Friday, May 20, 2016

One Wife, Two Wife, Dead Wife, New Wife

Dr. Seuss had an affair. His wife Helen, who was suffering from cancer, was so distraught over this that she killed herself. He married the other woman shortly thereafter. I still love Green Eggs and Ham, though.

This has been a rough week. Through Thursday morning, I was convinced I was about to be sacked at any moment. This paranoia was partly due to hormones, partly due to insomnia, and partly due to the fact that though I’ve been asking for feedback on my performance, my boss is a man of few words, and the egregiousness of my efforts didn’t actually push him over the edge to fulsome “this wasn’t a good job” commentary until Monday and Tuesday. And, he could have been having a bad week himself.

I don’t do silence well—either being silent or enduring it from others. Since except for my art dealer boss (who can talk a blue streak—I love that he still calls me occasionally), all of my superiors to this point have been female, this usually hasn’t been an issue. Learning not to freak out when someone’s quiet about my performance—that’s a lesson I’m finding hard to learn. It’s not like I need constant “atta girl!,” but I am fueled by casual interaction. And my boss is up to his eyeballs in other responsibilities in another part of the building, so I don’t get this regularly. Truly, this is an adjustment.

I am also slowly discovering that editing for academia, at least under the contract that we have with the textbook company, is as much a science, perhaps more so, than an art. It demands a clinical approach to the material, as the textbook people are not so much concerned with elegance of language as with stern parameters of form and the authoritative expression of verified data within them.

Sleep has eluded me this week, and panic over what I feared was my eminent firing seized opportunities to set in at every second. There was silence in the morning meeting, except for a discursive vignette about the infield festivities at the Kentucky Derby, where tens of thousands devote 8 hours of the 2.5 minute event to heavy drinking without sufficient port-o-lets. Upstairs, huddled in my chair at my desk, a continuous nervousness wrecked my concentration with the thought that at any moment, one of my colleagues might round the corner with the flat announcement “[The Boss] wants to see you,” or that the black phone on the 2-drawer filing cabinet (where we crowd our international assortment of candy) might ring, and the boss’s voice would command, “KYP, I need to see you in my office.” And I would stumble downstairs, while everyone else stared studiously at their computer screens, deliberately ignorant of my impending doom.

But early Thursday, I got a short message from The Man, telling me that I was a good editor, I just needed to slow down and be more careful. Since speed was paramount in most of my previous positions, from estate sales to assembly-line work, this is also a practical adjustment. My cousin pointed out that it usually takes 6 months or more to really feel settled in to a new job, so I shouldn’t be frustrated—poor woman, she had to listen to my miseries three evenings this week, since Tuesday I didn’t come home, but stayed in Columbia for a work outing to a local minor league baseball game.
The Columbia Fireflies (which my cousin refers to as the “Lightning Bugs”) were playing the Macon Braves. My company paid for a carb and carnivorous buffet before the first pitch, and there was much discussion of the creepy characteristics of the team mascot, a frightening mutant greenish-blue cross between the muppet Elmo and a dirty old man with vestigial fairy wings. It’s named Mason (after a Mason jar, which traditionally was the death chamber for many thousands of unfortunate southern fireflies). A solitary can of hard cider set me back six bucks. I left at the beginning of the fourth inning, as it was already getting dark, and I was going to try (in vain, it turned out) to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

On Monday night, I had had a nightmare, elements of which were directly traceable to the essay with whose editing my boss had not been happy. It was on the subject of a certain foundational science fiction writer, of whom the person who penned the essay was clearly worshipful. I pared down some of the more effusive commentary, but clearly not enough—when TBM (that’s The Boss Man, henceforth) returned it to me, my copy was covered with the digital equivalent of red ink. MS Word Track Changes had left digital footprints all over the text. It had been disemboweled. And that night I dreamt that a girl was beheaded, and her skull was mounted on the body of a robot—a rudimentary robot, with just thin pipes for arms and legs. Sometimes interpreting dreams is ridiculously simple.

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