After sauntering into work and hunkering down in the cube farm that I call “life at the office”, I fired up my email and cherry-picked what I thought would be the more urgent emails to read first.
Including this one (paraphrased):
“I know you meant the best here, but someone dropped the ball and that device should have been sent to a different department, not back to the vendor. And now we are behind for about a month because of it. Maybe our two groups should meet to talk about best practices?”
I sat back.
Read it again.
Sat back again.
I didn’t need to see my neck to know that it was glowing a subtle shade of red. I could feel it.
Ever have one of those times when you’re so angry you don’t know what to do? When you know that if you say anything it’ll be wrong, mostly because there is *so* much you want to say, all of it equally important, that it will get lost by the time you utter the words? Where you know that the nothing would frustrate you more – not even the slight to which you intend to respond – than not saying exactly what you mean to say?
That’s the time when it’s best just to hang back, and let that little piece of heaven that the guy left for you in the offensive email just percolate a bit longer. Let it steep in your gut, until there’s a sense that you want, need to expel it.
Some will read that quote up there and not understand the offence that was given. That’s understood. In today’s world, the political man will not out-and-out call you a dumb fucker. Not like Don Draper would anyway.
He’ll find a way to say it with subtlety and style. He’ll say it in such a way that you and he both know he said it, but the words he has chosen won’t allow you to grab hold of it. You in effect have no visible proof that he said anything even remotely offensive.
That’s what this was. What’s more, he cc’ed the rest of the world on it too. He didn’t want just me to know I was a dumb fucker – he wanted everyone else to know it too.
One of the guys who works for me saw it, and he knew exactly what it meant, and he called me.
“You know – I went back to his original email. What he said wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right.”
“Yeah, I know.” I replied. “I was going to respond to his email but it probably would have been a mistake. I need to cool down a bit first, at least, before replying. Nothing worse than inarticulate rage.”
“I agree. Anyway I just wanted you to know what I thought.”
“Thanks – I appreciate it.”
The day went on, and I forgot about it. Or thought I did. There was other work to do. And besides, sometimes when someone sends an idiotic note to you in anger, the best thing you can do, the thing that will drive them around the bend, is to fail to respond.
My brother used an even better method: when someone sent him a hateful email, he replied back but didn’t say anything. It looked as if he wrote it, erased it, *MEANT* to write something but forgot, and just hit “send”.
The person replied back, wondering what he meant to say, and he again replied with an empty response.
He did this several times, while his correspondent became livid with rage.
I loved it. There’s a reason I admire my little bro.
Eventually the end of the day came, and it was time to leave. I took a last trip to the washroom (bringing my iPad with me, because you can’t leave that thing just lying around anywhere).
Then I came back, packed up my stuff, and started to walk to the elevator.
Then I realized that my subconsciousness had been working all day on a reply to him. I wasn’t aware until it all came together.
So I rushed back to my desk and started to write it out. It felt good. It was subtle but the message was quite clear: “you need to get your head out of your ass, buddy.”
And as I sat there, trying to find the perfect way to end the email, a thought dawned on me: I couldn’t remember bringing the iPad back from the washroom.
I jumped out of my chair and ran all the way down the hall to the washroom. As soon as I opened the door, I knew it was too late. The floor had been washed. That meant the cleaner had been in. And sure enough – my iPad wasn’t there.
I saw another cleaner (one who empties the garbage, but doesn’t wash any floors) and I asked her if she had seen him. She could hardly speak a word of English. I don’t know what she said but I raised my voice a little and spoke slower (why do people always do that? They’re not deaf, and English is still English no matter hooooowwww slllloooooowww youuuuuu gooooooo).
She shrugged and pointed up.
“Oh – he’s washing the upstairs washroom floor?”
She nodded, still pointing.
I wasted no time. Instead of waiting for the elevator, I ran up a flight of stairs. Breathlessly, I opened the bathroom door. The floor was dry. He hadn’t been there yet. Which meant he was still on his way. There was time.
There was also another washroom on the same floor but at the other end of the building.
Sweat trickling down my shirt, I slammed open the bathroom door. The floor was dry. He hadn’t made it to this floor yet. Maybe he was on the original floor but at the opposite end of the building from the original washroom I’d been in.
I barreled down the steps and, got to the washroom and…..there he was.
He smiled at me, in a completely unEnglish-speaking way. (I knew it, as soon as I looked at him).
I gasped and wheezed, trying to get my breath back. “Did you clean the other washroom?”
He looked at me, puzzled.
“Other washroom? Clean” (Dear God, did he know ANY English words?)
“Oh jes!” He nodded, grinning.
“Did you see my iPad?”
He cocked his head sideways and just stared at me. He seemed interested.
“iPad. You know – iPad?”
The puzzled look remained.
Suddenly I had a thought. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my iPhone. “it looks like this – only four times bigger”
Puzzled look. Then, he shook his head “no”.
I gave up and walked back to my desk. I’d already decided to remotely wipe the now-stolen iPad clean of all files. (Yes, there’s an app for that, and it exists on my iPhone)
I sat at my desk and looked over at the bag I was carrying when I had first decided to go home.
There it was. The iPad was in the bag the whole time. I had panicked for nothing.
It’s a focus problem, you see. In that, I don’t appear to have it.
September 21 is the date I’ll get the final evaluation; the date they’ll tell me whether I have ADD or am just plain scatter-brained.
But at least I still had my iPad.
Suddenly, that offensive note didn’t seem like such a big deal. If I had sent that note and gotten emotional catharsis out of it but lost the iPad, it would have sucked badly.
I shut the computer off and went home.