This is the story of a book. But not just any book: one I was working on.
The book had a projected publication date of October 10th. A deadline, if you will. All it needed was one more proofread—one more go-through with the red pen, in a physical copy of the two-hundred-and-forty-page book (called a “proof copy,” or “proof” for short, because we all have just that little imagination) looking for typo s, mipssellings, grammatical inconsistencies and the like. Is it a fun job? It can be. Is it time consuming? Yes.
My partner was ordering the proof copies, which was fine with me: less for me to worry about, right?
So she ordered hers on Tuesday, September 29, and mine on Wednesday the 30th. We live in different states, and Amazon won’t let you send proof copies of a book to two different places on the same day, because . . . well, okay I have no idea why they do that, other than they’re Amazon, so they just do what they bloody like. Hers then arrived the day after that, October 1, just two days after it shipped.
Fantastic, we thought. Two days. Rob’s copy should arrive on the second, and we can work very hard (sometimes, we call this “busting ass”—it’s an industry term) and have everything ready in time for the October 10 publication date.
So my partner got to work, and I settled down to wait.
The weekend passed, and I was losing my mind. It was Monday the 5th, and then Tuesday the 6th—I’m sure of the dates, because my extremely deadline-driven editing partner reminded me of them. Repeatedly. The deadline was just four (4!) days away, and I didn’t even have the book in my hands yet. I could hear her grinding her teeth from over a hundred miles away. We (okay, she) located a tracking number and went online, only to discover Amazon had sent it UPS, who took six days to get it from South Carolina to Massachusetts . . . and then started the process again by dropping it in the mail for the rest of the trip.
I was not pleased.
Luckily, though, the Postal Service was right on the ball. UPS had mailed it in Lynnfield, MA, and the very same day it arrived in my local post office in Salem, MA. I called to verify, and yes, they had it there—the man I spoke with had it in his hot little hands.
“That’s terrific!” I said. “I’m actually delivering the mail over here in Marblehead, but I’m out at four thirty, so I should be able to swing by and pick that up before the window closes at five.” If I pick it up at five, I thought, I could be working on it by six, and it’s still only October 6th, so if I really bust some ass, I should—
“I’m sorry,” he said. “We can’t do that.”
I tried to say “I beg your pardon?” and “I’m sorry?” and “What?” and “Why?” all at the same time, but all that came out of me was a flat “Hah?”
“The thing is,” he explained, correctly interpreting my Archie Bunkerian grunt as confusion, “your package is in our system to be delivered tomorrow. If it’s not delivered tomorrow, it’ll be counted against us as a missed delivery.”
“But you’ll have delivered it,” I said. “Early, even. In essence, you’ll be doing the job better.”
“But it’s in there for tomorrow, you see, so we can’t scan it as delivered today. The system won’t let us. And if you take the package tonight, then we won’t have it to scan tomorrow, when the system’s looking for it, which means it’ll show up as a miss. Sorry, man.”
So this system, one that’s giving me things to deliver to customers sometimes up to a month late, is specifically set up so as to not even be able to deliver something early? Even when the customer wants to go pick it up?
So I picked the book up the next morning—the earliest the system would allow—and then had to wait until that afternoon anyway to start proofreading in earnest. The afternoon of October 7, to be precise. Just three days before the deadline.
How does she grind those teeth so loud?
Here are some little bits of what happened over the next couple of days.
- Spent four and a half hours at the library, sitting in what they laughingly refer to as a “chair.” I call it a “cracking-your-ass-in-the-wrong-direction device.” Either way, I’ll say one thing for it: I was in no danger of falling asleep while reading.
- I got home at 10:30 and took the book to bed with me at around 11:00, editing on my lap desk. I was in no danger of cracking my ass in the wrong direction, and managed to work, hunched forward over that lap desk until sometime between 12:30 and 1:00 am before . . .
- I woke at 4:15 am. I was sitting up in bed, all the lights on, the book spilling off the lap desk to the side, my red pen still in hand. I really had to pee, but that wasn’t what wakened me: I’d felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if thirty-two teeth had cracked in pain and were suddenly ground down to powder. I checked the book and saw I only had two and a half pages to finish in that particular story, and decided I didn’t really have to go that bad. I pulled the book onto the desk, hunching forward with my red pen . . .
- 7:00 am—paid a coworker $5.00 to sit next to me in the break room and tell anyone who tried to talk to me, “I think he’s busy.” I had another hour before I was to start work. I pulled the book closer on the table, hunching forward with my red pen . . .
- I woke at 4:05 am, upright in bed, lights on, book on lap desk, pen in hand, no need, whatsoever, to pee. But I’d felt a great disturbance in the Force . . . I hunched forward, red pen in hand . . .
- 8:00 pm—it’s done! I’m done! Whazza! Who’s your daddy? Happy dancing like Snoopy and Woodstock atop that damn red doghouse! I . . . I . . . I still had to get home so I could get the edits to my partner, so she could add them to the file and then upload the whole shebang. Forget the Force, forget the red pen, I was hunched forward over the wheel, cursing like a pirate with stepped-on bunions, speeding through the night like my Mini was an asshole-powered rocket . . .
by David Daniel (Author), Stacey Longo (Contributor), Vlad V. (Contributor), Rob Smales (Contributor), Ursula Wong(Contributor), Dale T. Phillips (Contributor)
Success! Whazza! Who’s your daddy? Happy dancing like Snoopy and Woodstock atop that damn red doghouse! Now all we have to do is hope the copies we ordered will be here in time to bring to the next event we’re doing, which is Rock and Shock, and it starts this Friday. Only three delivery days away.
What was that? Did you feel it? I . . . I just felt a great disturbance in the Force . . .
Talk to you later!