I was sitting in a deserted corner of the Pittsburgh airport a few nights ago, waiting for a flight that would take me to Minneapolis, where I could in turn catch a flight that would get me back to Seattle. I ended up in the back corner, as it was the only place I could find both an outlet and a chair and both my phone and laptop had nearly dead batteries. I overhead a man in a suit talking on his cell phone. He exchanged pleasantries with the person who picked up the phone and then the conversation took a really different turn. “I have some bad news.”
He went on to say that someone had a heart attack at the office that day. While at his desk. He began the story in a rather hopeful tone, like maybe the coworker was OK. But then he said he thought the coworker might be dead. And explained that he was found at his desk, but no one knew how long he had been there before he was found. And that the person who found him tried CPR but couldn’t revive him. And that the paramedics worked on him for 30 minutes before taking him away. It didn’t sound very promising from my outlet-filled corner.
He was calling because while the coworker wasn’t married, he had been with someone for a very long time, but the caller didn’t know what other family he had and he just wasn’t sure who to notify.
I’m sure none of us expect that we’ll die at our desks.
Then, I got on the plane and found my seat. I had been frustrated all day because I had asked my editor for one extra day to do a final read of my book manuscript and he said there wasn’t time. But while in the cab to the airport, I’d gotten an email saying he’d gotten the extension approved, so my mood had turned significantly better. But as the plane took off, I thought about the phone call I’d overhead and I wondered if my editor would publish my book as is if the plane crashed. Talk about dying at my desk. Really? That’s what made me worry about the plane crashing? That my book would be published without my final review?
After I’d made it to Minneapolis and gotten on the second flight, I sent an email to someone saying I would make it back in time for the event I was supposed to speak at the next day. You never know when you’re on the last flight of the day with a layover through a midwest city in winter, but it had worked out OK. Only after I hit send I wondered if I had jinxed the trip because after all, I was sitting in the plane about to take off, but the plane hadn’t yet successfully landed in Seattle. But surely an email stating confidence about the flight wouldn’t cause it to crash.
I’m taking a few days off next week. I don’t want to die at my desk.