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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Microstory 1794: The Message

For the most part, my life was boring, so I won’t get into everything that I did. I’ll just talk about the most traumatizing, and simultaneously most transformative, experience I had. I worked on the factory floor for about half of my career, and up in the offices for the other half. It wasn’t something I thought I would ever achieve, but I was a lot more comfortable sitting in a chair all day, pushing paper. It was safer, and had better climate control. My boss was a decent guy, who treated people fairly, and always listened to his employees. He wasn’t great at pay. Well, it wasn’t really his fault. It was company policy back then to not give people raises unless they asked for them. Even if you were promoted to a higher level, they kept you at the same rate unless you specifically pled your case, which made for awkward conversations that could have been avoided. Some managers were better at making this less awkward than others, but mine was clueless and difficult. He also liked everything to be really formal, so instead of talking to him directly about some change you felt needed to be made, or a grievance, you had to write a letter. I hated writing letters, but I learned to do them well, and that’s how I ended up at the desk in the first place. This one day, after thinking over why I thought I deserved to be paid more, and why I needed it, I wrote a letter too hastily, and ended up spelling my manager’s name wrong. I didn’t realize it until after I had sealed it and sent it. I guess I just took a mental photograph of it, but didn’t check the film until later. I was so upset, and so distracted as I was driving home from work, that I didn’t even realize that I had tried to make a U-turn, let alone that there was a pesky concrete barrier in the way. I hit that thing hard. I probably would have died instantly if the turn itself hadn’t slowed me down. I don’t remember feeling any pain, but an intense pressure on my legs. I do remember what I was thinking while I was sitting there, and it’s embarrassing.

I should’ve thought, this is it. This is the day that I die. This is the way that I die. I’m never gonna see my family again. I’m never gonna have another nice steak dinner. But all my brain could focus on was that spelling mistake. I had to fix it. That was what kept me going, as absolutely insane and irrational as it was. Pretty much everyone dies with unfinished business, and it’s sad, and it’s not fair, but that’s the way life is. A normal person is driven to wake up the next day so they can make something of themselves. All I cared about was getting to my boss before he opened that envelope. It didn’t make any sense, but that’s me, I guess. I can’t be sure how much it played into it. Maybe if I had been thinking about how much I hated to be alive, I still would have survived, because my mind wasn’t powerful enough to have that much of an effect on my body, but I always attributed it to that letter. I held out long enough for rescue. I was in hospital, of course, so I never managed to intercept the letter, but also of course, he didn’t care. He wasn’t offended, and he even said that he almost didn’t notice. He just wanted me to get better, and that I did. I lived a good fifty years more. It truly was a good fifty years too, because I learned that day to try to relax, man. Everyone makes mistakes, and people tend to be more understanding if you give them a reason to. I worked hard to become more personable and likeable, and I found that people would generally give me the benefit of the doubt. I think that’s the most important lesson that I instilled in my kids, and I die in peace, knowing that this simple message remains my legacy.

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