Deccan Commons (a story of making meaning)

My husband passed away suddenly a few years ago. Once we’d all gotten over the initial shock, my daughter, who lives in Bangalore, suggested that I consider selling the house and moving out their way. I gave it a lot of thought. There was no question that the house, which was too much for Rakesh and I even when he was living, just didn’t make sense for me now. And they were right to be concerned about me living by myself. I’ve always been a gregarious person, and I didn’t like rattling around in the house by myself. The neighbors seemed to change every few years, and there was no one close by that I could call if there were some emergency. On the other hand, Bombay is my native place. I value my independence, and I’m rooted here. I love to garden, and couldn’t see myself moving to some retirement place in Bangalore, filled with old people, where I couldn’t grow things or see a blue sky. I also just didn’t see myself as some old widow going to live near her children to wait until the end comes. So, I looked for some other options, and discovered Deccan Commons, a “co-housing” community that had been built on the outskirts of town. I learned that, since the 21st century, they’d become a popular option for people like me, who like to be around other people without being a burden. At Deccan, the idea is a modern version of a village, with a wide variety of ages and occupations. The individual houses are built in clusters, without walls between...

Starbucks (a story of making meaning)

How can I really feel at home in Ft. Wayne? When I was in college, I never imagined I would someday be selling enterprise software, of all things. It sounds like a cliché now, but back then I wanted to be a novelist. I spent a whole summer at a café in Florence, writing in that decrepit journal, drinking way too much espresso, and getting to know a bunch of like-minded bohemians hoping that graduation could be put off another year or two. Of course, I’m much more practical now. And, leaving the whole practicality thing aside, I actually like your work. Traveling around the country, meeting exotic people (and the people in small towns seem awfully exotic to me, since I’m from New York), I find that a lot of that youthful spirit of adventure still means something and still has room to operate. On the other hand, Ft. Wayne, Indiana might be pushing the “exoticism” a little far. I check into the Comfort Inn, call my client, and get everything arranged for our meeting tomorrow morning. I’ve got some time to kill, so I work out, but feel restless. I get in the car and drive down this characterless, endless six-lane highway with the same old fast-food and “family style” restaurants I see on all the other highways I seem to stay on. And then I see the Starbuck’s, and something just changes. I drive into the parking lot, and the moment I walk into the place I’m transported back to Florence. I can’t say why, exactly (Starbucks is a fairly far extrapolation from Florence), but I’m...

JetBlue (a story of making meaning)

It was one of those awful days at Oakland International (yes, I’m flying again). You know, where you stand in line for an hour or so while everyone struggles to get their shoes off and their laptops into the plastic containers. I caused a real commotion, and a stern warning from one of the security guys, when I went around to the back of that assembly line your stuff gets placed onto, to get a piece of my luggage that fell off. I really hate that “under pressure” thing when you’ve got all those people behind you, just trying to get through. Fortunately, I was taking JetBlue to JFK. We boarded the plane, and I settled into my leather seat and waited for take-off. I’ve always liked JetBlue, ‘cause it’s so consistently easy to deal with. You feel like a human being instead of a sheep. From the moment you get on the plane, there’s a certain calm, and clarity to the whole thing. Maybe it’s the colors, which put me at ease. The seats are roomy and comfortable. And, I can’t explain how they do it, but there just isn’t the sort of luggage-stowing torture I’ve had on other airlines. Also, booking the flight was a breeze. Their website is crystal-clear and talks to me in a relaxed, offhand yet businesslike way, just like the plane itself. Again, like a human being, instead of a statistical “consumer.” I don’t talk about my “dignity” very often, but these people seem to respect it. Anyway, I’m sitting there, enjoying ESPN, when this guy gets on the public address system and...

Nike (a story of making meaning)

When I first got on the Web, it was 1997 and I think I was 14. My whole life revolved around futbol then. My favorite company was Nike and my favorite team was Brazil’s national team, even though it was sometimes difficult to catch games in Korea since not all of them are televised. Still, I would hunt-out television stores with satellite dishes and walk the aisles four hours trying to piece together an entire game. When I got on the Web those first few times, of course my first stop was nike.com. It didn’t find what I expected. Everyone back then were doing those Flash movies (you know, the kind everyone immediately skips). That was fine since most of those things sucked then anyway (or crashed whichever browser you were using). There was a little of that on the Nike site but not much. Instead, it was more like a magazine. They had revolving stories about their special shoes—the ones made for a specific athlete. I had already bought the Air Jumpman Pros (I’m a big Michael Jordan fan even though my sport of choice is futbol). There was a story on the development of the shoe, it’s features, and the designer who made them—and why they fit Michael’s needs. There was also a story on Ronaldinho and Romario, the two stars of the Brazilian national team. It was great. The coolest thing on the site was this thing where you could answer a question and it might be posted to the site for everyone to see. I remember one on “why do you play?” and there were...

Star Trek (a story of making meaning)

You probably think I’m crazy. I don’t dress in the costumes (well, except once for Halloween) but I do identify a lot with the Star Trek world and spend a significant amount of my free time in it. I’ve seen every film and episode at least three times (and probably many more) and I’ve read many of the books, been to a conference once, and now spend time writing my own stories and posting them to “fanfic” sites on the Internet. I’m not a fanatic or anything—really—and you’d never know it to look at me or work with me, but the Star Trek Universe means a lot to me, I guess, on a deep level. Before you laugh and point, though, realize that over 50% of US citizens admire Star Trek and say that they’re fans. They don’t have to be “Trekkers” or huge fans but they appreciate something about it. It’s really not so different, when you think about it, than all the fans of NASCAR or professional sports. The next time you see a 49ers fan walking down the street wearing a Steve Young jersey, realize, that’s no different than a Star Trek fan walking down the street with a Starfleet uniform on—not that I would be caught dead doing either. : ) I got into Star Trek as a kid. It was all about the adventure and the weird aliens and situations. It was fast fun and very entertaining. By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation was running for a year or two, however, I realized that it was more than just fun. The show...