(I want to give those who aren’t reading the more risque, password protected story a bit of fiction today. Enjoy!)
Carl glanced out of the office window. An early autumn sprinkling of red, yellow and orange flared out from the surrounding green. Deep in his brain a warning message was sent, “Danger! Winter is approaching and you need to stockpile food! You need to hunt so there is plenty of meat to make through the snowfall! Go out to the forest now and bring back fresh meat!” The message reached the surface as, “It is just so gorgeous this time of year! I need to get out and go hiking. Perhaps I’ll play hooky tomorrow and commune with nature. The air is so clear. Isn’t it beautiful? Yes, I need a walk in the woods.”
A loud “ping” announced an IM from his boss, Mark, drawing Carl’s attention back to his tiny cubby-hole office. “Where’s that report I asked for? It needs to be in the customer’s hand by COB tomorrow!”
“Working on it now,” Carl replied.
His eyes went back to the tables and graphs. He scrolled through the empty template.
“Analyzing and correlating the data will take days, perhaps a couple of weeks,” he said to himself. “Who was stupid enough to promise the report by tomorrow?”
The template mocked him in its refusal to answer. “Weeks?” it seemed to say, “You need to complete me in hours! And here you are, daydreaming about hiking in the woods! Get cracking!”
Carl sighed and started to methodically go over the data. Some of the pieces clicked into place, but most of it stayed fuzzy, an untouchable cloud of unrelated numbers dancing around the various spreadsheets.
Without thinking Carl opened the weather site: two more days of blue skies and sunshine and then rain all weekend.
Back when Carl was one of the people generating the data and sending it to his PM, there was a year that it rained every weekend from late August until early November. Rain. Every. Weekend. It was awful! He thought he was going to die. He had joked to coworkers that he was ready to gnaw his own leg off to escape and run into the woods.
“What if this is another year of rainy weekends?” Carl asked himself. “What if I can’t get out in the woods at all?”
The storm clouds covering Friday, Saturday and Sunday lifted from the screen and hovered over his desk, sending imaginary showers down onto the stacks of papers.
“Perhaps next year I should take a week off in late September or early October and spend some time in the mountains.”
Carl could imagine Mark’s response to such a request. “Time off! That’s our busiest time of year. People waking up from the dream of summer and the Fiscal Year coming to a close, it’s crunch time, panic time, not play time. Take your week in July and your week in February. Do you need September or October? No way, that’s our busiest time of the year.”
“Hey you. Yeah, you.” It was the blank report template. “Quit stalling and get back to work! If you’re lucky you’ll finish with me by 4:45 tomorrow.”
Carl turned his attention back to work. He tried to shut out all of the background, the light streaming in through the window, the muted sound of birds, and the icon that showed sunny, 75 degrees F. Everything was screaming for his attention, and he valiantly blocked most of it.
At noon he got up, stretched and headed out for lunch. Every step of the way to the corner sandwich shop was a new adventure. Each and every leaf that had changed at all from its summer green yelled, “Look at me!” Squirrels ran across the sidewalk and tempted him into the surrounding trees. It only took a few minutes more than usual to reach the shop, but Carl hurried through lunch to make up for the lost time.
The walk back to the office was harder. The crisp smell of leaves, the occasional crunch under his feet reminded him of the season. The squirrels now shouted out, “Follow us into the magic realm of the trees! You belong here!” Each leaf screamed, “Look at me! I’m the prettiest! I’m the most colorful! Look at me!” Carl paused a few times, breathed in the air with a smile and looked around. He returned to the office ten minutes later than usual.
The phone was ringing as he entered his cubby-hole. “Mr. Cratchit wishes to speak to you,” the emotionless voice said.
Mr. Cratchit, the Hatchet! What did the hated VP want with him? This was a man who only smiled after firing an underperforming employee, who was rumored to have a blanket made of the carcasses of former employees. Mr. Cratchit the Hatchet, Carl wondered if he was in trouble.
“So Mr. Boggs,” Mr. Crachit said, “I see you went to lunch today. Came back a little late, hmmm? Does that mean the report is finished? Or does it mean you are spending an extra half of an hour here tonight? Oh, and I’m sending eight more reports your way to add to the five sitting on your desk that we are still waiting on. We don’t like waiting, Mr. Boggs. You have been slacking off and we don’t like it one bit. Remember, this is our busiest time of year, Mr. Boggs. You are going to finish these reports by the end of October if I have to chain you to your desk myself!” The line went deed with a loud “click”.
Carl opened the company’s project tracking system. He leafed through the thirteen reports under his name. Most of them were huge. A quick estimate put him working until January or February on them. Perhaps ten hour days, seven days a week would let him finish by November, but he doubted it.
He closed the blinds and started back into the current report. That was the only way to do it, one at a time. He couldn’t worry about the rest until he was ready for them.
The afternoon drug out. The minutes ticked by like hours, then like days and then months. The extra half of an hour between five and five thirty crawled by with a century between seconds. He could feel his bones aging and growing brittle, his hair growing long and grey. The day would never finish.
It was dark by the time he reached home. Clair, waiting for him at the door, was smiling from ear to ear.
“Guess what,” she said. “Ginny and Lisa called me and said they have the day off tomorrow and are heading for the mountains for a little hiking. I asked my boss, Lindsey, and she gave me the day off too! So tomorrow I’m getting up bright and early and heading out hiking with the girls! Isn’t that great? I so love the autumn, the crisp air, the pretty colors, the…”
Carl’s attorney entered a plea of “not guilty due to temporary insanity.” It wasn’t hard to find a psychologist to agree.