Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ecstasy in the workplace

I'm not talking about the pills.  I'm talking about actually experiencing ecstasy during the course of the workday.  Doing, for purposes of further clarification, the thing you define as your work.  

It's almost ten at night.  I'm in the studio, gessoing the canvas that, by the time the people from the Today Show show up tomorrow morning, will exhibit the early gestures that will eventually become The Screaming Pope.  Jimi Hendrix is playing "Hey Joe" on the stereo.  And at some point in the proceedings he sort of blurts out the word "aaach."  "Ack" maybe.  He was, I believe, experiencing ecstasy in the workplace.  What's the word for words like that anyway?  Not exactly onomanopoeia, if that's even the word.

Brief aside.  I remember reading my grandfather's account of the landing of Amelia Earhardt in Ireland written for The New York Times of the day.  He, to my amusement, used the word "ejaculate" to describe bystanders blurting out words of astonishment at the feat.  These days that particular usage comes in as Number 2 on my desktop dictionary.   It is described as "dated" in the sense of an anachronisticism, if that's even the word.

Anyway, listening to Jimi ejaculate the word Aaach! while playing his solo made me think a bit about how little, in the old days, I used to experience ecstasy at work and how frequently I do now.  Which I suppose makes me a lucky guy.  Work wise.  

I mean, there are moments when the paint goes down just right and you realize that you've exceeded your expectations by a wide margin, that you suddenly, out of whole-cloth, have created something wonderful.  I mean, they don't call it The Year of Magical Painting for nothing.  And you step back and say something like "Oh shit!"

For the record, I didn't get that much when I worked in public relations.

But there was one time, I remember.  It was mid-December.  Money was tight.  Rich and I were checking the mail the way whoever checks whatever when they are anxious to receive whatever.  In this case, we were waiting for a significant check from a significant client.  I think it was scheduled to be about sixty grand.

So the days dragged on.  Everyday the mail came.  No check.  And manomanoman, things were tight.  Christmas was coming hard upon us and, with no check in sight, it was going to be a pretty lame holiday, gift and merriment-wise.   Things were so tight we had switched from Bass Ale to Bud Light at the Peter McManus Cafe.  That's how freaking tight things were.
Catastrophic is a word that jumps to mind
Thank you.  Nicely said.  Catastrophic was very much how it was feeling.
And perhaps strangely claustrophobic.
Who's fucking blog is this, man?   Don't be laying stuff like that on the table.  I'm in charge of stuff like that.
I just thought it was fun.  The phonetic similarities between catastrophic and claustrophobic.
Fine.  But in the future leave that stuff to me.
Okay, sorry.
Anyway, things were so tight it was almost claustrophobic.  I mean, things were that tight.  And then, on a snowy day in the late teens of December, the check arrived.

Now let me tell you something about small businesses.  If things have been tight for a while, the arrival of a sixty thousand dollar check is absolutely fabulous and all that, but by the time you pay your back rent and the vendors who need paying and taxes and the rest of the bullshit that has nothing to do with the buying of presents or engaging in holiday merriment, there's very little left, oddly enough, for the buying of presents or engaging in holiday merriment.

That said, sixty grand is sixty grand.  Just for the record.

So it was with with either dry fingers or a dry mouth that I opened the envelope and pulled out the check and looked at it.  It was made out for $120,000.

"Hey Rich"
"They made the check out wrong."
"Oh shit..."
"But in a good way."
"Oh shit!"
"A hundred twenty."

A silence fell over the room.   For about an hour.  Possibly two.  Then we repaired to the Peter McManus Cafe to think the matter through carefully.  

"I'll take a Bass Ale," I remember one of us saying to Howie.
"Me too," I remember the other one saying.

Eventually we mutually acknowledged that if we just nabbed the buck-twenty and didn't say anything, they'd eventually find out and either get really pissed off or just fire us outright.

"We gotta tell them," one of us said.
"Yeah," the other one agreed.

So, in the division of labor that characterized the Mammoth Group at the time, it was my job to call the primary contact and tell her that her company has paid us double.  So I did.  And once she was on the line, it only took a couple of minutes for her to glean the gist of the matter.

"What do you want to do?" I asked.  "Should we return it and you guys can cut us one for the right amount?"
"Nah," she said.  "Why don't you just deposit that one and you can credit us going forward."
"Aaach!" I remember ejaculating.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing," I mumbled, a little embarrassed at having experienced ecstasy in the workplace while on the phone with the primary contact.  Who was, truth be told, kind of hot.
"Merry Christmas," she said as she hung up.

And it was, dear reader.  It was.

And it would be fun if, at least once during the painting of The Screaming Pope, I experienced ecstasy.  One can certainly hope.


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