If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
Today sucked. There, now you need not read any more; the rest of this blog will involve painful elaboration on that basic theme, mainly as a cathartic exercise for me rather than for your edification.
It really started last night, when Ian and I attempted to watch Tomorrow Never Dies, but the DVD refused to play. Or rather, if kept pausing and skipping, with increasing frequency as the film progressed, until we deemed it completely unwatchable. We tested the DVD in Ian’s computer, to be sure it wasn’t our player, and sure enough, Ian’s computer couldn’t read the disc at all. Looking at it, we saw no scratches, but the DVD itself is strangely discolored — almost a golden color, where it used to be that distinctive silver. So we went to bed James Bondless, and although I fell asleep around 9:15, 6:20 this morning found me groggy, exhausted, and hungry.
I hate hungry in the morning because I can’t eat before I ride. I tried it once and nearly lost my breakfast on the way; that exercise and food don’t mesh well. I do drink a glass of milk to quiet the growling, but I can’t claim great excitement at the idea of my usual breakfast (yogurt with Grape Nuts at 9:00, after a dismal shower in the women’s locker room and thin, non-absorbant towels that shed blue bits of fuzz all over my body). This morning I completed my ride as usual, but with no small amount of anticipation: I had actually looked forward to the day because today I broke 500 miles riding to and fro to the Southborough train station. The morning brought me to 498.6 miles, and I did pass 500 miles this evening on my ride from work to the train station. But lots of things happened between now and then to reduce the sense of accomplishment I felt at this achievement.
I actually achieved something else, a milestone at work even if none of my co-workers noticed: I finalized and shipped the first report (GVA00063AX if anybody’s counting) I started with from formatting onwards. This is the first report I coordinated myself, through formatting the chemist’s very rough draft on August 11th Project Scientist review to QA, from QA audit with changes back to QA for resolution, to shipping the Draft Report to the Sponsor, to getting the finalization request from the Study Director, sending the finalization request email, and signing the hard copy of the Final Report yesterday. Nobody at work cared particularly; it was just one more report to go into their statistics for them.
Today, however, I had no reports to finalize. I don’t particularly like finalizing reports because you have to do it before 2:00 (don’t ask), and it can be difficult to get two or even three different peoples’ signatures in the right order, plus do the dozen other things required, within that time frame while also doing other report coordinating and running the shuttle. So today at 11:30 I was happily burning five reports onto five CDs for a sponsor when my co-worker, whom I will call X for anonymity, asked “Did GHM00001BR ever get shipped?” She sent an accompanying email, forwarding the finalization request I had sent a two weeks ago, saying “Did this ship???????” Since I had sent the finalization request, the answer clearly had to come from me—which was fine. I’ve adjusted to being asked to account for all my actions and keep fairly detailed records of what I have done, for just such an occasion.
But I didn’t need my notes for this one; I knew that X herself had jumped down my throat when I emailed that finalization request. At the time, she aggressively called over the cubicle walls, “Hey I’m doing the other one of these, so I should do this one too.” I felt no compunctions about acceding to her demand, because although our boss had asked me to finalize this report, I didn’t relish the thought. So I agreed and forgot about the report. Two days before it was supposed to go final, my boss emailed me, asking if this signing had been put off or what, since it wasn’t on the finalization calendar. “X said she would do this, since she’s doing another one in this series,” I told my boss, and again forgot about it. Last Friday, the day it was scheduled to finalize, came and went; I took my half day off and didn’t give GHM00001BR a second thought. X dealt with it as far as I knew.
So it came as some surprise to hear X herself asking about this report. “That’s the one you were going to do because you were doing the other one,” I answered her query. “NO,” she said, “I finalized GHM00001AR, but I never said I was doing BR. You’d better do that because they have an FDA deadline.” Oh, I tell you, my stomach sank. X has been snippy and generally a witch lately, at least towards me and the other newer woman; she responds impatiently and even angrily to our questions or requests for help, expecting us to remember and apply every detail she’s told us instantly. X is perfectly nice to our other co-worker, who’s been working with X for the last five years; she’s friendly to the guy from Montreal, to our boss, to her friends among the scientists and chemists. It’s just me and Newbie she’s impatient and harsh with. Her response’s tone fit perfectly with her recent behavior towards me—she sounded angry and impatient with my stupidity.
MY stupidity. I would swear over my mother’s dead body that she had told me verbally she would take care of this report, and she told me so forcefully I actually came home and shared the tale of it with Ian that evening. MY stupidity. As if by some fault of mine the sponsor would miss their FDA deadline and this drug (the cure for cancer or something) would never reach the world. Oh, it was entirely my fault, and she had no recollection of telling me she’d finalize that report—telling me in a way that would make a police guard dog look friendly. I bit my tongue and tried to squelch the empty, panicky feeling that immediately started banging around in my innards. Two o’clock suddenly loomed almost impossibly close, with all the work I had to accomplish in those short hours. Heck, sometimes just getting signatures can take two hours, trying to nail everybody down, get a pen in their hands, and tell them it’s October 11, 2006 (and don’t write the wrong date or I’ll have to reprint that page!). MY stupidity, and I started asking myself if somehow the fault did fall to me, that perhaps I had misheard her?
I finalized the report, got my signatures and all the forms signed, created the PDF, burned the electronic data CD with the signed final report on it, shipped a PDF to the correct people, and took my precious hard copy final draft with the CD and signed forms up to the Data Unit before 2:00. But the bitterness of having this three-day-late report blamed on me still burned on my tongue as it burns on my fingers even now. I know what I heard and I know it wasn’t my fault at all. If nobody cares if I passed a milestone, everybody cares if I fail to meet one…or appear to do so. I feel frustrated, angry, hurt, impotent, and very bitter, the way you do when somebody blames you for something you haven’t done and you can’t do anything about it. This is the first work-related incident that has haunted me through my calming train ride and six miles home. I can only hope it won’t haunt me tomorrow, or th
e next day, or any day afterwards.
With these heaping coals of blame on my head, I left work feeling quite disgruntled. I’d pushed the unfairness away and finished my day just fine. Then I passed 500 miles on my odometer and that earned a smile…a small, short-lived one. I parked my bike at the train station and huddled in the ceaseless wind to wait for our train to come. It came and I rode and when we passed Westborough the train started slowing down, creeping along where it usually zooms. Darkness fell, so I could see my serious-faced reflection more clearly than the outside, and I started wondering about what a ride in the pitch-dark would be like. Then the train stopped and we waited for ten minutes, arriving in Southborough at a crawl, arrive at Southborough on the wrong tracks, arriving at Southborough just as raindrops started splattering from the black clouds overhead.
I tried calling Ian, but my cell phone kept telling me something about “network error.” I wondered if, by unlucky chance, Gary had cancelled my phone that very day. Ruefully the phone went back into my bag, I climbed aboard my bike, and I rode into the darkness. It was very dark, and the rain proved very wet indeed, as well as bright when car headlights flashed by me. Because I rode later than I usually do, traffic was heavier and I spent much of my time almost blinded by headlights, almost unable to see the road ahead of me and totally incapable of reading my gear shift indicator. A wind picked up and cars’ backwind pushed at me and my helmet dripped and my long spandex soaked through and I could even feel the wetness through my Gore-Tex jacket. But I made it home, 6.5 slow, painful miles later; home, where I crawled into warm PJ pants and started crying at the miserable mess I called my day.