I've been sitting in the cafeteria in the main building of Jack's for about three hours. It isn't really a cafeteria as most would think of it--there are no ovens here, no facilities of any kind for making food. Well, the counters are overflowing with microwaves, but that's it. The thing that makes it a cafeteria is the fact that people eat here together often. Also, there's a sixty inch T.V. on the wall, and that sleek black rectangle is why I'm here right now.
Susan Martin, the woman that took over for Jack when he died, has by and large done things as he did them. She hasn't changed any policies or decided to make this place march to her drum, unless perhaps you consider that the cadence of her leadership and that of Jack are so similar that they might as well be the same song. She's incredibly smart, and it's easy to see that the way Jack did business worked for the people here. No need to change things up too much.
That being said, she does have a different perspective on what it takes to make a happy and productive community. I don't want to make it sound like the folks here have some kind of dreary life defined only by the work necessary to survive--it isn't that way at all. People around here have been encouraged to be social, get to know one another and build friendship with as many of their fellow citizens as possible. Hell, there's even a group of dedicated fill-ins, all volunteer, who take over for people who need to take off a shift for whatever reason--cookouts, board games with new friends...sex. You know, whatever.
It's just that there haven't been a lot of activities for anyone and everyone to join in on. It's hard to accomplish that when there is a constant need to cook food for all these people, walls to be constantly guarded agianst the zombie swarms outside it, work to be done in the machine shop, and a full-time staff just to run the details of the place. Biggest part of the problem was trying to accommodate schedules while finding a place and activity that suited most people.
Susan decided to break the problem down into the simplest terms, instead of overthinking it. What was something that many, many people could do at once, while being able to come and go at will? Just be able to drop in, talk to people, have some pie (there's pie!) and leave whenever?
Hell yeah! I don't want to come off looking like an excited kid at Christmas here, but I love this idea! I can sit here with my laptop plugged up, making an inventory list of all the stuff we found and where from the notes Jess and I took on our trip. I can also write this post while listening to the TV or talking to whoever happens to come up to me. I'm trying to get this work done so I can enjoy the show, because it's one of my favorites.
I'm not going to go on a long rant about it or anything. I just realized when the word came down about the marathon that I really, really missed that show. I miss movies and TV in general, though I find the lack of them as a distraction to be very conducive in actually accomplishing things. House, though, was what I usually had on in the background when I was writing before The Fall, and hearing Hugh Laurie being so condescendingly logical really brings back the memories.
It's been fun. People have been in and out, sitting down to a meal and chatting in a comfortable way that has been missing until now. Quietly, for sure, but happily and easily. I think Susan will have to make this a regular thing. People love it.
The strangest thing about it is that I've heard some folks talk about Jack this morning. I guess some of them have been holding it in, going along with the crowd in trying to suppress their grief. Maybe the relaxed atmosphere in the room is bringing it out, I don't know. But I know that you only talk about something like his death because you really need to. I wonder if any of them will ask me about it, since I was there?
I'm here for them if they want to talk. I'll be here all day. Who'd have thought a show about a misanthropic doctor would, in itself, enable some small portion of healing? It's a funny world.
A terrible world, filled as it is with the walking dead. But all the more amazing for that, since we can still find happiness and comfort with one another.