Jun 05, 2013 0 Share

Keep Calm and Carry On


Illustration of woman getting upset at computer crash.
iStockphoto

Once in a blue moon, everything works out the way it’s supposed to, despite the bumps in the road we encounter along the way. Today was just such an experience for me. My rigid Aspie nature wanted to balk at any number of these bumps that I ran into between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., but somehow, my wanting-to-avoid-conflict-at-all-costs Aspie nature won the day. Allow me to elaborate.

In my role as Head of Career Education at a private school for students with developmental disabilities, I am responsible for the oversight of the annual Employer Appreciation Luncheon. I have managed, during both years that I have been head of my department, to avoid taking on all responsibility for this undertaking, which in and of itself is a little bit of a miracle. By surrounding myself with people I trust, I have been able to relinquish just enough control to see that things can work out well even when I am not hyper-vigilant about every minute detail. So far so good. But even accomplishing that first step of allowing others to take responsibility for much of the planning was in no way a guarantee that the components I was responsible for would all run as planned. I admit, I did forget that for a time today.

It started at about 9:00 a.m., when I called staff into my office to preview the end-of-the-year slideshow that would conclude the luncheon today. This presentation is my baby, it has been for the past three school years, and every year I strive to make it a step above the year before. I was finished ahead of schedule this year, a miracle in and of itself! So I quite confidently called my staff in, sat them down, turned down the lights, and the presentation began … without sound. This was a problem, because the music that accompanies the presentation is an integral part of the presentation, and many hours were spent choosing the music and timing the presentation to fit the selections. I was perplexed, but in no way panicked. I switched to my desktop computer, restarted the show, all went well, including the music, and it was an enjoyable preview. My staff dispersed to return to their own last-minute preparations, and I set about “making sure” that the show would run on my laptop with accompanying sound.

Except that it would not.

It took less than 10 minutes for me to reach the horrifying, but undeniable, conclusion that the music had not saved as part of the presentation on my flash drive. It was imbedded in my office computer, and in my “cloud drive” which I was unable to access on my laptop because my laptop seemed to have forgotten how to link to my school’s wireless connection. Okay, time to call our trusty tech guys … who did not answer their phone. Okay, time to see if I can burn the music to a CD that I could run concurrently with the slideshow. Felt a bit late-20th century, but desperate times call for desperate measures, or some such cliché. I asked (begged?) a staff member to hunt down a blank CD for me, and I unburied the four songs in question from my computer and set them up to burn. Have I mentioned that I’ve never actually burned music to a CD before? Yeah. But how hard could it be? Upon realizing that I did not have a blank CD in my office, I officially slipped into panic mode. I could feel the anxiety coursing through my blood. That set me off to an ever greater degree, because I could feel shut-down mode looming on the horizon.

Then the CD would not take my music. It kept ejecting from the computer, with no just cause or accompanying explanation. Okay. I could say I was sick and had to leave. I could say my daughter was sick and I had to leave. I should have been preparing my remarks for the luncheon—including presenting three student awards—rather than dealing with what felt like an unsolvable problem. Rigidity swept in. I was going to totally drop the ball—probably already had. This was a disaster. How could I have been so stupid as to not check this on another computer the night before? You name it, I was thinking it. Fortunately I was not yelling out loud at myself, anyway.

Then, like a gift from the heavens above, a colleague appeared at my door. This particular colleague is the head of our technical support, and in less than 10 minutes he had all of my music embedded in the slideshow and saved on my flash drive. It took all the restraint I had not to kiss him full on the mouth. Crisis averted.

And as for the speeches? I did not get them written. I managed to wing it rather nicely at the luncheon—which I actually do better with anyway, I come across as more natural—and my assistant who had done the bulk of the luncheon planning gave the awards in my stead. More crises averted.

As for the music … there was one more moment of panic when it turned out that we didn’t have the correct sound system in place. We ended up holding the microphone up to the laptop speaker, and the music was heard. All’s well that ends well.

It really did end well. It wasn’t perfect, but it was really good, and I can take the lessons learned into next year’s planning—and know that learning to trust myself and those around me could be the greatest lesson to come out of this above all.