Comic Con Pays Off

Ian got my favorite comic book writer/artist to sign one of my comic books while he enjoys four days of Emerald City Comic Con.

 Signed copy of "Mage: Hero Discovered Vol. 1"

Meanwhile, while Ian’s been in Seattle, Benji and I have had:

  • A surprising Thursday – We thought Benji would spend the night at my parents’ house, but my mom came down with a sinus infection, so he came home instead. Mere words cannot express the depth of his sorrow.
  • An easy Friday – Ian actually arrived home on a bus that dropped off near Benji’s school, just as school was getting out. Then, about 6:00, my dad and, a little later, Teresa arrived for pasta dinner. Nice!
  • A fun but exhausting Saturday – After substantial initial resistance, Benji conceded to my plan to spend the morning taking a ferry to Kingston and back. This turned out delightful, if wet and sandy. We have an afternoon hiking date with my friend Ellen, and I think I’m going to have to wake Benji up from his nap to keep the date. That means it was a successful morning!

I’m planning to sneak out on my newly repaired S-Works for a solo ride tomorrow while grandparents take Benji.

After all this, I’m going to need a whole nother weekend to recover!

Something Good

After a long journey, my beautiful S-Works, Swift, has returned to me whole and rebuilt.

S-Works 2.0 - #rebuiltintheUSA

The summary story: FedEx crushed the top tube in October. After pursuing all imaginable avenues for replacement — remuneration from BikeFlights, FedEx, and our insurance company getting; a comp replacement from Specialized; buying a new frame for a crash replacement price — I finally looked into getting it repaired.

I got it repaired at Ruckus Composites in Portland, and they added some lovely additional details designed by my biking buddy David Hose.

It came in last Friday, and after some hiccups — we had to acquire a seatpost clamp and cover at the last minute; the bike shop wasn’t ready, so I switched to bike shops — Woodinville Bike Shop built it up for me this afternoon.

I’m really, really excited to ride it. This weekend looks phenomenal, weather-wise, but I’ll be spending Saturday with Benji while Ian enjoys Emerald City Comic Con. Sunday, however, I’m hoping will be my day.

A Piece of Poo

Yesterday I had a rough finish to my workday. I’d spent most of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday working very hard on an urgent marketing piece. By the end of yesterday I thought the marketing guy and I had it buttoned up. We’d gone through two rounds of edits by the final approver, and just sent it back for one last confirmation that our last tweaks met the need.

Apparently not.

The approver shredded (metaphorically; it was a digital file) the document, rewriting vast swathes, stomping like an elephant through the delicately crafted savannah of my work. I’d put in almost three days of work on this, and now the approver — who is not a writer and who knows next to nothing about good writing — took my work, tossed it out the window, and rewrote the entire thing in their own words.

I’m not normally protective of my work. You’ve got to develop a thick skin when it comes to editorial revisions if you write professionally. You have to let even the loveliest turn of phrase go to the chopping block, if need be. While it’s painful, I think I do an okay job accepting even really deep editorial changes when it’s appropriate.

But the approver didn’t offer editorial suggestions; they rewrote in whole cloth, changing sections that the approver hadn’t mentioned as having issues in previous reviews, axing perfectly fine sentences and paragraphs and replacing them with the same thing in the approver’s own words. The approver clearly thinks they are a better writer than the professional writers they have on staff.

It sent such a negative message to me, I still feel sick. I didn’t sleep much, and I’m dreading going to work for the first time in my two years at my job. By completely rewriting my hard-earned work, the approver implied:

  • My work is crap. The approver, who’s a company executive, thinks they know more about writing than I do. I worked really hard to write something good, that I was proud of, and the product of that hard work — which I thought was actually pretty good — is worthless to the approver.
  • The approver doesn’t trust me to do my job. They previously provided (in my opinion excessively) detailed, line-by-line feedback, which we incorporated. But that wasn’t good enough. The only person the approver trusts to write it is themselves.
  • My three days of work don’t matter. I put aside an enormous, challenging, high-pressure tech writing project to work on this marketing article. That project remains unfinished, other deadlines are fast approaching, and this marketing article has turned into a zombie project that just won’t die. Also, presumably the approver has their own work to do — you know, doing whatever executives do. Making high-level decisions, maybe. I don’t know. I’ll never be an executive, thankfully. Don’t they have anything better to do than nitpick (honestly, “nitpick” implies a smallness to the scale that really isn’t accurate) a perfectly good piece?

When I told my boss all this, he said, “Well, the approver isn’t good at people.” He wanted me to understand that this drawing and quartering of my document wasn’t personal; the approver wasn’t trying to send me a message.

To which I say: If you’re in an executive position, it’s your job to be good at people. You cast a huge shadow, and you have to be aware of the impact to everyone it touches. I’m not giving them any grace here, because they are completely in the wrong. They are wrong to go in and do someone else’s job. They are wrong not to consider the impact of doing so. And they are wrong to make our company look worse by sending out low-quality marketing copy.

The article was good; it was ready to go, and their “edits” made it substantially worse — and I know it won’t matter. They’ll get their way, my company will look like incompetent communicators when we send out this ugly, kludgy piece of trash, and I’ll still feel like a piece of poo on the bottom of the approver’s shoe.

I’m starting to think that maybe marketing writing isn’t for me after all.

*Note: I know I’ve misused “they” and “themselves” throughout. English doesn’t have a good neutral pronoun, and I didn’t want to get into any specifics, so “they” it is.

Light in a Dark Place

Sometimes God gives us opportunities above and beyond our everyday choices, chances to shine as a bright light in a dark place. Yesterday I took one of those opportunities, and I’m still reeling from it.

Thursday, February 21, we pushed out our first release of 2019 at work. With President’s Day on Monday and all the snow the previous weeks, I didn’t feel as comfortable as usual. Every working day that week I put in 10-hour days and still felt less well prepared than I like. But that evening I left work at about 6:25 PM relieved and ready to enjoy a slow, dry, “warm” bike commute home before really nasty weather pummeled us again.

I almost didn’t ride. I’d ridden Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, including a 50-mile ride on Monday. By Wednesday evening’s commute of misery (a different story) my legs had plenty to say about doing more miles, and I’d nearly decided to take the bus home. But at the last minute I checked the weather and decided to take advantage of the one last nice day, fatigue be darned.

I’d ridden nary 15 minutes, and had just gotten on the bike trail near Gasworks Park, when I noticed several bikes laid on the ground around the sides of the trail. Then I noticed a cluster of people standing around together off to the side, and one person sitting down.

“Are you okay?” I called.

Nobody answered. That’s when I noticed the face of the lady sitting down. Blood streaked all over her nose, cheeks, and chin.

I stopped.

The bloody lady, named Teresa, had collided with another cyclist, Ben. Ben seemed completely unharmed. Teresa, however, looked terrible. The blood stopped me, but then hearing her talking worried me deeply. Her words came slow and confused.

“Has anyone called 911?” I asked.

Nobody answered.

I remembered from my First Aid classes that in emergencies, you need someone to take charge and start making decisions.

So I called. I explained to the dispatcher that two bikes had collided, and she asked if anyone needed to go to the hospital. At first it seemed uncertain, so the dispatcher asked to talk to Teresa.

“What day is it?” the dispatcher asked. Teresa had no idea.

“How old are you?” To this puzzler, Teresa answered, “What year is it?”

The dispatcher sent first responders and an ambulance.

Burke Bike Crash 2

Burke Bike Crash 1
Firefighters evaluating Teresa. Teresa’s bike, visible leaning in the background, had a tacoed front wheel. The other person in the collision is the cyclist in the blue jacket on the left.

While the firefighters evaluated Teresa, I started talking to the other cyclists standing around. A couple had stopped to help, but two of them had actually witnessed the collision, and the other person in the collision had stayed around, too. I gathered up their names and phone numbers so Teresa could decide what to do, once her brain started working better again.

After having talked with Teresa a little bit while we waited for the firefighters and ambulance, I gathered that she’d just moved from Philadelphia to Seattle in January. Her parents lived in California. She had no roommates or significant others with her. She was completely alone except for one cat.

Completely alone except for me.

Teresa couldn’t process anything at that point. She could barely see; she knew who she was, but couldn’t remember anything about the crash, what was going on, where she was, or anything pertaining to the date.

I couldn’t leave her alone to go to Harborview in that condition. You need an advocate in a hospital, someone to make sure you get blankets and water and to help answer questions various doctors have asked a million times before. I didn’t know anything about her, and I couldn’t help with questions about insurance, home address, or family. But I could make sure she didn’t spend the night confused, uncomfortable, and alone in the hospital.

As a parent, I can imagine how it would feel if my child was alone and injured in a strange place. I’d want someone to take care of my child until I arrived.

Honestly, I didn’t even debate what to do. I gave my bike to the firefighters, who housed it and Teresa’s bike until we could reclaim them, and I went in the ambulance with Teresa to Harborview.

Bike Crash 3
In the ambulance, Teresa really wanted reassurance that someone had taken care of her bike. Naturally.

We arrived there at about 7:00 PM, I think. At that point we passed through a portal into Hospital Time, some kind of strange spaghettification zone where everything takes 10 times longer than you ever imagined possible.

Bike Crash 4
Arriving at Harborview.

I’ll summarize about eight hours in the hospital by saying that, after x-rays, a head and neck CAT scan, and a careful evaluation by a oral/maxillofacial specialist, the doctors concluded that Teresa had a concussion, a fractured nose, fractured sinuses, and a really nasty hole in her lip where her teeth had poked all the way through.

The bearded doctor in the picture above sewed Teresa up quite expertly–he turned out to be a facial surgeon who’d also gone to dental school, really the perfect person for the job. He found a piece of Teresa’s tooth in her lip. Ew.

In the infinitely long interludes between doctor visits, Teresa and I chatted. At first she kept forgetting what we’d talked about, but within a few hours, she started getting much more lucid.

After an embarrassingly long time, I remembered I had an entire change of clothes in my bag. I felt much better after I’d changed out of my bike shorts. Then I remembered I also had a sandwich, brought as dinner for the release, but that I didn’t feel like eating before I left. With these two realizations, the stay became so much more bearable for me.

Throughout the night, I made sure Teresa had blankets and, later, water and the painkillers she felt comfortable taking (Tylenol only, please). I advocated for Teresa with the doctors and nurses, asking when the next step would happen and making sure we didn’t get forgotten. I also kept all her belongings with her (except the shirt they had to cut off her — sorry, shirt), facilitated a phone call with her mom in California, and sent messages for her until she recovered enough to use her phone herself.

Her mom bought tickets to fly to Seattle arriving at noon today, and I promised her I’d take care of Teresa until she arrived. I worried that Teresa shouldn’t go home to her empty apartment in Ballard all by herself after Harborview discharged her. Who would get her painkillers and water if she needed them? What if she got worse — who would monitor her?

We brought her home to our house.

Easier said than done, of course; we had a logistical nightmare, arranging for Deborah to come and stay at our house at 2 AM while Ian drove to Seattle to retrieve us. But by the kindness and grace of our family, we did it. At about 3:15 AM I installed Teresa in our guest bedroom with extra pillows (using our oldest pillow cases and a large towel; her facial road rash continued oozing for some time, plus the hospital equipped her with lots of ointment for her face) and Ian and I put ourselves to bed.

I found it hard to sleep, having spent the last 22 hours not only awake, but under extreme pressure. Eventually I must have drifted off, only to awaken again when Benji got up at 5:20 AM to go potty.

In the morning we had a car logistical shuffle; I needed a car to go get my bike from the fire station in Fremont, while Ian and Benji needed to drive to Redmond. Mom and Dad loaned us a car, possible because Dad had gotten a cold and decided to work from home.

During the day I “worked” from home, but “working” on what could only generously be described as two hours of sleep didn’t go real well. Fortunately, my boss understood when I explained the situation. I also rescued my bike from the fire station and made sure Teresa got plenty of water in the times she felt like being up. We chatted a bit more, and I learned more about Teresa. She’s a lovely person, a Christian who’s looking for a church home having just moved here (I recommended Bethany in Ballard) and a postdoc doing chemical engineering research at the UW.

Teresa’s mom arrived from the airport at our house about 1:15 PM and swept Teresa back off to Ballard for some family care.

Teresa and I had a long, sincere hug before she left. She has my phone number, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the last I’ll see of her. You can’t go through this without some connection. I certainly feel like I’ve got a special place in my heart for Teresa, and I know I won’t ever forget the last 24 hours.

Why’d I do it? So many reasons. Jesus calls us to care for the widows and orphans, and until her mom got here, Teresa was basically an orphan. She was my neighbor. She needed that care so desperately, care we could give. Then, too, I mentioned before that I knew she’s someone’s daughter. I wouldn’t want someone to leave my child hurt in that situation, and I couldn’t do that to her, either. And of course there’s the Golden Rule: Next time I could be the one on the pavement having no memory of what just happened. Who would take care of me?

Why’d I spend the night in the hospital and house a total stranger?

‘I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

Matthew 25:36 (MSG)

Why do I share all this? Not to toot my own horn or try to show what a great person I am, but to show that every single one of us has these opportunities. The question is what we do when they arise.

Hubris and Humility

The first time it snowed, back about an eon ago (I think it was February 3?), I bike commuted home within a couple days. I rode my bike with studded tires and, although I did hit a few hairy spots, made it home just fine both days.

I thought I’d do the same thing this week. We’ve had some weather in the mid- to high 30s, and roads just have some water but no I’ve, so I figured most anything I encountered on the trails would have melted into slush that I could ride through no problem. I decided to ride the Burke-Gilman the whole way, to avoid some of the unpleasantness on the 520 trail and in Kirkland.

Long story short: I’ve rarely been so wrong, or made such a totally off base decision. Don’t get me wrong, I make mistakes and bad choices all the time – little ones. This biking plan definitely takes the cake.

I made it through the UW, but (in retrospect) the patches of icy slush should really have warned me to cut my losses early. Instead, I thought, well, maybe things are really packed down and slippery here, but where fewer people went will be better. More melted, less bumpy sheets of ice with slush on top.

Nope.

By the time I reached Seattle Children’s, I had realized a few things:

  1. I was going really slow and having to walk a lot. The sun was setting soon, and once it got dark, this would transition from miserable into miserable and dangerous.
  2. The cold, splatty rain would freeze me at this pace.
  3. I wasn’t getting home on the trail.

But how would I get home? I started to panic.

If I turned around, I’d have to face all those patches of slippery ice all over again – with no guarantee of being able to cross 520. If I turned around, though, I could try to get to Montlake to catch a bus home… however long that might take.

I really didn’t want to do that whole long, icy trek again.

Ian offered to pick me up or meet me near 522. That would work but I felt bad forcing him and Benji to drive through traffic both ways just to come get me.

Finally I realized I was very close to my friend Ellen’s house. I called her, and – bless her heart – she was willing to drive me home, even though it was Valentine’s Day and she had stuff to do.

When I got to her house, she had a better plan: Her brother, who lives just a couple miles from my house, was stopping by her house. In fact, he arrived moments after I did. I left my bike at Ellen’s – it’s in good company – and her brother drove me home.

Needless to say, I thanked him effusively.

It wasn’t the commute I planned, but I’m thankful that God made a way despite my foolish choices. And I’ve learned a good lesson in arrogance and humility.