It was one of those days
Any one who has ever held a job has had one of those days. You know the ones I’m talking about where the phone rings off the hook and the emails pour in like salt on a wound but the much needed answers for those emails are no where to be found. The ones where you consider just how long you could survive off of whatever is in your bank account and the current total of this pay period. Now imagine weeks of those days. So many of those days strung together that my outgoing voice mail message had to be changed to explain that I was doing the best I could and would answer each message in order as soon as possible (but that might be 3 days from now so please don’t hold your breathe).
It was hellish. It lead to me being the sickest I have ever been in my life but that is not the story I am telling today.
So there I was buried. It was the height of our busiest season and we were hiring like crazy to keep up with the demand. I had taken on the orders of two additional sales people as well as the task of training the new hires. Meanwhile there was PQuon, or at least that is how she was known at the office. Her abbreviated name much like her limited social interactions. She was the head of the accounting department.
Accountants are not a genre of people I generally relate to. They like numbers to add together and sort and balance, I like numbers to have meaning and mystery and magic. To them, numbers are black and white; to me nothing is black and white. They seem to enjoy precision and order; I like a little chaos and excitement. Needless to say, we tend to butt heads. It’s not to say that I have any ill will towards them, I just never have had any reason to have any good will towards them either. We are not cut from the same cloth, when you add us together it does not compute. Imagine my surprise when a few random encounters with one of these non-humanoid number crunchers lead me to a momentous step towards personal enlightenment. I know, it seems impossible but please let me explain.
I was sitting at my desk during this maelstrom, skipping lunch for the 3rd consecutive day and up pops an email from good ole PQuon. The electronic conversation went something like this:
Email Round 1
PQuon: I am reviewing order number 4797837405 and wanted to know where the sales tax rate for McMansion county came from? Please advise.
Me: I am not sure, I don’t recall exactly. Order 4797837405 shipped 3 weeks ago. I probably googled it.
Email Round 2
PQuon: Do you know where on google? How did you find the tax rate of 7.75%?
Me: Not really? I just typed in the city and sales tax rate and that is what popped up.
Email Round 3
PQuon: Well it is not the correct rate. We need to have the correct sales tax rate reflected on the invoice.
Me: Ok, I will look into it again.
PQuon: Please do and let me know.
(So now, on top of 200+ orders, no lunch, training new hires, over flowing voice mailbox I had to spend spending precious minutes with redundant emails and googling tax rates for Super Rich County, USA. I was not finding any new info. According to Google, I was correct. 7.75% I told PQuon.)
Email Round 4
Me: Here are some of the links I have found that show the tax rate of 7.75% for Super Rich County. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
(I may not have been that nice, I hadn’t eaten. Things get ugly when I’m hungry.)
My phone rings, its PQuon’s extension. Ring, ring. I was so tempted to let the VM pick up. Ring ring. She knew I was just at my desk replying to her emails. I grit my teeth and pick up.
Me: Hello PQuon. How can I help you?
PQuon: I saw the links you sent however those are incorrect.
(Ok now this is the part where my head almost shot off my body due to the level of steam rising from my gut and I nearly fell off my chair with frustration. When she said this next thing, prepare yourself! She’s not really yelling this. The all caps is because I just need you to understand the gravity of what she says next)
ACCORDING TO MY “SUPER RICH COUNTY” TAX BOOK, THE TAX RATE OF MCMANSION COUNTY IS 7.25%. (HERE’S THE KICKER!!!) I HAVE CHANGED IT FOR YOU.
Me: (teeth clenched, jaw locked like a pit bull) Thank you. (???!!)
She had the information the whole stinking time! She went round and round with me, made me search and research and SHE HAD THE CORRECT TAX RATE THE WHOLE DANG TIME!!!! SHE COULD HAVE FIXED IT WITHOUT EVEN BOTHERING ME!!!! SHE ACTED LIKE SHE WAS DOING ME A FAVOR!!!! AARRRGGG! ACCOUNTING PERSONNEL!!!!!!
I tell you they are not really human!!! Or at least that’s how I felt, especially after that ordeal and many others like it over the course of my working years. I rarely made effort to say hello or go out of my way to be gracious or be extra nice to any of those pesky accounting department types. I clearly had nothing in common with them. Not that I was rude per se, just gave a wide berth. You stay outta my way and I stay out yours. Nobody gets hurt.
The transformation of P-Quon
Until one day PQuon was standing at the receptionists desk. I happened to be walking through on my way from the warehouse back to my desk. She was telling a story about her daughter to the girl at the front desk. I almost didn’t recognize her. The softened tone of her voice and gentle laugh that escaped as she told her tale was so foreign to how she typically acted. She seemed almost, well, almost human.
I walked to my desk stunned. Like the first time you see a grade school teacher out in the world I couldn’t believe that she had a life outside of the numbers she loved so much. Not only a life though. That was the part that was blowing my mind. I had been so involved with my own image of her that I had turned her into that non-human being. My perception didn’t change the reality that she had people who loved her. She had a daughter. Somewhere in the world, at that exact moment there was a child who thought that PQuon was pretty close to perfect. A child that snuggled her at night perhaps demanded a 2nd glass of water and the closet door cracked just a little. She was Mom to someone.
In that instant she became someone to me too.
In that instant she became someone to me too. I thought, if someone, anyone one, on this planet can love her – then so can I. Well, maybe love didn’t immediately spring to mind. But I knew there was something lovable about her, even if it wasn’t readily apparent to me. I started saying hi a little more. I started walking through the accounting department occasionally. I asked about her daughter. Then something totally crazy happened. She became a real person to me, as well as all the rest of those pesky accountants right along with her.
Now it started to get exciting. This is where the enlightenment started to penetrate my thick head. I started to see that everyone has someone who loves him or her. That thick glass protects the cashier at the gas station is there because someone loves them. The bald guy in the sports car that cuts you off is probably rushing to be with someone who loves him. The barista at Starbucks who forgot your extra shot is preoccupied with someone who loves them. Everyone you see, meet, sit in traffic next to, bump into at the grocery store, everyone has someone who loves them. Even if they don’t know it someone loves them. Everyone. Everywhere. I thought about that a little more. I thought about all the connections crisscrossed and layered between and across us all.
Every one every where is loved by some one
This is where my sox flew off: If all of those people can find a reason to love the cashier or the bald guy or the barista, well then, so can I. I got excited about the possibility. I can love them from my car, I can love them from my office, and I can love them from carpool, at the grocery store, dentist, and dry-cleaners! I can drive down the freeway whispering, “I love you person in the white Camry” and “I love you big ol Semi truck driver”, which I do!!! I actually whisper I love you to random strangers in traffic, it happens. I can send mental love notes (TIP: Sometimes this is the best and only option!) to any random stranger! I just think, “I love you” and ship it off with my best wishes.
PQuon and I did not become best friends and skip off to lunch together singing Kum Ba Yah, but we did become amicable. The people I randomly send love to have no idea, at least not consciously, that I am vibrating their vehicle with love waves but I do. It doesn’t take a whole lot either. On the days that I can remember that I love the whole world I feel better. When I send my love out, it is returned at once. Not by the strangers or accountants but by the universal love that connects us all. Try it, on your commute, in the drive thru or at the next heated PTA meeting, know that everyone has somebody that loves them and that somebody just might be you.