December 29

No Interruptions Day (Last Work Day of the Year)


Sometimes Pitkin’s boss gave him hard and firm deadlines, and those were easy to meet.  But the self-imposed deadlines, the things Pitkin simply wanted to get done — that, for some emotional reason, he needed to cross off his “To Do” list — those tasks always seemed to sneak up on him.

Pitkin knew the divisions of days and weeks were artificial.  A job not finished by close of business on Friday could be taken home over the weekend, or could be approached with fresh vigor on Monday morning.  But Pitkin liked to have his mind clear over the weekend.  He liked to have a fresh start each Monday.

Which meant, always, that on Friday afternoon Pitkin was a whirlwind of activity.  His fingers flew across computer keys, giving final answers to neglected emails or filling spreadsheet columns before clicking the “Total” button.  Pages coughed out of his laser printer, to be stacked stapled and then pushed into folders for the “resolved cases” drawer.  Pitkin’s breathy sigh often rose from his cubicle on these afternoons, along with the rustle of crumpled paper, the frantic drag of an eraser across the page, an angry jostle of the paperclip tray as metal links deliberately refused to uncouple.

“He practically bit my head off,” a new employee might say, but would never again make the mistake again of disturbing Pitkin on Friday afternoon.

Worst of all, though, was the day sometimes referred to as “No Interruptions Day.”  This was the final workday of the year — the most powerful of all Pitkin’s artifical deadlines.    His “To Do” list loomed over his soul, those tasks carried over unfinished from week to week, and now the year threatens to end with lingering, unmet goals.  “I’ve got to finish X before I leave,” he’d say.  “I really need to finish Y.”  Then, “I’ll just die if I don’t finish Z.”

Sharp whispers broadcast these ambitionss from his cubicle.  His co-workers knew to stay away.

When the Emergency Alert bleated on their phones and flashed across their computer screens, Pitkin’s co-workers began to cry and hug each other, made frantic calls to their families, began to rush for the elevators or safer stairwells.

Out of habit, they didn’t interrupt Pitkin.   If they thought of him at all, they probabaly expected he’d hear the Alert on his own.

But nobody saw him in the elevator or in the stairwell.

As the Alert bleated through the nearly emptied office, keys clicked in Plitkin’s cubicle and his printer continued to cough out pages.  “Just a few minutes more,” he said to himself, “and I’ll be done.”