Today is the Friday before a one-day workweek and holiday, which means that even yesterday, a lot of folks were out. Classes are finished, so faculty are scarce, and many staff also took vacation time to start their Christmas break early. We’re already shorthanded in my office because of a vacancy, so of course, fires broke out this week with urgent deadlines and needed immediate attention from a skeleton crew around campus.
I was so thankful to see this week come to a close, and even though I’ll be working on Monday before our holiday, I welcome the chance to get some work done in peace & quiet. As I thought about the hectic and rather stressful week, I remembered another deadline-intense job that had nothing to do with being short-handed before a holiday. It was just a miserable place to work …
I was a reporter at a small town newspaper in southeast Texas. I used an Army-surplus metal desk where you had to ground yourself before you touched the keyboard (which was mounted in a metal tray, for some not-so-brilliant reason) and sat in the metal chair. My computer served no purpose other than a direct-to-printer word processor, if you could even call it that. You had to print as soon as you finished typing, and Lord help you if you made a typo and had to start over, because you couldn’t save anything. It didn’t even have a floppy disk drive. I don’t recall what kind of computer it was, but you might say that it was a step above an electric typewriter and a long way from Word Perfect. (Actually, I think I would have preferred the electric typewriter.)
If bad weather was rolling in, you had to type like the wind or risk losing everything — or worse, getting shocked by that horrible machine. Needless to say, the deadline pressure was pretty intense. That job was what I politely now call “character-building.” I couldn’t stand it most days, and it was not what I thought journalism would be like.
Thinking back on that role makes me grateful to be where I am today. Sure, there are stressful days and hectic weeks, but at least the work is fulfilling … and my computer doesn’t try to electrocute me. Perspective! 🙂