“Ron, what’s wrong with you today?” I had to ask. I mean, Ron just wasn’t his usual self that day. He’d been screwed up all day. He’d been late to work. Ron was never late. He’d accidentally deleted half of a document he was working on. And it wasn’t backed up. He sent an e-mail to the wrong person. Twice. He hung up the phone on someone when he tried to transfer a call. I could keep listing things that had just gone wrong that day. But what would be the point. Ron knew he was having a bad day.
“Everything!” Ron’s answer echoed through the room. “Everything’s wrong!”
“Ron!” I looked at him as I spoke. “Hey. Slow down. Slow down. Start at the beginning.”
Ron seemed to sink into his chair. He seemed to get smaller. As if he was deflating. He just shook his head. “Man, I knew this was going to be a rough day. I knew it.”
I pulled a chair up to his desk, and sat down facing him. “So, how did you know?”
He shook his head. “Started when the alarm did not go off. Because the power went out last night. That stook the clock out. And it restarted when the power came back on.”
I smiled, politely. And then I said, “It happens. You know that. It’s rare. But it does happen. I take it you didn’t set your phone as a back up?”
“Nope. The phone’s battery was too low. I had to hook it to the charger this morning. Couldn’t do that last night. She had her phone hooked up to it.” It was a frustrating thing to Ron. I could see how it frustrated him.
“Ron, like I said. Sometimes, it just happens.”
He shook his head. Again. “I know. I know it happens. But that was just one thing. Everything else has been screwed up all day. Everything.”
I prepared to listen to his tale of woe. I knew it was coming. It was part of what I did, you know. Listening to people. Came with the job. Fell under the topic of team management. Holding the team together.
“She was late too. And that meant I had to drop everything and help her. So I got an even later start. But I got her ready. Got her lunch packed for her. Got the car de-iced. Got it turned on.” He looked so upset. As if everything had gone wrong this morning.
“You’re a good guy, Ron. Helping her like you did. You now that.”
“Yeah. I know.” Then he continued on. “But I got an even later start because of that. I didn’t get to fix my breakfast. Only had time for a soda. Then I forgot my lunch, ‘cause I was so rushed. And I got pulled for running a stop light.”
I smiled, kindly, “Got caught, did you? Well. That happens too.”
“I know. But why did it have to happen today when I was running late?” There was no answer for him, of course. So I just kept listening. “Of course I was late getting here.” He looked at his desk. “I missed the morning meeting. Had no idea what was going on as a result. Didn’t know I was supposed to make the phone call to Tom, and get an update from him. So I got hammered for that.”
His frustration was slowly surfacing. Which was a good thing. “Then, I had to run out to McDonald’s for lunch. ‘Cause I didn’t have a lunch with me. And the afternoon’s been awful. Been trying to catch up all day.”
“Ron. It’s OK.” I needed to be calm. To let him know that it was OK to have a bad day now and then. They happen. “It’s just one day. Things’ll go better tomorrow, you now.”
“Yeah. I now.”
I told him to hang in, and that I appreciated his effort every day.
Ron was like everyone else on the program. Fine as long as nothing out of the ordinary happened. Ron didn’t react well to chaos. Or to change. Hell, it’d been awful for him when the company had been bought out in a merger. The job hadn’t even changed. No one moved. Everything stayed exactly like it had been. Only the name of the company changed. And it took Ron weeks to accept that.
He liked to have the same schedule every day. Get to work at the same time. Go to lunch at the same time. Finish his work day at the same time. I figured he probably was the same way at home. Get up at the same time every day. Follow the same routine every morning before work. Get home at the same time every day. Eat dinner at the same time. Watch the same TV shows he watched ever week. Go to bed at the same time.
It was like, if anything changed on one day, it just screwed him up the whole day long. I did have to wonder about him. I did have to hope that his days stayed the same. I wasn’t sure he’d be able to deal with it if things changed on him. Like they had that day.
I gotta admit it was kinda funny, too. To see how Ron came apart at the seems whenever there was an unexpected event in his work day. You know what I mean. Didn’t take much. But it always set him off.