A couple of weeks ago, I went to a promotion of two co-workers. They are in the Army and both of them took the long route toward earning their new rank. The ceremony was a mess, but it was nice to meet the families and take a break from our desks. During the ceremony, we could hear an ambulance siren in the background. Later, we learned for whom the siren tolled.
“Did you hear? Dr. Rhymes-with-Parker died while waiting to brief Important Dude. Important Dude (ID) was notoriously picky with briefings. He liked clips, not staples, and the documents had to be in a certain format. There was an email with directions of briefing ID, which included forcing yourself to behave unnaturally. If you were there to brief ID, then you look only at ID, even if you are addressing a question from someone else in the room. Answer that guy but KEEP YOUR EYES ON ID. DO NOT LOOK AWAY FROM ID.
So, I thought, “Maybe Dr. Rhymes with Parker” looked away from ID."
I know. Mean. Eeeee-Vil.
Back in our office, we talked about it.
“I just saw him the other day,” said co-worker #1, clearly freaked out. “I LOOKED AT him.”
“Oooohh—don’t let #1 look at you!” we said for the rest of the day.
“I looked at him, too.” Said co-worker #2. “And I said to myself, that’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Clearly co-worker #2 is not the sentimental or rose-colored glasses type. He was also correct. Dr. Rhymes-with-Parker was not the picture of health. He probably should have retired and taken care of himself instead of making that last trek to ID’s office. It saddens me that someone died at work on a Friday afternoon, the time you are looking forward to the weekend and the plans you have for the time that belongs to you. The thought of dying at work is a nightmare, but dying on a Friday is an extra twist of the knife.
“Maybe ID will have new standards for those coming in to brief him,” we guessed.
“A blood pressure check before you enter his office.”
“A cholesterol count."
"A BMI of no more than 25.”
It was so awful we had to joke. It’s like the jokes that came out after the Challenger explosion. It's so horrifying you compelled to distract yourself with something funny.
“They’re cleaning his desk out now,” said the boss.
We all shook our heads. This reaffirmed the things we already knew: Life is short, take care of yourself, and if you can help it, don't die at work.