My mother has been a permanent telecommuter ever since our family moved from Baltimore to Pittsburgh when I was five. At some point earlier in our relationship, Kirios asked why my mother didn’t come visit me more frequently and just work from my apartment during the day so we could see each other more often. It seemed like a reasonable question – if you can’t walk into a coffee shop without seeing someone camped out with their laptop barking on a conference call or number crunching while rocking out to his or her iPod, why wouldn’t she take over my living room every once in a while?
I explained to him that my mother started working from home in the early 90s and it was a completely different deal than what you see with teleworkers today. Mom’s company ships her desktops and reimburses her for a land-line phone number. For several years a Fed-Ex delivery woman stopped by our house every morning during the week to drop off packages for my mom – lengthy reports printed on reams of paper, sometimes CDs. Every afternoon Tom, another Fed-Ex delivery person, would come to pick up packages going out. One day we gave Tom a peach fresh from Georgia, another time we gave him a coveted box of Girl Scout cookies. I remember when we had a replacement package picker-upper while Tom was on his honeymoon. Over time, the pick-ups and deliveries slowed down. I didn’t completely understand back then, but it’s pretty obvious now as an adult who works for the Postal Service… Mom’s company was just starting to use e-mail when we first moved to Pittsburgh and she could hardly send attachments. Over the years, that all changed.
Fast forward to present day – my mother recently finished working on a multi-year government contract and was assigned on a new project based in Washington DC. Mom needed to meet with her new team and customer to kick-off the project. She opted to stay with me, her one and only daughter, rather than at a hotel. She drove up on a Monday afternoon and arrived just in time for dinner. We ordered a pizza. Afterwards we watched a movie on Netflix. Mom checked her work email online from her personal laptop. We both scrolled Facebook and looked at people’s pictures over each other’s shoulders. In the morning, Mom walked to the Metro with me and I helped her buy a farecard. (I know, she really needs a SmarTrip, but they don’t sell them at my station.) I reminded her to stand on right and walk on the left for the escalators, and hurried her off the train at her stop. I continued on to work and Mom grabbed a coffee, her meeting didn’t start until later in the morning, and I arrive at work at 8:00. An hour later, she called to ask for directions to her meeting location. She had printed out walking instructions from the Metro station, but got disoriented and confused by the street numbers. I checked Google Maps, and she made it to her meeting location.
Early that evening I met Mom downtown. We had a delicious dinner at Founding Farmers (It was near her customer’s office and it’s so yummy there I had to take her) and Mom told me that for this project, they wanted her on site weekly meetings for the next month. Suddenly, Mom was transformed into a 21st century contractor. She ordered a company laptop and began wondering if it was time to upgrade to a smart phone (no progress on that yet – she doesn’t even text.) Next she wondered about transportation. Driving to the DC area and back to Pittsburgh over the course of 36 hours is a bit much for her to do on a regular basis. Her company prepared to book $400 roundtrip flights. She suggested taking Megabus instead, which costs a whopping $21 roundtrip.
Mom has now become a master at her new exhausting routine. She drinks less coffee and limits her water on Megabus days and eats salty snacks to ensure she doesn’t need to use the bus’ facilities. She squeezes everything she travels with into a roller laptop bag and a back pack, and she event metros between my apartment and the city on her own.
Having mom in town about once a week has kept me busy entertaining her in the evenings and doing extra laundry with her linens. I’ve also been able to show Mom my new purchases, like my exercise bike and the new pair of shoes that I bought last weekend. And it’s led to some fun dinners out. (You knew I couldn’t resist talking about food for the whole post!) During her last visit, she took Kirios and I to Red Tomato Cafe. We were particularly impressed with their Panzanella Salad of roasted fennel and tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, fresh oregano, Parmesan, and croutons will olive oil, pesto, and balsamic as well as their interesting preparation of homemade gnocchi in a cream sauce with candied walnuts, grapes, and Parmesan. For dessert, Kirios made his homemade crepes, which we filled with caramelized figs, pomegranate seeds, and our new blueberry balsamic. This week Mom and I had dinner with my cousin in Rockville at La Tasca, sampling a lot of their tapas dishes.
Mom is returning home tonight after her latest trip and, and has two weeks at home before she returns. I can’t say I’ll have too much time to miss her – my dad will be in town for 3 nights next week and I have my own business travel the following week. She’ll be back before I know it!