A Mixed Bag for Saturday

I went to bed around 11:30 last night, exhausted out of my mind. Yes, me, in bed before midnight on a Friday night. Unbelievable as it still is after 6 or 7 months of having switched my internal clock from nights to days, and as much as I’m overextended by work, I have to be honest with myself: I’m not feeling as exhausted as I felt when I was a night owl. Despite what I think is still my propensity to be a night person, I have to concede that I’m probably getting more and better sleep as a day person. I still wish I could operate on less sleep, but I can’t do that anymore at 41.

Today, September 16, 2006, would have been my father’s 81st birthday. That means today’s exactly two-and-a-half days since his funeral — March 16, 2004. Of course, I would always call him on his birthday. I remember one year in particular — I think in the late ’90s — when we were having these fantastic, very summer-like Septembers, he reported having gone for a walk all the way to Main Street in Moncton on the morning of his birthday — a walk of more than 2 miles — and claimed he hadn’t needed to wear a jacket. Funny how we remember trivial remarks like that.

Although it’s been autumn-like in the Maritimes since the end of August, today and tomorrow are shaping up like those warm late-summer days of a few years ago. The sun rises around 7:00 and sets before 7:30 at this time of year, but although the days are much shorter than they are in late June or early July, it’s clear it will feel like summer today, with temperatures well into the mid-20s C. Normally that would be enough for me to pack my gear and take advantage of the warm season’s swan song, but this year I can’t justify that. I have to work, and that’s that. I have to remind myself how I told myself that this year has to be one of sacrifice so that I can climb out of debt. It’s not a glamourous objective, but it’s worthwhile.

Yesterday I picked up my mail at my post office box and found a cheque from the client I was telling you about last Saturday. There was a short, handwritten note from the organization’s treasurer, dated 12 September, that explained that he was sending the cheque even though he hadn’t received my regular monthly bill. As I mentioned to you, even though all my friends have advised me otherwise, I intended not to bill the client this month because that’s just the way I am. It doesn’t matter to me that I’ve consistently done more work than what I’ve been paid for; I can’t bring myself to charge for work not done. Consequently, I don’t plan to cash the cheque, unless the client insists that I do so as part of the new arrangements I’m working on. I do find interesting that the cheque was cut the day after I spoke to a member of the client’s executive board. Perhaps he reported that not only am I trying to come up with a solution, which I intend to bring to the board shortly; he may also have reported that I’m feeling remorseful about the current situation.

Meanwhile, my day job yesterday was pure hell. One call — the third conversion call of the day — lasted three hours. It had to because it’s a large account requiring a lot of setup, but I had to cut the call short because I had another appointment that started at 5:00 my time. Just as I was to start the training component of the call, I found out that the client wasn’t enrolled to the services to which I thought it was enrolled, and theirs was the only type of conversion I cannot do. I immediately called my colleague JR who, fortunately, wasn’t on the phone and agreed to continue my call. In exchange, however, I agreed to call someone he had promised to call at 4:30 EDT.

I only got the client’s voice mail when I tried calling, so then I called another client I had on my “to call today” list and, surprisingly, closed that conversion. A voice-mail message was waiting for me when I closed that conversion and it was from the client for whom I had left the voice mail, so feeling obliged to both JR and the client and despite the fact it was now almost 6:00 EDT, I return the client’s call. I immediately started by asking the client if it was too late but the client very kindly said, “Oh no, I very much appreciate the call.” But there ended the niceties. Here’s a call that should have lasted 30 minutes — 40 at the very most — lasting an hour and a quarter. Not only was he the kind of client I end up having to explain how to operate a computer, but also he was the kind who kept trying to anticipate what I would ask him to do next and wouldn’t pay attention to anything I would say. At one point I said something mildly rude, but he didn’t seem to be offended: “Sir,” I said, “can you please slow down. We’re all going to make it to Sunday at the same time.” Normally I would only pause and tell the client to “bear with me” and “trust me” since I’ve done hundreds of these conversions and have developed an orderly technique to get through a conversion. But being so tired by that point of the day and given this was my 6th substantive call of the day, my patience had worn thin. Despite thinking I came across as rude and impatient, I guess I didn’t come across that way because he was very profusive in thanking me at the end of the call.

Meanwhile, all week at the day job, I had the nagging feeling I was forgetting something but no amount of riffling through my files helped me remember what that was, if anything. Finally, between my surprise conversion closing and the difficult call I just described, it came to me. One of my colleagues in Toronto pulled a snafu — that’s okay, we’re all allowed to pull one of those once in a while — but then she essentially threw the ball back in my court to call the client and fix up her mess. That bugs me on several levels: first, our m.o. at the bank is to take personal responsibility for our mistakes, and that’s clearly not what she was doing; and second, this is a client we’ve had a lot of trouble nailing down for a conversion and is extremely difficult to reach, so this is the worst kind of client to fuck around. Unfortunately, with my remembering only Friday evening what I was supposed to do, chances are we won’t be able to cut through the red tape and fix what needs to be fixed in time for my appointment with the client late Monday afternoon. Last week there were nearly a dozen snafus by my Toronto colleagues that directly affected my work, and with my load of appointments last week being 125% what it should have been, I’m finding that I can’t keep up.

Anyway, enough of this crap. I have to get to work …and I mean it this time. Sadly I’ll be missing out on the last nice days of summer. I just have to remind myself that there’s a purpose to all of this.