May 09, 2012

The unfortunate days

The Art of Living on Someone Else's Effort - Chapter 1 (Draft translation)

I had sore feet. I was heading home after a hard day at work. Not hard work itself, but hard in the way the day had gone through. It was one of those days when nothing seems to go right and that every small step is slowed with dozens of small obstacles on the way. I started the morning full of energy and got over the first obstacles with momentum, as if to ignore that they would come across, repeatedly, throughout the entire schedule. The following setbacks began to undermine my patience and for lunch time I thought I had got out of the wrong side of the bed. By mid-afternoon I started wondering about what had I done to deserve so many stoppers. Finally I went home with a foul mood and feeling like having wasted all day unproductively.

Funny there were so many such days, when everything slowed down and I seemed to never reach the end of tasks. However, from time to time, things were solved out by magic, almost as if all the pieces were fitting together the right way and at the right time: your boss smiled, your colleagues collaborated around and even the coffee tasted like never before. I used to think that both the happy days at work, as well as the unfortunate ones, were part of a whole. They were the result of constant effort and dedication, only that this result did not appear gradually, minute by minute or hour by hour, but stumblingly: success did not show up yesterday, but does today, tomorrow will not, the day after tomorrow will show up again, and so on. The fruits of good practice seemed to emerge unpredictably and capriciously. I believed that it was this average that mattered and told myself I should be evaluating my performance at longer periods of time instead of trying to make every day a perfect one. Still, when a day like that was so frustrating I could not help my mood to resent, and specially with those stubborn new shoes causing me so much pain.

I drove through a crowd of vehicles in lines to their homes. Amid the light of dusk, I saw a few faces so weary and sorrowful as mine, poking over their driving wheels. "Poor of them" I mumbled, sympathizing with their hard days filled with small obstacles. Inevitably, I again fell into the vice of mentally reviewing the past events during the last hours, as if that got them straight. The project did not progress at the right pace, errors were arising where they should not and, at some point in time, my team members looked like the rookies they should have stopped being many years ago. And since they were not, while I was grabbing the driving wheel, I mentally accused them childishly of plotting until they could make me head home tired and stressed out. "Good time to get promoted", I thought sarcastically, "Oh yes, sir."

Perhaps that was it all. The chance for a promotion was affecting me too much. A position for internal promotion within the company had been recently opened, a position that would be a good boost to my career, not to mention a corresponding increase in salary that I was struggling for. I needed more money, well, we needed, my family and I. With the two girls, and another baby coming, tightening our belts was not enough. There were just no more holes on the belt. My wife was also going for broke herself, but the non-profit organizations are not paying the highest wages, and although she had tried hard, the answer to her salary increase request had been blunt and plain: no. "We could have discussed were we not in crisis," her boss had told her as a matter of friendly justification, but she had to be aware that, in those circumstances, she could be thankful to keep the job. Damn crisis. So the way NGOs option had become a dead end and I was clutching at straws.

On top of that, the new job vacancy was well suited for me. I was one of the best candidates to it: having worked quietly for months, delivering my results and contributing to the growth and success of the team with my every two cents. My boss did not seem displeased with me, but he did not make a fuss of my contribution either. However, sometimes not being the reason for his headaches seemed enough to win a place in the ranking of the favoured. Maybe that had too a cumulative effect, an average amount that in the moment of truth would bear its fruit. That of course, Telford willing.

I turned the wheel sharply and bit my lower lip. A neighbour car made me shake like a barge with its unexpected manoeuvre and I heard myself cursing that driver’s clumsiness. For a moment I started to look with hatred and spit niceties of people driving even more distracted than me. Such niceties did not leak out my cabin, but I figured he would know how to read my lips. I could not be other way, thinking of Telford and being about to have an accident. One could tell he was a rock in my shoe. My nemesis, I jokingly called him when we talked about him with my wife, and if anyone could be a real competitor to the position I was anxious for, that was Telford. I had to admit he was neither a bad guy nor a bad employee, but although our roles were similar, our ways of working were not at all. While I would be considered a low-profile employee, doing my job without making too much noise and without being in the thick of things, neither good nor bad, Telford was rather the opposite, an extroverted type as it can be, a little careless in his duties, in my view, but a real ace in personal relationships. Everyone knew him. He was always in all the corridors and appeared magically when a success a was celebrated, whether or not having to do with him, as if he could smell the reward from miles away. He seemed to cling to the good news to soak up their perfume and then wear that invisible layer around the office with a wide smile on his face. And he knew indeed how to entertain the boss! And how mad that brought me! I was not really bothered by the fact that he was not a great team member, nor did he pitch in as I would expect from a colleague. But deep down I knew he also pursued his promotion in his way. And it was a way with which I could not compete. Could not or would not?

Thinking of my dear Telford I reached home and parked the car. I frowning closed the car door with a bang, just to realize afterwards that I had forgotten my briefcase inside. Grumbling and with my toes half curled I opened again and ducked inside the vehicle to retrieve it. By leaning on the seat my hand stepped on my tie and I got stuck. In that dumb position, tie knot squeezing and choking myself with my clumsiness, I stared at my face in the rear mirror and I stood for a moment. I looked like a snorting ox in a yoke. "Fool," I said. "You had a bad day, so what? Are you going to wear that victim suit the hours you have left?" At home, my dear wife and my lovely girls were waiting for me and I could choose to enjoy their company or keep lamenting and complaining to make them a little unhappier. I got out of the car leaving behind my boss, my fellow rookies, clueless drivers and Telford himself. All this was over for the day. And I just wanted to see my sunshines and take off my shoes.

I opened the door and found my lovely wife at the entrance, as if she had been awaiting my arrival, with the girls playing in the hall and running around and between her legs. Heaven opened up to me and I smiled as if I were the youngest kid at home. The setbacks were left all behind the door, and I was about to enjoy my gratification.
-Hi honey ... -She said coming up to me in greeting. She seemed willing to add something but I went ahead.
-Hey. Listen, these new shoes I bought are torturing me. They’re just too small! I'll take them off now!
-Darling,- she added, -we have just received a call: your uncle is in jail.

"Shoot me! And right between the eyes."

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