Of Accidental Incidents and Incidental Accidents
Boy, am I a klutz. A tripping, stumbling, bumbling, stammering stooge; an absent minded, spaced-out, daydreaming, sleepwalking reference point for manufacturers of ‘fool-proof’ gadgets worldwide; a meandering, careless fr… Hey, stop nodding your head. I was expecting something along the lines of “Come on, Hammy. You’re not THAT bad”, or something to that effect. Show a guy some support, will ya?
Ok, ok… So it’s not like anyone can dispute the innate clumsiness that I embody. I’ve been a klutz from my kiddy years when I used to bang my head on the bed’s head-post every time I tried to take a nap. No denying that, and I really shouldn’t be asking you to try.
I am taken back to medieval history; back when I was pretending to study for my engineering degree. My dad had decided to adopt the pleasant mirage of a studious and mature son, an optimistic vision he still sticks with on an intermittent basis. I was home for the holidays, with my nose sunk deep in a Perry Mason mystery. Yeah, those books really smell nice… I’m kidding. I was reading the book. It was the final courtroom scene. District Attorney Hamilton Burger was once again busy cooking up a web of circumstantial evidence against Perry’s demure, full-lipped, hapless client, Miss Ina Cent or something… and he was grilling a well-coached witness on the stand about something very cruicial…
“Get to the roof and shut off the plumbing”
“Objected to as incompetent, immaterial, and irrelevant!!”
“Oh. Sorry, dad. Was in the middle of a book here.”
“Hammy, put the book down… Make yourself useful for once. I’m trying to fix the tap here. I need you to go up there and when you hear me, turn off the valve. You’ll find the gate valve under the tank. Ok?”
“Oh, yeah. Sure.”
Now, it was the climax of the novel, and anyone who’s read a Perry Mason novel would know that you simply can’t put it down at that stage. Is his client guilty? Innocent? After twenty odd novels, I had begun to sense a pattern about that, but could I really be sure? Anyway, I had the solution. I carried my book with me to the rooftop. I looked around. Aha! The valve under question didn’t escape my scrutiny. I simply had to turn the knob. Yes. Now I just needed to wait, and that’s something I could do while reading the novel.
So I was back in the novel. And yes, just as I had suspected, Hamilton Burger was full of hot air. Perry Mason took all the evidence and shoved them down his throat. The crowd went wild. And Perry’s client was…
“NOW! Hammy! Turn it off NOW!”
Huh? Turn it off? I looked at the valve. I remembered finding the valve. I remembered looking at it. Did I turn it off at then? Or did I just sit by waiting for instructions? Was the valve on or off right then?? Maybe it was off and I shouldn’t touch it. But then what if it wasn’t off? Could it have been on? It looked like it was on. It looked like it was on?? Then turn it off, dammit. QUICK!! Done!
And where was I? Ah, yes. Perry’s client is… not guil.. Hey! NOT GUILTY! Ha! I knew it! Perry did it again. Hooyah. Eat grass, Hamilton Burger. You don’t stand a…
I looked up to see my smiling, loving, caring dad, except he wasn’t smiling, loving OR caring at the time. He looked like he had just crawled out of the ocean after a particularly stressful swimming session with sharks. He was dripping wet, and looked quite steamed up.
“Mr. Engineer. You turn a valve COUNTERCLOCKWISE to turn it off. You hear me?”
How about that? I never knew that. I mean, it made sense, it was just like a tap that way. But I didn’t have time to bask in my newfound knowledge. Dad was obviously struggling with his emotions. His look of anger turned into despair, then hopelessness, and finally settled on disappointment as he walked on.
Getting my dad soaking wet in his office clothes was but ONE example of my clumsiness. (I didn’t mention he was wearing his office clothes at the time? How clumsy of me.) I was a klutz alright.
But I hadn’t adopted my klutzhood into my work persona. I was, to a large extent, klutz-free as far as office work was concerned. Sure, I’ve spilt coffee on the hard disk, doodled accidentally on company documents, and crisscrossed a few wires here and there, but I’d never been klutzy about things that affected my work. Thanks to last week, I’ll never have to make that statement again.
I fumbled on basic documentation, with approximately forty to fifty errors per page. I marked clients on internal communication. I went back and forth on a metaphorical one way lane. I made the kind of mistakes that could have gotten a rookie in trouble. And I was supposed to be a veteran. With two and a half years of experience tucked under my ever-expanding belt, the nature of mistakes that were made were nothing short of embarrassing. Personally, I blame my sleepless nights, stress of workload, pressure on performance and work stagnation. I’m still working on an angle to blame the government for this mess. I’m not too worried about that, though. With the right effort, you can blame the government for ANYTHING.
I have to work out this chink somehow. But how? I have a delicate balance to maintain. I don’t mind changing for the better, but I don’t want to change so much that I am not myself anymore. I don’t want to change my klutzhood outside of office. I just want to stop goofing up on work. How?
Maybe I can pay more attention to work? Ya, I guess I can do that. Maybe I can make notes on what I do? Hmm… not a bad idea. Maybe I can ask friends to recheck documents before I send them off to clients? I guess I could try that. Maybe I could…
“Objection!! Counsel is leading his own witness.”