On surviving organisational failure

This is one of those posts that started life as an email in my rough draft folder and has been added to at irregular intervals since then. I’m going to tart it up a bit and post it so that it gets to see some of the world. The rough draft folder is a bit stuffy.

I thought about ignoring it, but it was too close to finished to throw away, certainly a lot closer than others, and it would be a shame to waste a good story about me winning against the “anti-organisation-field”… The original title was “On coins and organisation” but I have no idea what the coins bit was going to be about so I changed it… 🙂

[written on a train in July 2013]

“If life was an exam and there were points awarded for organisation, I would have failed. Not the ‘just short of an A’ line of fail that isn’t really one at all, nor the ‘oh well, I can make up the points on creativity’ sort, not even ‘at least I scraped through with an E’.

Nada. I would have so few points that I’d get a Z. Someone might even have to invent a new alphabet.

Whatever. I seem to have been blessed with an angel whose only purpose in my life is to rush about getting the world to work around/despite the anti-organisation field I generate.

You want an example? How long have you got? 😉

Take today.

I have the day off work. I have the day off work because I polished my finger last week and it still hasn’t healed yet. I have to visit the doctor (because of said finger), and I have to catch a train at 12:40 to get me to a-village-nearly-6-hours-away at the same time as my boyfriend. The doctors close at 12 and the bus leaves on the hour and then every 20 minutes.

The plan was to wake up, have breakfast, pack, tidy the place up and get on the bus at 11:20. That would have given me enough time for there to be a queue at the doctor’s, several red lights and a bunch of slow people in front of me…….”

[Written later July 2013 and slightly edited in early 2014 in an unsuccessful effort to get the post out]

“… and that’s as far as I got before I couldn’t take typing on my phone any more.

This is how I might have continued (and even if it isn’t, it’s how I’m going to continue today):

…The reality looked a little different.

I missed the bus at 11:20, and also the one at 11:40.

I only just caught the one at 12:00 by running up the hill and hurling myself at the bus driver.

Naja, running is a euphemism.

I was wearing a backpack and a handbag, carrying a wicker basket and dragging a suitcase behind me – thankfully one with decent wheels.. That doesn’t leave much scope for running up a hill.

I left my house in a state of general dereliction.

I’d been off work for a week and had chosen to split my time between reading, dancing, visiting people and doing the hyper-focus stuff I don’t usually do. Things like getting the black gunk out of the washing powder drawer in the washing machine with a toothbrush. Things like finally getting my receipts in order and updating my spreadsheet (not so much filling it in as changing some functions and adding a new totals page). While I’m sure it’s good to take life slowly sometimes, it probably wasn’t the best use of my time. Whatever. I hadn’t done the things I ought to have done. Things like packing, washing up or sweeping the floor. (Also things like writing the new school stuff onto cards, working on my Glass Thing Theory Project, drawing my masterpiece…)

When it occurred to me that I was leaving in a couple of hours I panicked. When I panic I am less able to function than usual. I had a shower. I faffed about looking for clothes to wear on the train. I looked for my shoes. An hour before I was supposed to leave, I decided it would be a good idea to get my suitcase out. I threw things at it for 10 minutes and then went to check my email and start reading a blogpost someone’d sent me. Once I’d started I was stuck for a good 20 minutes. Ignoring the problem makes it go away, right?

Wrong.

When I finally remembered I’d actually been doing something else, I had less than half an hour to be on the bus. I threw some more stuff at my suitcase and gave up. My house was a wreck, I was a wreck, I hadn’t packed, I was going to miss the bus and get to the doctors after they closed and then have to wait until after their lunch break and miss the train andmaybenotevengetANYtrainthatdayandmessupR’splansandmakehimhatemeandmaybehe’salreadyannoyedandmyhouseisamessandIcan’tpackorwashuporleaveontimeand…

At this point I think I managed to pull myself together and tell myself that sitting there wasn’t even going to give me the chance to make it to the bus stop. I continued on throwing stuff at my suitcase. Obviously it didn’t all fit, what with me going to a wedding an’ all. My makeup bag was bigger than my wash-kit usually is. I also hadn’t made the final decision about which shoes to wear so I had to pack them all. I went to get my backpack.

About then, the bus left. I figured I could get the next one and carried on.

As I was hoisting my backpack onto my shoulder I remembered that I was supposed to be working for a week (after the wedding) and that having snuck into work in the middle of the night to get my tools and goggles, it would be remarkably dumb to leave them behind.

I put my backpack down and tried to imagine where there might be enough space for delicate pointy graphite things. Graphite is wonderful stuff, but stupidly brittle.”

[added later – Sept 2015 – Two years on, my memory isn’t sure of the details, but the main events are still amazingly clear :)]

“There most definitely wasn’t room for them. I left my backpack and suitcase on the landing and looked for a suitable bag for my tools. My stash of bags lived in a wicker shopping basket. While I rummaged through them, looking for one without holes and with both handles intact, I decided the basket would be better than any of the bags, and it was stabile enough to withstand being bashed and still protect my tools. I emptied it onto the floor and took it to my room where I took a T-shirt out of my cupboard, ignoring the clothes which fell out in the process, bundled the tools in (carefully, but hurriedly) and rushed out of the house, picking up my backpack and suitcase on the way past.

I got to the door and remembered I’d been holding my buspass when I’d had to go back in, and that I wasn’t holding it anymore. I left the suitcase and basket in the hall, went back up stairs (still wearing the backpack), unlocked my flat (knocking a couple of shoes off the shelf with my backpack), picked up the buspass, relocked the flat and came back down the stairs.

The neighbour’s daughter was standing outside when I finally made it out of the house. She was 4 or 5 and for some reason she really really loved me. Enough to want to tell me all about everything every time she saw me anyway. I only got out of a long winded conversation about something complicated like rabbits, because she was supposed to be going somewhere too.

I half ran, half walked up the hill and caught the 12:00 bus. Just. I think it might have been a couple of minutes late but I don’t remember.

I got to the doctor’s somewhere between 12:10 and 12:15, totally out of breath, and on the verge of crying. They closed at 12:00 and have until 13:30 lunchbreak. I had to be on a pre-booked train at 12:40. The next train (which I would have to pay for again) would leave at 13:40 which was impossible to catch, if I was allowed into the practice at 13:30. The one after that left at 14:40 but wouldn’t be in time for the last connecting train to the place I wanted to get to. I was a bit stuffed. However. Whatever else happened, I had to be seen by the doctor at some point during the day. If you’re on sickleave because of work-related accidents, you’re not allowed to travel out of the town you live in. To make sure you don’t go gallevanting while you’re supposed to be recouperating, they make you go and see them every couple of days, even if it isn’t really necessary. If you don’t go, there’s big trouble with all kinds of autorities. I was on the way to a wedding, and would have taken the afternoon off work anyway, even if I hadn’t been off sick, but I wasn’t officially allowed to go anywhere until I was given the all-clear by the doctor.

Luckily, someone came out and I got in before the door shut behind them 🙂 I left my suitcase and the basket in the foyer and went into the waiting area. The nurses behind the desk knew me, and knew I only needed the bandage changing, so they smiled and pointed me towards the nearest free room instead of kicking me out or making me wait until after lunch. They unwrapped my finger and made small talk until the doctor came in, glanced at my finger, pronounced it “healing well” and went out again. My finger was bandaged back up quickly and I was out of the practice by 12:25.

On a usual day – walking, with no luggage – it takes me 11-13 minutes to get between the doctors and the train station, depending on traffic lights and how many people get kicks out of standing in my way. On this day, the lights were on my side, and there weren’t enough people out, for them to really be in the way. I probably bashed some old people with my basket on my way past, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t knock anyone over :).

I was at the station at 12:38, and collapsed onto the train 30 seconds before it closed the doors to leave.

And then I remembered how to breathe.

(I also thought of the state of my house, and the craziness of my morning, and how unfit I was and how stupid the whole situation was and … yeah, I cried too.. and wrote the first part of the post :))”

0 Replies to “On surviving organisational failure”

  1. Ah, I need to “take you under my wing” and explain about schedules, timetables and CLOCKS and how they all fit together. Glad you made it on time and thanks so much for the lovely laugh you gave me with your very vivid description!

    1. Hehe 🙂 You’re very welcome 🙂

      The stupid thing is, in theory I know all that already – it’s putting it in practice that’s so difficult! I’d figured out pretty much everything I still needed to do… I’d checked the bus timetable, checked when the doctors closed for lunch, checked when the trains ran, bought and printed the train ticket in advance. I’d even had a friend over to help me pick out what I was going to wear to the wedding. Theoretically I should have been relaxed and ready to go. But I totally wasn’t. Ach ja, and my clock was so huge back then, that DB has refused to have it on the wall in his house…… Ho-hum.

        1. I would love to say that was the only time.. but that would be lying 🙂 It used to happen a lot (I think a few of my older posts relate other eventful Travellings), but it’s become rarer since moving in with DB. He is a planner. He despairs of how I plan, pack, travel, operate in general..
          He would have made a list at the begining of the week (latest) and had everything but his toothbrush packed a couple of days in advance. He would have gone to the doctor early in the morning (just assuming he’d been dumb enough to polish his finger in the first place) and had time to drink coffee on the platform before leaving in a leisurely manner. He would probably not have booked such a late train, in case it was delayed and he missed the connection…. And so on and so forth. However. He would have also not gone dancing or degunked the washing machine, so things aren’t all weighted in his favour 😉
          I have only ever been so stranded that I had to spend the night at a trainstation once (in 10 years of travelling by myself) so I’m pretty proud of myself (and thankful to my troop of background angels and people with cars willing to pick my up in the middle of the night ;))

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