It was just one of those days

I had one of those days late last week. I’d say it was a bad day, except that in this difficult age – with poverty and recession and war and the CW network – it’s hard to complain about a series of mishaps from which you emerge with your health and livelihood still intact. The tens of thousands of people being laid off today will have a bad day. The 150,000 soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are having a bad day. Abraham Lincoln had a bad day when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre. I merely had one of those days where you look up at that kitty in the “Hang in There, Baby” poster, let out a deep sigh, then rip the poster from the wall and tear it into a thousand pieces.

My ordeal was not a morning-to-midnight event but rather a 24-hour span that began around 3 p.m. Wednesday. I was just about finished with my daily treadmill session at the Y when I looked into the hallway. I saw a flesh-colored torso, sheared off at the hips and with the top of its skull blown away, lying on a rapidly moving gurney. My God, had there been some horrible elliptical machine accident? I rushed to the door to learn more, only to get a clearer look at what turned out to be a nude though otherwise unharmed “Resusci-Annie” figure. Annie, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a mannequin modified for use in CPR training. She’s supposed to be missing her legs and cranium. All she really needs to perform her function is a chest you can press your hands into and a gaping mouth, not unlike Jessica Simpson.

After my workout, I usually stop by my favorite café to do a little blogging before heading home for dinner. I was barely settled into my favorite spot when my cell phone rang. Only a very few people have my cell number, and fewer still like me enough to call it, so I was a little surprised. It turned out to be my boss from work. A take-home project I had agreed to start on two days ago was finally ready to begin and – oh, by the way, the deadline is still tomorrow morning. I was being asked to proofread and edit a 200-page Form 20-F. For those of you unfamiliar with financial filings, a 20-F is one of your least interesting reads, not quite on the skull-crushing level of a Schedule 14A but at least as bad as a Form 6-K or a Dan Brown novel. So my fate for the next eight hours was sealed.

I abandoned my writing and rushed home to begin work, and was probably driving a little too fast past the dog-walkers and assisted-livers from the nearby rest home strolling through my subdivision. I didn’t hit anybody but apparently came close enough to one neighbor just before wheeling into my driveway. “Hey,” he called out, “do you think you can drive a little slower through the neighborhood?” His tone was perfectly even and polite, and he made an entirely reasonable request. This annoyed me even more, yet how could I respond as negatively as I felt here in front of my own home? I mumbled a weak “yeah” and hurried into the house, fuming with irrational anger. By the time I figured out that the person I was mad at was me, he and his dog had already moved off into the darkness. No apology was possible.

I plunged into my project hoping it would distract me from my bone-headed motoring. The document described a Swiss manufacturer of farming and construction equipment. Their market was a challenging one in light of the global economic downturn yet their management team had been prudent with expenses except for this one $385 million credit swap default agreement, the first tranche of which was due in 2013, blah, blah, blah. We tend to think that staying awake, being a mental state rather than a physical one, is something we can control if we only have enough will power. But I’m here to tell you that the functioning brain is no competition for European-made bulldozers and threshers. I gave the document my best cursory glance and headed off to bed around 11:30.

At about 1:30 a.m., my telephone rang. It was Elaine from the office. “Can you come in early this morning?” she asked. I felt like saying “I already come in early,” since my normal arrival time is 5 a.m., but I knew that wasn’t the answer she was looking for. I stumbled out of bed and into the general direction of work.

In between the other projects that were waiting for me when I arrived around 3, I had to send off the results of my previous night’s work. We have some very sophisticated communications equipment in my office, including two digital scanners (DSP) that would capture my marks and upload them to the client. I would create a PDF on the DSP using OCR and the OGF. The perhaps-unfamiliar acronym here is the last one, which stands for Old Guy Frustrator. This is the mechanism – installed especially for me — that pulled too many pages through the first time, caused a jam the second time, and ultimately rendered a file with a thick vertical line down the middle of the copy. When I re-fed the pages into the second machine, I got basically the same results except this time the copy was too light. (Apparently the OGF is networked). In frustration, I messaged the people getting the proof that somewhere in the six files they had received, they’d be able to see all my edits somewhere.

As the workday wound toward a close, I had one last chore: call my health insurance provider and make sure some upcoming surgery was pre-approved. I had to listen carefully to the voicemail message because my available options had recently changed. (Imagine that!) When I finally got through to a human, she proved very helpful in explaining to me it would take just a few moments to call up my information because the computers were a little slow this afternoon. (Again, imagine that!) She was soon able to determine that I was talking to the “completely wrong” department, and transferred me over to someone else. A very pleasant musical hold – T. Pain, if I’m not mistaken – soon ended and I found myself discussing the merits of a system that had designated my surgeon as “out of network,” roughly the same status as sword-wielding barbarian. I was told a further review would be necessary before he could be accepted, then I was given a case number and told to call back in eight to ten business days. Assuming I was still alive.

Twenty-four hours had now passed since my frightening encounter with Resusci-Annie, and I was glad at last to call it a “day.”

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2 Responses to “It was just one of those days”

  1. Enna Says:

    That was hysterical!

  2. Osarrah Says:

    “All she really needs to perform her function is a chest you can press your hands into and a gaping mouth, not unlike Jessica Simpson.”

    Your descriptions are both shrewd and hilarious! Nice Post!

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