I was sitting on an overturned paint bucket, holed up inside a freezing cold electrical closet. Just another day at the office! I was trying to figure out the best way to queue up commands if a link in the system went down. I thought things out to their extreme conclusion… and realized that what I was doing could potentially wind up with dozens of commands stacking up if the system stayed offline for an extended period. Can you imagine the lights coming on all of a sudden and then strobing unpredictably? I could, and I knew it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.
As I frantically added conditional logic and piled on more code, I realized I was painting myself into a corner. I was over-complicating everything, but not really making anything better. So I stopped, took a deep breath, walked around in circles for a few moments and then let myself mull over other possibilities. Which is when I realized it was stupid to queue up commands in the first place. The commands all canceled each other out! I didn’t need to stack them up. I just needed to remember the last button the customer pressed, and then send that particular command through after the system came back online.
We’ve all made terrible decisions at 2 a.m. Sometimes it’s that last shot of whiskey. Sometimes it’s a convoluted piece of code that was the only thing we could think of to get us off the damn job site. I know a lot of people who take pride in not leaving their laptop until everything is done. Personally, I like to think more smarter and less harder. I will get up and walk around if my brain is stuck. I will grab a snack if I think my blood sugar is too low. And if it’s a multi-day job, I will go home and get some rest if I think I’m tired enough that I’m making things worse. And, when I realize that I’m taking things down a bad path, I will take several deep breaths. And then I usually come up with a far more elegant solution.
There’s an episode of Scrubs where Elliot tells JD her secret to handling things when it all seems to go wrong at once… take one deep breath. I don’t know why, but that scene has stuck with me, over all of these years. My job is less about saving lives and more about keeping the lights and the TVs on, but the stresses still pile up. All of your coworkers calling at once for support. Several clients having issues at the same time. Computer problems just when you’re trying to get something uploaded. I take a deep breath, I triage my job duties, I start fixing things.