Thursday, July 20, 2006

Just Another Day At The Office

Yesterday, I took the day off from work. But don’t think for one minute that a day off of work meant no work for me. It turned out to be just like any other day at the office. Instead of an office chair, I parked my bottom on a bicycle seat and spent over 70 miles getting the job done.

Heading off on my bike, I rode 90 minutes across the gently rolling hills and farmlands of the far western suburbs. The morning was mine with light winds, low traffic, and a cool overcast sky. But this didn’t last long and this was no coffee break of a ride. Word at the water cooler was that Liz had some hard work ahead of her. The ‘Duathlon Worlds Hill Repeats’ project with an upcoming deadline of July 29 – did you get the memo?

When I arrived on Campton Hills Road, management slapped the file folder of pain in front of me. My assignment - 12 x 3 minute hills climbed in a variety of ways – sitting @ 65 rpms, standing @ 75 rpms, stomping and mashing @ 45 rpms. Apparently this assignment was part of the company’s strategic plan – the mission, to kill the hills at Duathlon Worlds with specific directions from management – “your legs should be trashed by the end” - directions that left me thinking who is management and how did they get promoted to that position.

I arrived at the bottom of the hill ready to tackle this project. If killing the hills was the mission, then the vision would be all mine. And like any good vision, it would require active visualization to see myself through. In my mind, I was climbing the hills of CornerBrook at Duathlon Worlds. In a moment, I took my mind there, found myself climbing against the gorgeous backdrop of Newfoundland, and I was ready to ride. The first 2 times up the hills I held back, finding my rhythm and settling in. The next 9 were serious work and I got serious about it. Hold my calls, because I had a very important meeting with some potential clients – my competition. I had checked the staff directory for Worlds and located the top performers - Kirsten, Kiera, Suzanne, Sarah. I dragged them with me up each and every one of those climbs. Someone call Human Resources because surely this constituted harassment on my part. I was their personal pain escort and together we crushed that hill, side by side. They were pushing me, challenging me, and I could always see them getting just ahead of me by the end. In an act of extreme effort, I would edge my way past them, pushing up and over the steepest part of the hill, reaching wattage well beyond my normal capabilities. The last one sent my legs straight to basement of the office building, my quads, my feet, my breathing all exhausted and made heavy by this hill.

After that last hurrah up the hill, I was done – 100 percent checked out with a letter of resignation in hand. Ahead of me, another hour of riding, like a painful meeting with upper management. My legs were so trashed that the thought of pedaling for another hour made me want to crawl under my desk and hide. Instead, I wanted to change the voicemail, create a reactive e-mail rule - Liz has left the office building, you have reached an inactive account.

But I was still on the clock and there was still work to be done. I started to head out for the last hour of riding and immediately it felt like someone had taken a Swingline and stapled my legs shut with pain. But I continued on, because no one was going to finish this ride for me. No one was going to do my job. In retaliation, my legs were begging to call customer service with a complaint.

With 30 minutes left, I pulled over to the side and my legs would give no more; I jammed the copier, downloaded a virus, the printer literally ran out of toner and was spitting out page after blank page of nothingness. Somebody please troubleshoot me because I was on the bottom floor, in the corner cubicle, and I think I saw Milton down there, with his stapler and his files.

I took a look around on this bottom floor, and what I saw were loads of files - files of years of focus, determination, and hard work. My files – my successes, my failures, my personnel record filled with annual plans, mid-year progress reports, goals, reviews, letters, certificates - oh they’ve been keeping an eye on me and keeping records too.

In looking through those files, you begin to realize that years of experiences, years of commitment to the company will pay off. You’ll get through this, and any other project that comes your way. You’ve been a success before and a failure, and regardless they still kept you on staff. For whatever reason, they believe that you are the best person for the job. And it’s up to you to be your own Chief Executive Officer and take charge of the task at hand. So you best employ yourself and get your rear riding again.

I returned from the ride and got ready for a 30 minute run. At this point, I desperately needed a lunch break but there was still some work to be done. I thought about loafing and letting myself go easy for the run – to zone out and sit in the back of the meeting doing Sudoku with a sharpened pencil. But management would frown upon that. And, more importantly, they’re keeping those files on me and I’ll be damned if I get disciplined for not doing this run.

I ran hard, I ran fast. It was hot, apparently the AC was out again, and I was hungry, thirsty, sore. I cranked through those miles like a copier collating hundreds of papers into meticulously sorted piles.

And when I was done, I shut the computer down and went back home. Liz had logged off for the day. Another day at the office, done.

On the way home, I finally took my coffee break and stopped at Caribou. And as the girl behind the counter asked me if I wanted my coffee hot or iced and I realized that I had more work ahead of me – obviously she was new on staff and unaware of the 100 reasons why iced coffee was strategically wrong and not a part of this company's master plan.

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