September 23, 2008

Bulk view

Not the best day ever, but that’s okay

A five-hour nap and a mug of double-chocolate truffle hot chocolate later, things are looking much better.

Today was One of Those Days, but even Those Days are bearable if you insist on thinking of them that way.

It started this morning when our home Internet connection was down and I had to figure out a way to make my 9:00 tele-presentation. I excused myself a third of the way into my 8:00 conference call after the problem refused to solve itself, and tried waking up Wayne that he could have a crack at it. He couldn’t solve it either. After some frantic scrambling, I realized that the only thing to do was to come into work. I stuffed the electronics into my bag and sprinted to work. I knew I would have just enough time to make it.

I still needed to copy the files from my Linux partition to my Windows partition. Crouching on the floor of the crowded subway car, I balanced my laptop on top of my rolling case and rebooted. A young woman stood up and offered me her seat. I thanked her profusely. She understood that it was One of Those Mornings.

I managed to copy all the files over by the time we pulled into Yonge Station. I made my way through the early morning crowd and into the IBM office downtown. I headed straight for the first free meeting room I could find. After dumping my things in order to claim ownership of the room, I snagged a lamp from an unoccupied desk. I was going to do the presentation with video, and I wanted good lighting.

It turned out that I had a few minutes of allowance before I was going to speak, so I quickly uploaded the files to our company intranet and got myself ready. There was nothing I can do about my hair, but at least I could catch my breath. And then my session started, and all the hassles of that morning faded away.

I had so much fun talking about the way work is changing and what my generation practically takes for granted. The questions were among the best I’ve ever had after presentation. They were clear and thought-provoking, and I learned a lot in a process of answering them. I also had the opportunity to pull in one of my previous short presentations in order to help answer one of the questions about Gen Y retention.

Being able to see the audience through video and knowing they could see me made me feel as if I were there. Sure, I was a talking head, and most of my gestures didn’t quite fit in frame. On the other hand, my facial expressions were a lot easier to see. It reminded me of watching Evil Dead: the Musical and being able to see Ash quirk his eyebrow. Someday, I’ll make even better use of video in presentations.

I stayed on for the panel discussion, which was also a lot of fun. I learned a lot from the questions and the answers of the other panelists. Again, being able to see people asking and answering questions did a lot to help me feel part of the event.

After the panel ended, the stress of the morning caught up with me. I was having strong cramps, I was feeling slightly dehydrated, and I had forgotten my lunch at home. Almost all of the seats in our mobile offices had been booked, so I moved my things out of the meeting room and to a temporary working area. I tried getting back in touch with the organizers of the event, who had said that one of the people there had wanted to talk to me. They also tried patching me in to attend next talk. The beginning was very interesting, but when I felt myself unable to concentrate, I knew it was time to call in sick. Or, as I was in the office anyway, just tell people I was going to go home. I think it was my first sick day at IBM.

I slept on the subway ride home. On the way to the house, I ticked off what I was going to do as soon as I got through the door. I was going to heat up the hot pack and then enjoy a bowl of homemade chicken soup.

The hot pack worked fine, but when I added alphabet pasta to the chicken soup, I saw little black dots floating in the broth. Little black dots with legs. Eww. Abandoning my chicken soup, I pulled some rotini with meatballs out of the fridge, heated it, and had it for lunch.

And then I went to bed and the afternoon disappeared.

When I woke up, the house was still quiet, but the sun had set. I made myself a mug of hot chocolate, and everything started to feel much better.

What did I learn? I learned that even with a stressful start to my day (whether it’s Murphy’s Law striking or, as in the past, I heard that one of my role models was leaving the company), once I get on stage, the message itself fills me with excitement and gives me energy. I learned that I’m pretty good at quickly making plans to deal with sudden challenges, and that even when it seems everything’s going haywire, my automatic-cheerer-upper finds all sorts of small things to smile about. Was this the best day ever? Not at all – but I think I did my best with it anyway.