We’ve all had them – days that seem never to end; that start out bad and rapidly progress to much, much worse; that seem designed to grind our egos into tiny wet blots on the floors of our minds.
Having a Hell Day at the office is a lot like having dental work done: physically, it’s relatively painless. Mentally and emotionally, however, we stagger out of a session considerably the worse for wear.
I had a suspicion that it might be one of those days this morning when I (a chronic and long-term insomniac who drops off to sleep at night the minute her head hits the pillow, only to awaken bright-eyed and ready to run a marathon at the obscene hour of 3:00 a.m.) was awakened by the clanging of the alarm clock at 6:20 a.m. on the one morning that I had to be at work (a half-hour drive away) for a morning meeting — at 7:00 a.m. sharp.
However, not having a crystal ball or the good sense to turn over and be ill, I leaped out of bed and tore through the morning rituals, arriving at work slightly unkempt and hungry and barely on time for the meeting.
This, unfortunately, was the high point of the day. By 10:00 a.m., I was cranky and starving and sending fervent prayers to the lottery gods to let me win a few millions, thus releasing me from the drudgery of 9:00 to 5:00 and enabling me to live the kind of life to which I longed furiously to become accustomed!
To say that my boss puts out a considerable amount of work in a day is like standing outside during a raging hurricane and commenting on the breeze. It simply does not describe the situation adequately. The Big Guy has a brain the size of a prize pumpkin, for the simple reason that anything he chooses to keep in it, stays there.
Mine, on the other hand, is considerably smaller — because, you see, it leaks, much like a colander, and therefore never has the opportunity to fill up and expand.
While my neurons are frantically running around trying to plug the leaks, The Big Guy’s mind is calmly and continuously pouring out ideas and responses to questions and innovative solutions to problems, all of which emerge through his pen and voice and onto reams of paper and miles of dictaphone tape, which are thereupon transferred, in an orderly and continuous flow, into my In Basket.
Over the years that I’ve worked with TBG, I have become convinced that he has discovered a way to dispense entirely with sleep: how else to explain the mountains of work that await me first thing every morning, when I know perfectly well that the Out Basket was entirely empty when I left the evening before?
I have even considered, on occasion, the possibility that a gentle tap with a mallet to the right temple once or twice a day might give him a well-earned rest for a few minutes. I mean, the man must be exhausted, right? Who knows, he might even thank me!
Another problem is that there is no way of knowing in advance exactly which gem of information in particular is going to ooze out through the holes in my colander.
As a general guideline, though, I have come to realize that if the information is trivial and of no possible consequence to anyone, I can be fairly certain that it will imprint itself on my brain cells and set like concrete.
For instance, the mating habits of the tsetse fly I have down cold. I can tell you at a moment’s notice the telephone number we had six moves ago in 1972, or the date of the Battle of Hastings or the derivation of the word “somnambulist.”
However, ask me the time and place of the meeting I organized two days ago and you will be met with a blank stare as I struggle, desperately, to remember.
Gone, dried up and sucked out through yet another leak!
In self-defense, I have become extremely organized. Since I can’t rely on information being stored you-know-where for more than twenty seconds, I have two approaches to information storage and retrieval:
(a) write everything verbal down on paper, and
(b) have a place for every piece of paper.
This, you understand, results in an inevitable delay when I am asked to produce a fact or figure, since I must run to the place where it is filed, piled or otherwise stored and frantically shuffle through paper until I can come up with the answer. Eventually, though, I manage to produce a response.
Since TBG has the ability to dredge up information from that enormous computer in his head at the drop of a hat, I suspect he believes that I must be subject to temporary bouts of amnesia, perhaps due to some sort of personality disorder; and he’s kind about the delays, although slightly embarrassed for me.
Actually, since he remembers everything without having to ask for it, it may be that he’s testing a personal theory that if he asks me for information often enough, the constant jiggling of brain cells will spur my grey matter into activity similar to his, albeit on a considerably smaller scale.
I simply haven’t the heart to disillusion him.