expects to stay with any one company for very long anymore. Long gone are the days when people retired from companies or other places of employment (as both Bob's and my fathers did) proudly proclaiming 25+ years of service to the place. People gawk at you now if you've been somewhere for ten years.

I happen to think that's a huge mistake places of employment have made. Yes, I can see the benefits of bringing in new, fresh faces from other places every so often, keeping a company from remaining stagnant, but I can also see the benefits of having those around who have a little historical knowledge. Ideally, a company would have plenty of both sorts of employees, and they would all learn from each other. Employers don't bother to get to know their employees at all anymore, and employees all seem to have the attitude of "This sucks, but I can stand it, until it starts to suck even more, and then I'll just go somewhere else." How can you expect to build a good customer base when you can't even build a good employee base, if your employees don't care enough to help out with that old "word-of-mouth" piece of the business? But in this new telecommuting age, it seems, we've gone beyond not caring about company loyalty. We don't even care anymore whether or not employees are getting to know each other.

I don't claim to be someone who has much business sense. However, I have often thought that running a business takes more common sense than anything else. It makes common sense to me that if a business wants to succeed it first needs to create a work place that people love, a place where they make friends and develop loyalty, a place where they want to put their best creative energies. It makes common sense not to merely give lip service to "our employees being our greatest assets" (which translates for most companies into, "we spend more money on you than on any other part of the business"), but also to treat employees as such. That means caps on CEO's salaries and bonuses. It means shared bonuses for everyone when the company does well. It means being thrilled if you are making a profit and not expecting that profit to be obscene. It means doing everything within a company's power not to lay off those who work hard and bring energy to the company and making sure people who deserve them get raises every year (even in tough financial times. People want to feel wanted and appreciated, and if they aren't, a company suffers, which isn't a good thing for a company during bad financial times). And yes, it means letting those who want to telecommute, do so, but it also means making sure they feel a part of the company. What is it that keeps companies from doing all this? Greed, of course. Those with the power and money want more money and power for themselves, and the easiest way to get that is to treat their employees badly.

However, I like to think that running businesses the greedy way ultimately runs them into the ground. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure it's why so many businesses are faltering now. (I know. I know. Unfortunately, there are plenty of businesses that are succeeding with the greedy model -- did someone say Walmart? -- to prove me wrong, but I do wonder how long they will last in the long run.) I am convinced that companies that treat their employees well and whose executives don't get too greedy translate into companies that grow their customer bases. I happen to be someone who, despite the fact I'm not real big on those kinds of places (because they overwhelm me) decided she wanted to support Costco when she found out how well they treat their employees. Likewise, Wegman's Grocery Store. And, you know, I was a fan of Ben and Jerry's before I heard how great it is to work for them, but I became even more of a fan once I heard that.

I am not lumping my own company in with the Walmarts of the world. I am a very happy employee thus far. However, working here has made me wonder a lot about a future world of businesses whose majority of employees are telecommuters. I mean, why shouldn't that future happen? There is really not much need anymore for big buildings to which people commute long distances merely to sit at desks and do something on a computer that they could just as easily do from home. I just hope that it doesn't lead to even more greed and a "I've got mine, who cares about you, buddy?" mentality as people become more and more disconnected from their places of employment and their colleagues.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Birthday Week Bliss or Operation Spine Removal?

It's my birthday week (no, one day is not enough at Chez Barton, so Bob and I celebrate entire weeks when the important day rolls around). This basically means that for one week, I get to do whatever I want and don't have to do whatever I don't want (barring going to work, of course. I've never taken a birthday week off work, although I might try that sometime), and Bob has to come along for the ride. So far, these are the things Bob has had to "endure" (since Sunday, which was my actual birthday):

1. Going to Borders with me and spending as long as I wanted. We both love to go to Borders, but usually, just as I am really beginning to immerse myself in the experience (say, 15 minutes after arriving), he is seeking me out and wondering if I'm almost ready to go. You see, I like to spend at least an hour in any given bookstore, and I have been known to spend entire days in really good ones (like The Tattered Cover out in Denver or Powells out in Portland, OR). He was very patient with me and just went off and found some Rolling Stone Guide to Music or something that kept him occupied, while I browsed and browsed and chose the four books he had promised to get me as gifts from him (which was fantastic, since, I'm doing that whole TBR challenge thing, am not allowed to buy books for myself, and had been reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, only my third of twenty books for the challenge, for what seemed like months). Here's what I got:

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks (a book I've been wanting to read for, oh, about twenty years now, and never have)

That was my nod to the psychologist in me. Then I had to indulge the lover of horror/Gothic and got these two:

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

The Seance by John Harwood

Finally, what's a birthday without a little chick lit? I had actually thought I'd get nothing but chick lit (about the easiest thing to find at Borders), but that's kind of like going to the supermarket and getting nothing but bags of gummi bears and Swedish fish, isn't it? I kept it to one bag of Swedish fish (a nice accompaniment to the Lindqvist, huh?) instead:

The Charming Man by Marian Keyes

2. Go for bad food and ice cream at Friendly's. It's kind of annoying that my birthday comes only one week after Valentine's Day. That means we've just been out for a lovely fancy meal somewhere, and since I, despite loving occasional fancy meals out, am one who really prefers not to eat out very often, feeling that most restaurants don't really offer anything all that new, whereas my own kitchen always does, am not yet ready to do so again after only one week. However, I am always up for crap food and ice cream, because those are true indulgences that I do not often find in my own kitchen. I love Friendlys, because I can get both there.

3. Watch Bridget Jones's Diary with me. I, of course, had seen it (and read the book). He hadn't. We DVRed it quite some time ago. I don't know how I managed to convince him to take up precious space on the DVR to do that, but I did. It's been sitting there for ages amongst all these violent thrillers, doing a very good job of keeping its sense of humor, and I decided it was about time we paid attention to it. Still as funny as ever, and I love the completely implausible ending.

4. Clean the cat litter box. This is a job I despise. Usually, Bob does it in the morning, and I do it in the evening. This week, he's been doing it morning and evening. Now this is something I think I could get used to...

I suppose whatever horrible company it is that came up with that stupid Superbowl ad (I should have remembered them, so I could boycott them. Then again, I'm not ever planning on buying any tiny TVs anyway, so I boycott them by default) would love to talk about how I have succeeded in removing Bob's spine for a week. However, if truth be told, with the exception of cleaning the litter box, he seems to have been enjoying himself immensely (even while watching Bridget Jones). Of course, payback comes in November when I will have to watch Terminator 10 or some such thing. Is there an ad out there in which some husband has successfully shot his wife up with obscene amounts of testosterone?

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Bookshelves Meme

My bookscases are such gossips. They love to talk about me behind my back, so it made perfect sense when I first saw this over at Dorr's that I would have to share with you some of the things I've heard them say. They love it when Bob and I do things like take off for 3 weeks up in Maine, because it means they get the house to themselves and can yack and call out to each other (even to their friends all the way up in the attic) and spread rumors all they want. However, they do enough whispering while I'm around and think I can't hear that I know exactly what they say to each other.

"Emily doesn't live alone. She lives with a man. Supposedly, she's married, but we've never seen any marriage certificate to prove this." Why else (they reason) would they have to support every John LeCarre novel ever written, knowing perfectly well that, although I might read one or two (although I haven't yet), I would never buy such things? They also wouldn't have such things as Sozhenitsyn's August 1914 or Basball: A Celebration! taking up space on their shelves. (I do like baseball, but not enough to acquire such books.) However, my bookcases really can't complain, because the fact I live with Bob also means they have such cool things gracing their shelves as Lev (yes, "Lev," not "Leo") Tolstoy's Resurrection and Short Stories, both of which were bought in the former U.S.S.R. (Raduga Publishers, Moscow, and they say "Printed in the Union of Soviet Socilaist Republics" on them) or 2 (and a bit) shelves of Library of America books that he used to be able to get free (through a connection he no longer has, unfortunately).

"If Emily were a cat, she'd be dead. She is way too curious for her own good." My bookshelves know perfectly well that, even if they were to weed out all the things that don't belong to me, they'd still have to make room for such varied things as Your Brain: A User's Guide and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Calvin for Armchair Enthusiasts and Eco-Terrorists, just to name a few. In fairness to me, some of the books on my shelves are not there to feed an insatiable curiosity. I happen to have worked in publishing for 15+ years and have edited a lot of books on a lot of varied topics and acquired others to see if I really wanted a particular author to write something for me.

"Emily is impulsive. She buys so many books and never gets around to reading them." I plan to, one day, though. They'll tell you they've heard that before, and see no evidence of it, but don't listen to them. After all, didn't I create the TBR challenge this year? They haven't yet noticed I've been two months without buying a new book.

"Emily is cheap, and she has way too many books. She needs to buy more bookshelves. Here we are, day in and day out, breaking our backs to display billions of books for her, and what do we get in return? Nothing. Well, if you don't count more books on top of the ones that are already doing us in. We think she might even have a bit of a 'collecting' problem." The books don't realize I suffer from insomnia. They think it's perfectly okay at 2:00 a.m., when everyone should be asleep, to grumble, along with the bookcases, about how squashed and crowded they are, how their spines are cracking and their beautiful book jackets are getting ruined, and why don't I buy more shelves. Occasionally, those that are all balanced precariously on top of shelves will rebel and jump off. However, I can ignore their silly complaints. It isn't as though we have tons of room around the house for more bookcases, and I recently read E. L. Doctorow's Homer and Langley, which confirmed that Bob and I are not the obsessive collectors my books and shelves would have you believe. (Thank God for those to whom one can compare herself in order to verify sanity.)

"Emily is so childish. She's got so many children's books. When is she ever going to grow up?" Not only do I have two bookcases full of children's books, but they are all up in the attic. If you have ever seen it, you know that my attic is a magical place. First of all, you have to discover the door that leads to it. Then you have to climb very steep stairs, and then you have to figure out which room houses the children's books. Sorry, bookcases, I'm never going to grow up.

"Emily loves ghost stories." Really, that is such tiresome gossip. Is there anyone on the planet who doesn't yet know it? My bookcases need to give it up and move onto something more juicy.

"Emily wants everyone to think she isn't, but she is anal-retentive." What can I say? My bookcases know me quite well. They know that they are all carefully arranged to perpetuate the lie that I'm not anal-retentive. The arrangements on the shelves seem to be completely haphazard. However, if one pays very close attention, the beginnings of organization can be found. There are the cookbook rooms and the hard and social sciences room and the sports and leisure room. One day, if the time is ever found, I will get around to organizing them all by subject and author (but, so far, time has not allowed for that. I've got too many books to read to waste my time organizing).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Music Monday, Lyric Lundi

If you're feeling a little low and want to throw yourself into the depths of despair, not much is more effective than putting a little Janis Ian on your stereo. I suppose you could also turn on FoxNews, but that's as likely to lead to laughter as it is to tears, if you're not quite low enough. Janis, on the other hand, can lead to tears even if you're feeling on top of the world.

Man, is she ever bleak. And, yet, she manages to capture heartbreak so perfectly in so many different ways, doesn't she? I'd like to know if there is a single seventeen-year-old girl (or former seventeen-year-old girl, or even future seventeen-year-old girl) who isn't convinced old Janis has some sort of hidden video camera in her bedroom. She doesn't reserve her doom and gloom for seventeen-year-olds, though. No, she manages to capture heartbreak throughout one's entire life, well into old age.

Sometimes, however, even when we don't want to be thrown into the depths of despair, we are truly in the mood for a little heartbreak. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it helps us feel we're not alone, that all humans share in the ups and downs of life, or maybe we are looking for someone who seems to be worse off than we are at the moment, to remind us that we should stop feeling so sorry for ourselves, that others are surviving real horrors while we are whining about hangnails. Whatever the reason, when I am in that sort of mood and want some music to accompany it, it's hard to beat Ian's strong voice and strong lyrics.

When I was in college, Sheena Easton came out with a version of one of my favorite Janis Ian songs that my roommate Tina and I listened to over and over and over again (Tina, like I, is an obsessive music-listener. We don't easily get sick of our favorite songs), because a friend of ours had taped it for us, and neither of us had the Janis Ian version. I find it funny now to think those lyrics so touched two 20-year-olds, neither of whom had such "long winters" in their pasts nor near-futures (if at all). But it's not really any funnier than to think that I was touched by "At Seventeen" long before I reached that age. Anyway, since we are in the midst of winter, I think it highly appropriate that I ought to bring you a Music Monday/Lyric Lundi that features this particular song. I hope none of you is suffering through the type of winter mentioned here, but if you are, my heart goes out to you.

In the Winter
by Janis Ian

The days are okay
I watch the TV in the afternoon
If I get lonely
The sound of other voices
Other rooms are near to me
I'm not afraid

The operator
She tells the time
It's good for a laugh
There's always radio
And for a dime I can talk to God
Are you there?
Do you care?
Are you there?

And in the winter extra blankets for the cold
Fix the heater, getting old
I am wiser now, I know, but still as big a fool
Concerning you

I met your friend
She's very nice what can I say?
It was an accident
I never dreamed we'd meet again this way
You're looking well
I'm not afraid

You have a lovely home
Just like a picture
No, I live alone
I found it easier
You must remember how I never liked
The party life
Up all night
Lovely wife
You have a lovely wife

And in the winter extra blankets for the cold
Fix the heater, getting old
You are with her now, I know
I'll live alone forever
Not together now

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ways I've Acclimated

This one came from Ms. Musings via Noble Savage about America v. GB. I've decided to do my own version: Northern USA v. Southern USA. I've been living in the Northeast for over 20 years. You would think I would have completely acclimated by now, but I haven't.

Ways in which I've acclimated (shudder) to the Northeast:

When I'm out for a walk, I don't wave at every single person who drives by me.

I call a "soft drink" a "soda."

When waiting for something, I stand on line instead of in line.

When I make plans with someone a week in advance, instead of just showing up at the designated place and time, I call or email the day before to confirm.

I get really, really annoyed -- in fact, almost murderous -- when I am stuck behind a slow driver.

I talk really fast (okay, my brother will tell you I did that before I moved north, but I'm pretty sure it's gotten worse).

A two-hour-long drive is a HUGE ordeal that takes lots of planning and preparation.

I have to think when someone refers to an "ABC store."

Ways in which I doubt I'll ever acclimate:

I want grits and biscuits with my fried eggs at breakfast. What are these hash brown things? Potatoes are for supper, not breakfast.

I cringe when I hear "yous" (it's just plain wrong), have learned to say "you guys," but still prefer "you-all" and its contraction "y'all" (those two are plural, btw). "You-all" doesn't ignore an entire gender.

When I go swimming in the ocean in August, I still want it just cool enough to be refreshing. I do not want to think that, any minute now, I am going to bump into an ice flow. (I don't do much swimming in the Atlantic once you get north of Maryland.)

I like to wear colors other than black, and I especially like to wear hats.

Even though, rationally, I know I don't need to, I always ask for "hot tea" when ordering in restaurants, convinced that if I don't, I will get that beverage I have never liked that comes in a tall glass with tons of ice cubes and too much sugar.

Although I can barely drink two martinis without doing so, I can easily drink two mint juleps without passing out.

I am still very insulted when people make "dumb Southerner" jokes around me. I have not noticed that Southerners are any dumber than any other population I've encountered.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why I Am Not on the Bash the iPad (Which No One Has Even Seen Yet) Bandwagon

I can still remember sitting in a meeting over ten years ago now with editors like me and the head of the then newly-established electronic publishing department of our company. She passed around an eBook reader for all of us to look at (something I'd been eagerly waiting for her to do). I picked it up and thought,

"This is so cool! This is the wave of the future. No more book bags full of back-breaking books. No more tough decisions about how many and which books to take in my carry-on bag when I fly. No more having to hear my father complain about tiny type he can't read when he can set his own type-size. However, nobody's ready for this yet. The technology is way ahead of its time." I knew the day would come when people would be ready, though, and I, for one, was looking forward to the coming of that day. Why? Because I remembered the coming of the CD before people were really ready. I remembered the coming of email and the Internet before people were really ready. Advances in technology always come before people are really ready.

Shortly thereafter, I went to lunch with my former boss from the library where I had worked before going into publishing. She is another woman like me: obsessed with reading and books. We'd traded so many titles back and forth over the years, I'd lost count. We started talking about eBooks and the future of books, and she said to me,

"I like to read. I don't really care how you feed my stories to me. If it's via some electronic means, I'm still going to read."

She was the first person I'd heard come out and say that to me. Everyone else had been bemoaning the demise of reading and the book. Yet again, I found myself thinking, "Publishers and tech companies had better get together and talk to a lot of readers." We are a varied lot. However: we do all have one thing in common. We want the written word. We don't want videos (those are fine, but not when what we really want to do is to read). We don't want sound. Most of us, I am betting, don't even want to play around with the way someone else's story turns out (writing our own is a different matter). Those are all gimmicks that people who aren't really into reading want, and they are fine gimmicks, and fun toys, but they won't do for me what books do.

But those of us who are truly obsessed with the written word will read no matter how the content is delivered to us. I will read a cereal box. I will read a billboard. I will read a television screen. I will read a newspaper (even though they have got to be one of the most awkward means of delivering the written word I've ever encountered). I will, I am discovering, even read a tiny iPod Touch (or iTouch as those of us who own them have taken to calling them) screen (although it is not my favored method of reading books. It's fine for blogs, and I can read books, but it's still not really how I want my books delivered).

Don't get me wrong. I love, love, love the look, feel, and (yes) smell , as well as the ease-of-use of a book. But I can get lost in the written word no matter how it is presented to me. You may find this hard to believe, but I have never suffered from the sort of eye fatigue others do when staring at a computer screen for hours on end, especially if I am really into what I am reading.

Fast forward five years from my first encounter with an eBook reader and my discussion with my former boss. I'm still reading articles about students breaking their backs lugging around too-heavy book bags. I am watching textbook companies understanding, somewhat, the need for electronic publishing, but they are going about it all wrong, producing companion databases for all their textbooks, and I'm wondering, "Why are they doing that? Why don't they just partner with some company that designs eBook readers and offer all their textbooks as eBooks? They could bundle packages on the readers and cover every subject area."

Fast forward five more years, and finally, my predictions of ten years ago have come true. Amazon has been extremely successful with its Kindle. Other eBook readers have begun to compete. Publishing companies that did not begin to see the light at least ten years ago and have prepared for this day are either already in trouble or will be soon. Textbook companies are partnering with tech companies and beginning to sell eTextbooks. It's amazing.

Enter: the iPad. Do you want to know why I love Apple so? It's because, despite being a tech company, Apple focuses on human beings and what does and doesn't appeal to us. No, the iPad is not exactly the eBook reader I have been craving, but it is so much better than anything else that has been offered that I don't really care. It can do so much. It can provide those of us who just want to read a good book with a good book to read that is on a screen about the size of a typical magazine. If we want to watch a video, we can do that. We can do anything we are used to doing on the Internet, so we can email, instant message, and tweet. I am sure those who want to interact with what they read (or write variant endings) will be able to do that with the iPad.

In other words, the iPad will cater to all of us, readers and nonreaders who want gimmicks, alike. The implications of this little machine are just so exciting. For instance, I may not be a fan of interactive books, but give me something in which I can just click on a pop up rather than having to flip to the end of a book to read an end note, and I am all. over. that. Give me something that allows me to mark up my books with an instrument that is similar to a pen. Give me something that allows me to write notes on blank pages with that same pen. Give me something that allows me to look up information instantly when I am reading a book and want to know more about, say, some historical character who is mentioned. Who the hell cares if I can't take pictures with it (one of the big complaints being thrown at it)? Did anyone ever want to take photos with their TVs or their books or even their laptops? (In fairness, I admit I'm not big on having photos taken of me, nor have I ever been one to see the appeal of taking bad photos with a phone, especially when there are millions of great cameras on the market for taking photos, that are made specifically to do that. Why should an iPad do that? It's like wanting an iPad to make a cup of coffee).

And while I am trying to drown out your tiresome "it isn't a camera" arguments, do not give me your just-as-tiresome "it doesn't have Flash" arguments. Please. Flash is so 2000. It's a technology that's on its way out. It takes boatloads of memory to run. Why would Apple (smart little company that it is) waste its time on that when HTML5 is right around the corner?

You won't even hear me bemoaning the death of the publishing industry with the advent of the iPad (or even the death of the book. My huge book collection will continue to grow and prosper, I am sure. As a matter of fact, my hope is that books will become prettier, that publishers will start paying more attention to their packaging, designing them to last, as they become special the way they once were, instead of the quickest, cheapest way to increase the bottom line). I see nothing but good things ahead for publishing companies willing to think creatively (and who have been preparing themselves for a digital future). I see great new ways of learning. I see more need than ever for a literate society. The future's so bright (I gotta wear shades).

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Bob and Emily Talk VII

(So, I was going to write a blog post all about Apple and my thoughts on the new iPad, but this seemed somehow more appropriate today, so that one will just have to wait.)

Bob and Emily are snowshoeing along the Creek behind their house, because they have been blessed with the second New-England-like snowstorm Lancaster County has seen this winter (16 inches, with drifting over 2 feet in places). In fact, if there were just a few more trees around here, they might even be fooled into believing they were in New England. Anyway, because they are walking along the creek, they have just gone under a bridge that they have gone over too many times to count since moving here but have never gone under. From this viewpoint, with its obvious cracks and chunks missing, Emily is wondering why it hasn't been condemned. In fact, she is wondering if she ever wants to drive over it again. She pauses while underneath it to survey the damage.

Bob: Come on. Hurry up.

Emily: What on earth is the hurry? We're not trying to get anywhere. I want to look at this bridge.

Bob: Because, if a car (who is he kidding? They have seen a total of two cars on this road since they set out on their adventure) suddenly comes driving over it, I can just see a chunk falling off and hitting you on the head.

Emily (after scurrying through -- well, if what one does in snowshoes can ever be considered "scurrying" -- because she hadn't thought of that, and then being annoyed with herself): There are no cars around for miles.

Bob: Yes, but knowing you, some Hummer will come out of nowhere or something, and a chunk of cement that seems like it couldn't possibly come loose, will spot you, and head right for you.

A little while later, they are backtracking along the creek, and Bob is ahead of Emily. She notices that he seems to be headed back under the bridge.

Emily: Why are you going that way?

Bob: It's the way we came.

Emily: Well, I was going to climb up the bank on this side, so I can walk back home on the opposite side of the street that we walked down here on.

Emily (noting that Bob has changed his route and is climbing up the bank on this side of the bridge): You don't have to go that way just because I am. You can go back under the bridge and come up on the other side, if you want.

Bob: I have to go this way in case you kill yourself.

Emily: I am not going to kill myself. This is my road. I walk this thing almost every single day.

Bob: Yes, but not when there are 2-ft high snow drifts.

Bob has an awful lot of confidence in Emily, doesn't he? I wonder if it's warranted.