Playing God on a smaller scale

15 10 2009

The phone rings—an early morning disturbance. I check the clock, let the unwanted phone ring for a few times, and, mindful of the silence around me, I picked it up. A disgruntled woman answered, asked me for my identity and I said that I was a refugee after three minutes of stuttering and confusion.

I stood up, and not far away from me sat my laptop, Megumi, who pulled an all-nighter for my Friday article. (Yes, I gave her a name) It wasn’t exactly a masterpiece, but I liked how it was written because the subject of my article, a gay senior citizen was as interesting as he could get. An award-winning local author, FR was a fountain of ideas and fresh philosophies on educating a nation shackled to its colonial past.

Truthfully, I was sure that I’d turn it in by the morning of the 14th. And I was pretty sure that with whatever angle I decide to take up with his transcript, I’d still end up with a good story. He was a no-nonsense humorist, his tinkling laughter even singing songs of educative literature and artistic outputs. What I was worried about was how my boss would take it all in–seeing that C was a people-pleaser and an unconscious politician. For sure, there would be some more inserted names of people who were not directly involved, but there nevertheless.

By eight in the morning, I finished the story. With my cold coffee sitting at a small stool, I climbed up to bed, lied down for a bit and rolled about. After a while, I stood up and tinkered with my files in the hopes of relieving an early-morning stress. Thirty minutes later, I headed to the bath and decided to dress down for the rainy day.

I arrived at the office and before I could even turn myself in for the whole day’s work, the phone started ringing. And boy did it ring so noisily~! When I picked it up, C’s voice blasted over the phone.

“Where are all the people in your division?!” my boss, C, screamed over the phone. “Get up here immediately. Especially S and W!”

Ugh. Deafness will be the end of me. To deal with an early-morning stresser is not exactly my cup of coffee, but I have no other choice.

I took the stairs and went in. I heard C’s voice booming from the other side and I felt a little scared. I have, over the course of seven months, been the receiver of her subject-less rants and anger.

“Is she angry?” I asked C’s secretary. “She was looking for W and S but they’re not here yet.” E was in her 40’s, with a daughter and she looked a little harassed.

“I don’t know, she’s been like this for quite some time now.” E said, and I must have looked scared because she immediately wrapped me in a hug. “I feel bad for you. Don’t worry we’ll be here to cheer you on.”

I walked over to the connecting door. It was ajar, so I listened to C rant again. “I’m telling you to put it like this. Get a good picture for this!” The screaming and frustrated sighs went on for a couple of minutes. When she calmed down a bit, I entered the room.

“Edit this,” was all she said.

And so I did.

But the day cannot end in smiles when C’s around because she’s demanding miracles from her understaffed division. For starters, she had earlier ordered us to change the whole lineup for the Friday issue to give way for a United Nations-led campaign and a national celebration. I have already submitted my article on a Sunday to keep me off the fringes on the days to come, and then there was this. Secondly, when she said she wanted it changed, I immediately cornered FR for an interview which yielded good results. Third, she sent another division to cover the event in the national office, with our division lacking a photographer.

Mfatty, a division head, called us up in the office. (I wrote Mfatty for easier reference because there’d be another M later)

“Is PC there?” (PC does not necessarily stand for her name, just a random title, say, Print Coordinator) Mfatty asked. She wasn’t so I said no. Then she asked who I was.  So I answered.

“We can’t send anyone to take photos of the event.” She ventured. “What we can do is lend you the camera and send someone to take care of it.”

Alarm bells sounded in my head and I had a funny feeling they’d ask me to cover it. My heart broke. My eardrums no longer functioned.

“There’s no one here to take care of it for the moment. We’re all packed.” I reasoned out.

“Oh.” There was a funny silence. “So, can you just cover it? We can’t send people there now. If they take bad pictures then we’ll be at the receiving end of Ma’am C’s anger.”

“Ha?” Was all I was able to say. “Ma’am C is asking me to rush things. And we’re still going over the Friday issue. I have press releases to write.”

“Press releases?” She asked. I didn’t know what she meant by that, but judging from her tone, she must have thought that writing press releases and going over the Friday issues are basically easy stuffs to do. Well if you can produce a miracle in a fraction of a second, then that’s easy stuff.

My officemate, M, went to lunch and dimissed the whole thing. I, on the other hand, couldn’t care less because there were things I still had to do—all of which should come first in my priority list.

I had lunch, then by the afternoon, with my half-baked press release sitting idly on  my workplace, PC called me up to say that Ma’am C wanted my FR article rehashed into a straight news. I was incredulous.

“Are you serious?” I asked over the phone, mulling over the impossibility of writing another article. “Then, this would look like a press release, a litany of names!”

“Then just don’t put your name as a byline.” was all she said. Then the sound of silence.

I did as she instructed, harrassed though I was–because putting names in order is an easy feat–if you can stand writing a bad article and a bad press release.

No reprieve there and by four in the afternoon, I’m beginning to see stars. But work is yet to pile up with a string of angry tirades aimed at me, Ma’am C, at people in general and at our helplessness. I’ve received streams of text messages that said, “Call me.”

So I did, and in the four times that PC picked up, I had always been shouted at for neglecting to coordinate with the other division for the pictures that Ma’am C wanted and PC needed.

“I got loads of stuff to do. Things to write.” I reasoned out, frustrated.

But she can’t be reasoned out, and she was screaming over the phone. The editor of the newspaper had just given her the sticks, and so she was venting it out to the clueless me. I had missed most of the things she said. Either it was because I had turned deaf, or maybe because I was frustrated, depressed and stressed.

“Find a way to get a picture.” She ordered in a firm tone. “I need it. I need it now.”

Tears started to well, but I blinked them back. N and RM are still at the office and I can’t afford to cry.

And so, with my articles hanging, waiting for a sleepy me, I called three people, two of whom directed me to the last. A was not exactly happy to oblige, saying that I “should have told her earlier so there would have been a way to produce pictures.” But she said she’d helped and needless to say, I had been hysterically grateful.

In all honesty, I didn’t know what I did wrong. But I knew there was something I could have done to relieve the people of undue stress. It’s probably because I suck on prioritizing things, or that I tend to forget things so easily that even the names of people I used to know have been disappearing on my memory list. Whatever it was, I missed it.

But while people can blame me of being irresponsible, lazy and inept, there are those who should and must share the blame in this entire ruckus. Perhaps it was the combination of an understaffed division and a demanding artist-boss who just loves to produce miracles out of nothing. Not even a bread or a fish.

That night S called.

“The press releases?” She asked. I was on my way home, and on my lap was the documents waiting assistance from me.

“I’ve put them on your table.” I said.

“Oh. Okay. Just send them to the newspapers tonight then we’ll have someone send it out tomorrow.” She answered, satisfied.

I actually had no intention of sending it out because for one, I left the article at the office and second, well. I’m too tired.

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