Several years ago I had a huge assignment due right around Christmas. In fact, every year that seems to happen. No matter what my plans may be, they also include WORK. This year is no different.
Since I am my own boss and nobody gets paid unless I get paid, we [the collective version] do what it takes to keep the refrigerator stocked with frozen entrees and fat free cherry yogurt -- we work.
The assignment was to design new bottles, trucks, uniforms, stationery, ads, and whatever else might be needed for a huge supplier of a certain type of refreshment people drink to excess in this country. I had illustrators, designers, computer geeks and myself working like Santa's elves to finish the project.
But some of the people did not have the same sense of urgency that I did. One in particular drove my American Work Ethic to distraction -- in case you're from out of town, the American Work Ethic = work 24/7 and eat at your desk.
He was from the former Yugoslavia, which used to be just across a pond from "I work to live, I do not live to work" Italy, whose influence might explain why he stopped working at noon each day and actually went out for his lunch. He even went home for dinner because his wife had prepared it and he was expected to come home to eat it.
To make matters worse, he would invite me to join them. I did once, but it just annoyed me that people could be so damn civilized in the midst of a shitstorm of deadlines, so I didn't do it again.
The night everything had to be FedExed to headquarters for a presentation the following day, he left for dinner, while I commandeered an entire Kinko's staff and ALL their equipment to insure that everything was copied and bound and whatever else needed to be done. Except for his stuff. He still wasn't finished with his stuff.
I waited and waited for him to return from his meal. I called it his last supper. He returned from his leisurely repast with his lovely wife and daughter -- pot roast Croatian style as I recall, accompanied by a fine bottle of cabernet -- to find me still waiting for his stuff, which he then fine tuned again and again until I begged him to stop and give it to me because the FedEx office was about to close and I had to leave.
Yes, you guessed it, FedEx was CLOSED by the time I got there. Two minutes late and they wouldn't open the door.
I had one other option. I could go to the airport where they were still open for another hour. But I would have to find their stealth location and I was a good thirty minutes away.
At this point I was standing outside the local FedEx office with my arms full of presentation materials. With weeks of stress causing me to finally meltdown. In tears.
Yes, I was crying. Sobbing like a little kid who'd lost her puppy.
A woman who managed to FedEx her stuff out on time had just left the parking lot. I watched as she made a U-turn and came back around. She got out of her car and asked if there was anything she could do to help.
I said yes, take this stuff to the FedEx office at the airport so it can be sent to the president of a company in another city over a thousand miles away, because he is making a presentation to his vice presidents in the morning.
I was kidding.
She said, "Sure, I would be glad to." And took everything from me and went on her way.
She wouldn't take any money. She did mention that she was doing this for me because it was Christmastime. I didn't know this woman. I had never seen her before. I have never seen her since, for that matter.
Then she hopped into her little red car and she was gone. The irony of her red car is not lost on me.
For all I knew she drove around the corner and threw everything into a snowdrift. Luckily, for my sanity, I didn't think about that until later.
I was too stunned by the gesture to ask for her name or even check the license plate on her car, just in case she too was kidding.
I didn't have to. All the materials arrived the next day right on time. I still shake my head when I think about it.
A random act of kindness at Christmas. Who knew?