I almost asked for today off.
It wasn't because I didn't want to work on my birthday. We have a sizable slate of games, and I really didn't want to miss out.
But my history of working on my birthday hasn't been good. Considering one of my worst experiences came last year on my birthday and since I just did a game Wednesday that lasted nearly three hours and totaled 40 runs, I fear the disaster that might be looming. In recent years it just seems like the job is sticking it to me on my birthday. And I wonder what the birthday gods have in store.
It makes me wonder if I should go back to attending concerts on my birthday. After all, what could be better than seeing the Smithereens at the Paradise in Boston to celebrate? That's a fond birthday memory but one that came quite a while ago - before a job, life, and responsibility got in the way.
So each year, I wonder if this year's present will be worse than last year's surprise.
Last year, I was simply working in the office. I was paginating the scoreboard page - the sports page that has all the box scores that make sports fans go squinty-eyed before their time.
It was supposed to be a relatively easy evening. I won't go into the whole story about our wire service and our change in computer operating systems. But let's just say that was the night the old system we were using to get wire agate chose to cease working, on my birthday, at around 9:30. I noticed at 10 p.m. that the wire had stopped updating. When we realized what was happening and what my options were, it was 10:30 p.m. I had an 11 p.m. deadline and three columns to fill, mostly baseball boxes. And I was going to have to do all the boxes manually, which I didn't know how to do at that moment. Usually, we'd call a box score onto a page ready formatted.
So I frantically tried to get as many incoming baseball boxes done and on the page as fast as I could. It was an agonizingly slow process, especially with a dozen boxes coming in and plenty of space to fill on the page. I knew I was going to miss deadline because it was extremely tedious formatting everything each box at a time. I ended up sending my page about 15 minutes late. I don't even remember if I did any kind of makeover. But I do remember busting my hump to get that page out only to leave that night without a single word of recognition for my efforts.
After that, I might have vowed to never work on my birthday again.
My other birthday work woes pale in comparison. There was a softball game that lasted three-plus hours. It went into extra innings and was even delayed by a thunderstorm.
There was the year the Portland Pirates were up 2-0 in their best-of-five playoff series. Both wins had come on the road. All the Pirates had to do was win one at home. After losing the first game, they hosted Springfield on a Saturday night - and lost. That meant the next day, a Sunday, I was on the road and headed back to Springfield to cover Game Five, instead of having the day off. Guess what day that Sunday was? My birthday. The Pirates even lost that night and an expected lengthy playoff run ended suddenly.
One year I spent my birthday writing about a local coach that had died that morning. Nothing kills the birthday excitement than writing about somebody's death.
Another year, I was supposed to be headed for Owls Head. Instead, I was in the office working on some local story. I don't even remember what it was about. All I remember is that the woman in the newsroom who would put balloons on people's chairs for their birthday approached my desk while I was on the phone - with balloons in hand. I gave her a "Don't you dare" look. She tied them to a newspaper rack right next to my desk. That actually worked as a nice compromise. As people walked by, they'd ask "I wonder whose birthday it is?" I sat there looking all innocent and say, "I don't know."
So I know I won't be driving to Springfield today.I'm not doing agate. As far as I know, nobody has died that would prompt a story from me.
I do get to combine jobs by visiting a bookstore this morning and then a softball game this afternoon. I'm even doing a game with my favorite Softball Mom in attendance. She was the one last year who didn't like my softball notebook and suggested I "Get with it and do some real reporting."
I'm not even going to let her bother me. It's my birthday. I have the following two days off. I'm ready for whatever this day brings. If work goes smoothly today, I'll be thrilled and will relish and enjoy the day. If something goes wrong, well, I'll have another story to tell next year.