When 'work' is a four-letter word

February 23, 1997

Work is the leading cause of stress in this country, ranking just ahead of trash bags. Trash bags are made so that you can't open them. It is a cruel joke perpetrated on the American public by manufacturers who have nothing better to do.

As the leading cause of stress, work leads to hypertension, ulcers and all manner of disgusting and debilitating physical ills. That is why I am actively lobbying for the abolition of work.

I can testify to the fact that newspaper work in particular makes you so stressed it causes brain death. Being brain dead is not a prerequisite for the job, as some have suggested. Rather, it is a result OF the job.


Last night I was so zoned out when I left work that I tried to put my house key in the wrong lock. I mean, I live in the place. I ought to know how to get in. It was a frightening experience.

Anyway, today's Friday and I've just lost notes to one story while taking notes on another, and had to tell someone who was returning my call that I hadn't a clue why I called him to begin with.

"Who?" I said when he told me his name.

He told me again. I stammered.

"I have a message here to call you," he said.

"You do?" I heard myself saying, as I desperately tried to remember who this person was.

"Yes I do," he said.

"Uh, let's see (I began clawing through my notes)...I can't seem to..."


(It's funny, isn't it, how when you're obviously floundering, the person on the other end doesn't help you one iota?)

Finally, I just put it to him. "To be honest with you, I've been working on four stories at once, and I've lost all my notes and I'm brain dead. Do you happen to have any idea why I may have called you?"

"No," he said. (A real talker, he was.)

"Well, I don't either," I said. "Please don't take it personally."

It wasn't long after that that I tried to call a government office. "Tried" is the operative word here.

You don't just call a government agency and get someone who answers your simple question. You get a machine that talks to you about the items on its menu.

None of the items on the menu were remotely related to the reason for my call, so I punched "O" for help. There was no answer. Then I decided that I would hang up LOUDLY and start over again.

I dialed the number. The irritating little voice greeted me once again. "God, don't tell me it's you again," I said. "I can't stand your grainy, ugly, arrogant voice. I personally detest you. I hope someone disconnects you."

(By this time my coworkers were giving me strange looks. Because they do that a lot, I ignored them.)

The voice babbled on. "If you know the extension of the party you wish to reach, dial it now..."

"If I knew the extension, I would have dialed it to begin with," I said. "If I knew the party to whom I wished to speak I would have obtained their direct line and contacted them that way without having to listen to you, idiot."

Babble babble babble.

Finally, the voice came to the menu.

My deadline was approaching. My blood pressure was up. My hormones weren't working, and a hot flash (also known as Power Surge) was fast approaching.

"Give me a BLT. Hold the mayo," I intoned.

The jerk hung up on me.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

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