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Story Number 101

A couple of years ago at work, the company solicited new project ideas through an online suggestion forum. Over 100 ideas were submitted. Upon reviewing the first 100, senior management determined the effort was wasted as none of the ideas reviewed were viable. The forum was abandoned. Here’s the problem: what if idea 101 was the next “big thing” for the company?

Having finished writing Not Quite There, I now face a similar challenge. Out of all the experiences I crammed into the book, what if I missed the one that people will really want to read? Every time I read through it--tweaking sentences, fixing grammatical errors, and rearranging sentence structures--I also remember omitted details. Sometimes I add them, sometimes I don’t. Hopefully I’ve chosen correctly, because when I say I have “finished,” I mean it. The first batch of paperback copies has been ordered and will soon be shipping to California to be on hand for the book release party next month.

Tonight I’m sitting in my office, working on the hyperlinks for the table of contents in the digital copies. The task requires me to scan through the book for the millionth time, which is nearly impossible for me to do without getting caught up re-reading some of the stories. In the process, I’ve thought of a couple more stories I forgot to include, which got me thinking about idea 101. That, in turn, has me thinking about the technology of publishing and where it’s headed in the future.

Many of you have expressed more than fervent interest in a physical copy of Not Quite There, and I get it. The nostalgia and excitement associated with olfactory sensations is something I explicitly write about in the book. Touching and smelling a physical book definitely impacts the reading experience. But one cannot ignore the digital world in which we now live, and digital publishing offers the potential for nostalgia and excitement as well, albeit in a different way (like maybe the ability for an author to continuously provide updates to his work to satisfy his obsessive compulsive desire to make it perfect). Just as the idea 101 debacle had me thinking about collaboration and crowd sourcing, remembering the events of what are now a missing chapter has me wondering how we’ll read and write books five, ten, or fifteen years from now. That is probably the topic for another blog...or a robust discussion at a book signing.

For now, I’ll do this the way current technology and culture allow. I have no doubt there will be a plethora of stories (and drinks) at the release party. If you live in Southern California and would like to come, send me a note and I’ll pass along an invitation. If you don’t live in Southern California, send me a note anyway, maybe we’ll throw a party where you live. In the meantime, I’ll continue to post stories here, as I have been doing for over twelve years. Many of them are already in the book; others probably should be. Here’s a few that didn’t make it, but it gives you a good idea of what you can expect if you buy the book.

Performing year 2000 (Y2K) compliance testing in hospitals meant we got to go nearly everywhere and meet nearly everyone. Our tasking came from the top, and hospital staff had instructions to cooperate with us fully, but each department received us in their own way. Sometimes the staff was friendly to our presence, other times they were clearly annoyed. In one hospital, a doctor literally called me into an active operating room to insure that I was going to test his equipment. His nurses began warning him with some urgency that I was not sterilized as I hurriedly tried to exit whilst assuring him we wouldn’t forget to test his stuff. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you exactly what was going on. What I can tell you is there was an unconscious patient on an operating table covered with sheets—except for a flaccid penis sticking up through a hole in the middle. I don’t think he was having his appendix out.

At another hospital, I was testing equipment in the intensive care unit (ICU) where most of the patients were unconscious. As a result of either my fatigue, youthful arrogance, or perhaps some combination thereof, I was enjoying a cup of coffee while testing equipment in one of the transparent, glass-walled rooms. A veteran nurse entered the room behind me and casually but sternly whispered to me as she pretended to check an infusion pump: “We don’t allow food or beverages in these rooms. Also, the family is here waiting to come in.” I was mortified but kept my cool, finished my test, and slithered out of the room.

Sometimes the tests were a bit nerve-racking, like when a patient was on a ventilator that needed testing or the computer system in an intensive care unit monitoring half a dozen patients needed a reboot to complete a test. We always performed those tests with the express permission and supervision of trained medical personnel. Patients were never in danger, but doctors and nurses were certainly inconvenienced, and we tried to minimize that as much as possible. We quickly familiarized ourselves with requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE) and hospital procedures to minimize our impact on normal operations. Occasionally, the nursing staff in a given department would capitalize on our presence as an opportunity to break the monotony and even have a little fun at our expense.

That's what happened the day my team was working in a department where most of the patients were chronically ill and frequent guests of the hospital. It was customary on this floor for the nurses to escort us into the rooms to insure patient privacy and to make sure we didn’t miss any hidden equipment. One of the nurses pulled me aside and asked if we could play a prank on one of my other team members. A patient had recently passed away and she knew there was equipment in the room that needed to be tested. I told my colleague Hung to go with her. The door of the room had a sign indicating that PPE was required to enter. Hung was not wearing any and asked her, “don’t I need to suit up?” She responded with a straight face, “it won’t matter to him.” I was standing in the hall with two other colleagues and it was all we could do to keep from laughing. When Hung came out of the room, we were all still waiting. Hung’s eyes were big and he came over and whispered to us, “I think that guy was dead.” The nurse came out behind him with a big grin on her face and a funny story to tell.

It’s nearly impossible for me to remember all the amusing stories from my Y2K days or any of the other trips I’ve taken. I do my best to write stuff down as it happens, but sometimes that just doesn’t work out. After my Y2K experience, walking into a hospital often hits me with a flood of nostalgia as various smells trigger long forgotten memories. Those feelings of nostalgia are what I try to convey when writing, and it’s what you’ll find in Not Quite There. Perhaps the culture and technology surrounding publishing will change how I do that in the future. Maybe one day, story 101 will automatically appear as a new page in that book on your nightstand. Until then, you’ll read about it here.

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Reader Comments (2)

Have you thought of visiting your pals in the Financial Aid Office while you are in CA?

I did!

October 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterSean Genovese

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