Ever had one of those days where everything seems to go wrong? A day where problems line up to give you the impression that you are living through an unending series of catastrophes. I had one of those days last week and I refer to it as a Dempsey Roll Day.
The Dempsey Roll is a boxing technique used by William Dempsey, a champion boxer in 1920’s America. It consists of moving your body in figure-8 pattern, altering the pace of your movements to confuse your opponent. As the opponent is unable to track the movements and thus unable to properly strike, William Dempsey was free to unleash an unending barrage of punches, shattering his opponent’s defense and pulverising them. Last week, I was that opponent.
The day started out normal enough, I made an elaborate salad for lunch and caught my bus to work. Trouble began when I arrived at the University and got about twenty paces away from my bus. I realized that the lunch bag I got onto the bus with was strangely absent. Putting two and two together, I realized I had left my lunch box on the bus. Turing around, I watched as the bus closed its door and began evacuating the bus stop. Given the current rerouting of buses at the University, the bus entered a road that would make it double back to a bus stop previous to the one I had gotten out at. I quickly saw an opportunity to catch it, as I could run down a different road that offered a bee-line to this bus stop and theoretically a shorter distance to the bus stop than the bus had to travel.
The trouble was that my “shorter distance” was still 450 meters. The challenge was compounded by the fact that the bee-line route was littered with mud and sand, the result of frequent rains and a recent snow melt. Thankfully, I didn’t take time to consider such challenges, being preoccupied with the act of sprinting down my “shorter” route. Onlookers appeared perplexed, the sight of a man in formal work clothes and brand new black shoes darting past them, backpack straps being rhythmically struck by arms moving in a manner straight out of the running scene from Terminator 2.
I arrived at the bus stop just in time to witness my bus, proudly displaying a “Not in Service” sign, pass me by without a second thought. As I watched my carefully prepared lunch disappear into the event horizon of morning rush-hour traffic, I realized I now faced a second problem. The act of running to the bus stop through the aforementioned sand and mud was not challenging in and of itself, as I was able to make great time and beat the bus to its intersection. The problem was that I had compromised my formal work clothes and brand new shoes making such great time.
The back of my night-black pants were now speckled with a beige rainbow of browns and grey. Having only five minutes to get to work however, I took off again, needing to again cover 450 meters or face some very aggravated students wondering where their student advisor was. Consequently, when I shambled into work wearing a half-pound of mud, I was immediately grateful for the waist-high counter that I could hide stand behind as I spoke with students.
After a half-hour of speaking with students, I hit the acceptance stage of my journey and ducked out the washroom to clean up. Unfortunately, a student I had just advised walked into the bathroom shortly after I began the cleaning process. I am not sure what kinds of academic advisor inspires confidence in their students, but I guarantee that it is not the kind that swears at mud stains and does his laundry in the student washroom.
Returning to the office soaked but with surprisingly clean pants, I was faced with my next challenge. My keyboard and desk had become less than sanitary over the past few weeks since I ran out of cleaning supplies. Having bought cleaning supplies the night before however, I was prepared to correct the situation and began my assault on the aromas and germs of my work station. Only after coating everything with rubbing alcohol and spraying a healthy dose of lavender Febreze did I realize error of my ways. Sitting at my work station, my mind swimming from the fumes of isopropyl alcohol and my lungs struggling through a lavender-hell, I came to the conclusion that sanitization should be done at the end of the day, not the beginning.
By mid-day, I left my workstation for some fresh air and to obtain food, a simple task given the plethora of dining options available at the University. Preferring to cook for myself and being very cheap combined to make the task difficult however, but I eventually settled on a take-out meal and returned to the office. As I sat down, I received an email that a banquet in my building had ordered too much food and that I could take as much free food as I desired. I looked down at my $10 meal in dismay.
Events continued on for much of the day in this fashion, enduring blow after blow after blow. Eventually, I entered an emotional downward spiral not unlike that of a boxer enduring the Dempsey Roll. Like those who faced the Dempsey Roll however, I realized that the only way out of it was to hang back. By leaning away from their opponent, a boxer widens their field of vision, allowing them to better track their opponent’s movements by giving them a better perspective on the problem as a whole.
When I hung back, I realized my problems paled in comparison to so many people throughout the world; from the famine and threats of violence endemic in certain areas to the personal tragedies and afflictions striking individuals close to home, my concerns appeared downright petty by comparison. Besides, catastrophes, concerns, and problems make the best foundation on which to tell a story…or write a blog post.