Mason stepped off the express bus. The cacophony of traffic and people caused him to pause. The woman behind nearly knocked Mason out onto the street.
“Excuse me,” he said, embarrassed by his clumsiness.
Mason got off the bus and stepped out of the way to let others pass. He felt like he had just been here. Perhaps it was because he had. “Everyone thinks uptown is glamorous. If they only knew the truth.” Last night had been one nightmare after another. He barely walked in the door before Patricia told him the water heater had started leaking. Five minutes later he had to break up a fight between the kids. Thirty minutes after that he was finally able to sit down and catch his breath a full ten minutes before dinner.
By the time Patricia had prepared the meal, he was ready to eat the pillow next to him. That’s when it happened. It always seemed to arrive at the worst times. Mason often wondered if he was part of a secret television show like “The Truman Show.” The cell phone’s ringer rang low, but it still sounded like an orchestra tuning up in his living room.
It was work. Life in information technology never seemed to end. “The salary sounds so good until you figure your hours.” He picked up the phone, knowing what was coming. They needed him back uptown. It didn’t matter he had to drive back another thirty minutes. The boss wanted everyone in the office. The primary server had crashed. They did not have a full backup system like Mason had suggested, only data on tapes. He would spend his night with the same people he spent his day.
Mason missed his wife and children. By 2 am his sense of decorum had disappeared. His boss Jerry warned him, “You may want to check your attitude.”
“You know Jerry, no offense, but I’d rather be home with Patricia.”
“We all have to be stuck here, just make the best of it.”
“I would, but it’s getting to be a habit.”
“I know Mason. I don’t want your marriage to end up like mine. Hang in there for me.” Mason grunted and turned to the computer screen he had come to hate. By 5 am everything was running again.
“Okay boss, I’m heading home for some much-needed shuteye.”
“I wish we could. I just called Jeff and let him know we are running. Evidently, senior management doesn’t like early morning calls. He wants the team back in by 8 am. He also wants full analysis reports on why we keep having problems on his desk by noon.”
“That’s insane. None of has slept and none of the problems are related. Unless we want to tell Jeff, we have people working ninety hours a week, and so we’re making mistakes.”
“I’m fine with you all doing that. I’ll even back you up.”
“Good, that will be in my analysis.” Mason got in his car and headed back home. He had just enough time to shower, grab some coffee, and come back into the office.
Before Mason could dry off from the shower, Patricia was standing in front of him. “How much do we have to spend on the water heater?”
“Look, honey, I’m still shivering from the cold shower. You spend whatever you need to.”
“That’s not an answer. I’m serious Mason. We could spend hundreds and even over a thousand.”
“Find us something the same size with a good warranty. Keep it under a thousand if you can.”
“One other thing before you take off again. Luke is running a fever. I need to take him to the doctor.”
“Okay. Call me and let me know what the doctor says.”
“You coming home tonight?”
“Either home or the hospital for exhaustion.”
Too tired to drive all the way to work, he took the express bus.
Mason stood there on the street. Droves of people walked by, trying to hurry to their cubicle existence. His life seemed to match the cacophony around him. Mason attempted to take control. “I’ve had worse days, and even weeks.” With a quick pep talk, Mason joined the herd. Just shy of his building he dived out of the flow and into the coffee shop.
“Your largest, strongest coffee please.”
“Looks like an all-day coffee kind of day.” Mason turned around and saw his boss behind him.
“Great minds think alike.”
“I know I’ve asked a lot of you lately. Let’s get through today and take tomorrow off.”
The cacophony inside Mason’s head quieted just a little.