May 17, 1999
Document This


Monday morning.

I have been in the office for precisely eight and a half seconds -- I haven't even taken off my coat yet, let alone poured my first cup of Peet's -- and The DRIP is on me already, like stink on cheese. He is standing next to my desk, wearing a Frowny Face and holding a stack of papers the approximate size and weight of an Alameda County phonebook.

"It looks like this fax didn't go through on Friday," he says.


I remember that fax. It landed on my desk late Friday ... uncollated, mostly illegible, sans cover sheet or instructions beyond a tersely scribbled Post-It note ("Fax to San Ramon people"). I spent half of the afternoon fixing it and the other half faxing it. It took forever. And when it finally, blessedly went through -- five minutes before my bus was due -- I documented hell out of the entire procedure. Copies of the fax, copies of the cover sheet, copies of the copies of the cover sheet, copies of the confirmation sheet, copies of copies of the confirmation sheet ... I would have added a copy of my California Driver's License, too, if I had one. If I've learned anything during 20+ years at the bottom of the totem pole, it's to document, document, document.

You never know when it's going to save your butt.

"May I look at it?" I ask him politely. I'm still enjoying the *buzz* from a pleasant weekend with David -- a weekend of flea markets and sea otters, long drives along the coast and long afternoon naps, rental movies and Italian sandwiches and Hello Kitty stores -- and I'm determined to remain unruffled, no matter what.

"This fax was absolutely critical," he moans, and he hands the stack of papers to me reluctantly, like he's handing me a newborn baby he is certain I will drop. I calmly flip through the bundle until I reach the second-to-last page.

There it is: "Send Successful."

"Nope," I say pleasantly. "It went through just fine."  And I show him the confirmation page.

He looks vaguely annoyed -- "Usually we attach the confirmation to the front of the fax," he sputters -- but he doesn't meet my eyes. Instead, he grabs his paperwork and walks off without another word. I resist the urge to smile or look smug or break into spontaneous tap-dancing ... but I feel like I've won a tiny victory.


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