So, today I really wanted to write about all the do-gooding I’ve been doing and the subsequent conclusions that I’ve come to since I began. I’ve been volunteering for the Barack Obama campaign here in Philty-delphia, and it has been quite an experience. However, in light of recent events (today) I think that I should write about another little life lesson that occurred instead.
Let me set the scene for you all:
I was sitting in the office of a co-worker discussing a particular client that either needs to be transferred to another program, or else we need to underscore the importance of meeting one’s personal responsibilities to them. Either way, there is something that needs to be changed in the care that we provide for this client. While we were sitting in the cool AC of the agency’s offices, enjoying the breeze of the oscillating fan in the corner and throwing around clinical terms like it was the latest fashion trend, the lights flicker. Then the lights go out. But not all the lights go out, and not all electrical appliances shut off. The staff and I discuss that it’s probably that some of the circuits are overloaded, with the AC running constantly in this 7 day heat wave, and that it should be as easy as a flick of a circuit breaker switch. Famous last words…
I walk around the building to see who has lost exactly what power sources. Some have lost lights but not computers, some computers but not lights, and some have lost everything that makes our working experience possible. The air conditioning has also been knocked out. The staff I was sitting with decides that he thinks he can fix the problem himself and goes to the circuit breaker. He comes back and asks if anything has changed, we look around and tell him no, so he goes to put the switches all back just as he found them- since we have no idea what those switches are for, hoping we didn’t launch any nuclear missiles in the meantime.
Another staff comes around the corner to tell us the bizarre occurrence that caused some of our circuits to blow out. Apparently a pigeon was minding his own business soaring around town, when he decided to land on the electrical lines outside our building. This caused some sort of disruption in the lines, the pigeon was electrocuted, and we lost some power. For proof, the bird is outside on the sidewalk- dead.
I am personally an animal lover. But when I heard this I belted out the loudest and hardest laugh that I’ve had in a long time (but not of the day, that comes later on… stay with me people). Just the mental image of this little bird getting zapped and then falling to the ground, probably still buzzing and steaming, had me exploding in laughter. The staff who told me about the pigeon says, “it’s not funny! He’s just a little thing, and he’s laying there dead.” I told her I couldn’t help it, and as much as I love animals of all kinds, it was truly a humorous situation- at least to me.
Since my office was completely unaffected, with the exception of the AC, I go back to my desk and begin to work on next week’s schedule. The time is now 3:30pm. Generally the schedule is fairly easy to generate and I basically follow the template. I would guesstimate that creating a schedule generally takes anywhere from 15 – 20 mins overall. Like I said, usually things run smoothly and all my staff are at the program. However, this upcoming week we have staff that are on vacation, others at meetings during the most inconvenient times of day, and other general hassles that make creating a operational schedule difficult. Needless to say, this schedule was taking me longer than usual to construct.
The time is now 3:58pm. I had just completed the schedule up to Wednesday when –blink– I’m cast in total darkness. It takes a second for my mind to register that no, my eyelids are not closed, and that the power is completely off in the building. Then I remember… “NOOOO! I never hit save!” I groaned as my head fell into my hands, and realized everything I had done in the last 28 minutes was a complete waste of my life. But hey, at least I got paid for it.
Life Lesson #1: Always hit Save. As often as possible. In fact, if you are reading this and you have some unfinished document open on your computer at this moment, go ahead and hit save now. I can wait.
A staff comes into my office after hearing my bellow and says that instead of calling an electrician –like any smart agency would do– we have put our maintenance guy on the job. The lights come back on and everything appears safe. I turn the computer back on and just as it starts to boot up –blink– darkness again. I sit in the dim light from the front windows that, by breaking all rules of physics, makes its way into my office, and wait. When the lights come back on, I still wait. After a few moments I feel it’s safe to try the computer again. I see the friendly Windows logo, then –zap– out again. A very loud, and unprofessional, “Come on!” escapes my mouth before I have the power to stop it.
Once again the power is back on, but I proceed with caution. I hear someone in the background yell that it’s safe for us to turn things on; we are now calling an electrician. I hit the power switch and chant “please have recovered the document, please have recovered the document”. My computer does all this wrig-a-maru that I don’t know what it means except that it was shut down during start up one too many times, and after a long wait, I see my familiar desktop wallpaper of orange flowers again. Frantically I go to where I knew the schedule would have been saved and…. No, it’s not there. Nothing is left but frustration and anger. It’s not the computer’s fault, it’s mine. But that doesn’t mean I won’t vent my frustration on those responsible for the lights-out without a heads-up.
I decide that I’ve had enough for the day, get my things together and head towards the door. I’m still angry, and not afraid to tell everyone I come across about it. On my way out I stop by the “big boss’s” office and explain what happened, starting out with an annoyed “Can you please make sure that if someone is going to shut off the power we get a heads-up so we can, you know, hit save?”
I go to clock out, which has to be done by hand and paper since the power is off in the reception area, and notice that there is a line of staff waiting to write their names and times on the ad hoc time clock as well. Apparently I wasn’t the only one fed up with the deal and decided it best that I leave for the day before I cause further jeopardy to my job security over what, in retrospect, seems like a silly little affair.
I walk out into the hot and humid air and say goodbye to a fellow co-worker. I start walking backward as I talk, when suddenly I stumble on something on the sidewalk. I feel something soft, squishy under foot, and something that is tickling the back of my ankle. I turn around and see the dead pigeon under my foot with part of its limp wing against the lower part of my leg.
I let out a blood-curdling scream as I realized that not only had I stepped on the flying rat, but that it was now touching me. Random people walking the street stopped in their tracks to see what was going on. Co-workers dropped their bags and came running, thinking that now I, too, had been electrocuted.
When I realized how ridiculous the whole fiasco was, I started to laugh. Hard. I stumbled over to the wall, bent over, my belly aching and eyes teary, making the best of this unfortunate and disgusting situation.
Life Lesson #2: Never laugh at the dead. They will come back to haunt you.
Life Lesson #3: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It could always be worse. Like, for example, you could have dead pigeon guts on your foot.