The cure for “Urgent!”

We didn’t quite get a green Christmas here in Muddy York, but it was close: snow arrived two days later, and was followed closely by another dose of it, for good measure, the day after that.

Taylor Creek Park, March 6, 2011 - 5

Winter wonderland, indeed!

As last winter was virtually snowless, I have been hoping and praying for a nice dump of the white stuff this year; my cross-country skis have sat idle for far too long.

Alas, as luck would have it, my project managers saw my Christmas holidays as the ideal time to dump upon me not white stuff, or free time, or thank-you cards for a year of uncomplaining servitude, or just a break from the bloody nonstop deadlines I’ve been labouring under since spring… No, none of that, but rather More! Now! URGENT, URGENT, URGENT!

This meant that instead of being able to go out to play on Thursday, when the snow arrived, I sat miserably hunched at my laptop, frantically proofreading and editing and watching the snow out the window. I had a deadline on Christmas Eve, another one yesterday (Dec. 28) and (unbelievably) another one today, Saturday, that arrived the day after Christmas. She put a smiley-face on her email, like that makes it better.



So I pulled another late night on Thursday to get the worst of it out of the way and leave Friday open for some badly needed R&R in the form of some cross-country skiing.

Imagine my dismay on Friday morning, then, when I opened my email and saw not one, not two, but THREE emails marked “URGENT!!” from another project manager under whose (holiday) deadline I am currently labouring. And as I sat stunned, reading those, a fourth one arrived from her.

(Last week, this same project manager tried to persuade me, just days before Christmas, that I should put everything else aside [and, horribly, there actually was an “everything else,” and plenty of it] to do two free days of work on a project of hers that I actually completed in early October, and have invoiced for, and been paid for. This is akin to calling the plumber back several months after he fixes your toilet and demanding that he drop by for a couple more days to fix your shower and all the powder room fixtures for free because you just now realized that that would be a nice thing to have done for when Aunt Eloise comes to stay.)

But I digress.

After spending part of the morning curled in the fetal position weeping with frustration at the fact that my once-beloved freelance job is becoming a 362-days-a-year slog with mediocre pay and no discernible benefits or security, I finished off what I could of Miss URGENT’s latest demands and fired them off to her with a terse little note reminding her that this is the Christmas holidays here in the colonies and as such, I would not be answering any more emails promptly (read: at all) or doing any work on any sort of an “urgent” basis (read: bugger off now before I come over there with something heavy).

No playing in the snow until you finish your deadline. And the one after that...

No playing in the snow until you finish your deadline. And the one after that…

And then I bundled up in my woollies, shoved my skis into the car, and headed down to Ashbridge’s Bay (on the shores of Lake Ontario) like a kid let out of school and spent a good part of the afternoon lolloping about in the snow, taking photos and greeting dogs and feeling utterly, utterly restored.

The coming year will, God willing, see a change in my chosen field of work. Enough is enough. The toll from the last year of “urgent!” and “oh, by the way, the deadline has been moved up” and “sorry to do this to you, but…” and managers dropping work on me on Friday afternoon with a Monday morning deadline before heading off to their cottages, is just too sad to contemplate: among other things, I missed the birth of my friend’s baby, a trip to Cape Cod, a week at Deerhurst Resort,  a day at Canada’s Wonderland, and days at the beach and drives to see the fall colours and other invitations and outings too numerous to mention.

Sure, office workers and desk jockeys have to miss these sorts of things too, but their work (as I tersely point out, time after time, when one of them lambastes me on, say, Facebook, for “goofing off” in the Don Valley on a weekday afternoon) generally comes with three or more weeks’ vacation a year, weekends and evenings off, health and dental benefits, a pension, and at least some modicum of job security.

I, on the other hand, have all the freedom and the lavish income of a Korean variety store clerk.

Life is passing me by — and that is FAR too high a price to pay for the “privilege” of working from home. Something’s gotta give, and we shall see what that entails in 2013.

Meantime, here are some pictures from yesterday’s romp in the snow. As always, even a brief foray out into nature has restoreth-ed my soul, and how.



  1. Dear Dr. Smiter, are you not charging enough? Sounds like your base rate, double-book rate tier, rush charge and overtime rate all need to be juiced. In any case, for purely selfish reasons, I’m glad the situation drive you outside to get those lovely photos. Made my day.

    • Hi — A good question indeed. Alas, in the publishing industry, we’re paid either by the page or by the project. There’s no such thing as a Rush fee or overtime, alas. It used to all be quite manageable, but the industry is really changing — layoffs, cutbacks etc. mean fewer people doing more (as in most other businesses) and demanding More, Urgent, Now! from their underlings.
      In writing/journalism, however, I don’t run into this sort of thing much. So that’s probably where I need to point my efforts.
      Thanks for reading and for the Follow!
      Toothy regards,
      Dr. Smiter 🙂

  2. Re. the lavish income of a Korean variety store clerk, it would probably be too intrusive to ask how much you earn, but are you able to pay your bills and have a bit of safety margin from your freelance work?

    I am working from home (incl. driving out) for a regular employer, part time. The pay barely covers the basic bills and (low) living costs and not mortgage, so I depend on my husband’s income too (not high either). I have done/am doing freelance projects on the side occasionally, but the pay is poor and the work time consuming/boring/stressing because clients expect all their problems to be solved of course, regardless how low the pay is.

    Like you, I don’t thrive in a regular workplace and prefer to work from home, but with a better/more sustainable income and preferably also more complex work (I am in my 40s). Still trying to work that out and see what others do that work for them.

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