Thursday, January 31, 2008

Twitch of the lip

There's a book - a rather predictable romance novel with a cop and a woman being stalked by a murderer - wherein a serial killer operates in a rather interesting way. He works in customer service at a department store and when a woman is overly rude to him, he gathers her personal information, sneaks into her home and stabs her to death as she tries desperately to escape. I liked the book overall when I read it - the characters were good, the plot moved quickly - but I was terrified of this psychopath. He was careful and smart and the only reason they caught him was that Marlie - the heroine of the novel - became psychically linked with him while he was torturing and killing. I had nightmares about him, but comforted myself that he didn't strike randomly. And I'm generally nice to people who work in service-related jobs.

*****

I am not a patient person. I value my time and don't like waiting. It's become clear of late that people have ignored me and this has caused me no small amount of mental anguish. But when I request something, it's because I need it. And I expect a response in a timely manner.

I once got a paper into a journal because they took so long on review. It wasn't a bad manuscript, but it also wasn't brilliant. After four months, I sent an email checking on the status and a nice assistant returned my note with an apologetic explanation that they were struggling to find a second reviewer. At the time, the journal was undergoing some organizational changes, so my guess was that it had sat around in a misplaced file for a bit, but that my nudge would get it moving through the process again.

But each time I turned my calendar to a new month, I would send another email to the nice editorial assistant who grew increasingly apologetic. This went on for another 6 months or so - I never got angry or demanding, just checked in each and every month so they remembered I was interested and wanted the paper to be accepted and that such an event would be important in my life. After a long time, the editor replied and apologized himself. It was very unusual for them to take so long deciding on a paper and though they had only a single review, the editor had read it himself and decided it was worthy of publication after the lone reviewer's moderate changes were made.

I've always wondered if I snuck in. If my paper got accepted on a technicality because the editor felt badly about preventing me from submitting the paper elsewhere for about a year. If that was the case, it doesn't bother me. A journal shouldn't turn down a paper after holding it for a year - it simply isn't right. Nor should people sit on reviews - one month is about as much slack as I'm willing to cut someone before they should review it or hand off the job to someone else. (Though if it had been an awesome piece of work, I probably would have pulled it and sent it elsewhere. It was my choice to leave it there and wait it out.)

I have bothered two men for over a month now. One about a job and one about some funding. The former I want for me and was told that in another two weeks, we'd talk again.

"What are they waiting for?" I asked Steve on Monday night. "It's almost cruel to make me wait this long. If they're not interested, why won't they just say no?"

"My guess is they are interested," he offered. "But maybe they're waiting for some big shot to make a decision first and they'll offer it to you if he opts out."

Boss - when we talked about it with Tim yesterday in a casual, hallway conversation - said he thinks the process is just slow sometimes. That his letter was strong and he's sure my others were similarly glowing. He's optimistic.

I'm tired of waiting.

But for the funding issue, timing is important. When approaching a potential clinical issue as well as a research question, 4-5 weeks is a long time to push a decision back. When a man has the resources to easily grant a request and instead ignores emails and, in the event that he finds time in his super-important schedule to answer one, makes time-consuming demands, I get impatient.

So last night I sent email, nudging once again for an answer and reminding him of all the work I'd done to convince him thus far and that I really did want to act soon.

He didn't reply to me but Boss sent an email this evening saying that he'd received a response and it seemed I would not get help from this particular source. Boss would find a way to provide funding himself, he wrote, and I felt my whole body tense as I realized that the man who had ignored me and made demands only to refuse my reasonable request more than 4 weeks after I initially made it tried to get me in trouble with Boss. After indicating that he'd agree, that it wasn't a big deal, that he only had my best interest in mind to strengthen the argument before providing the resources I needed, he goes to Boss to turn me down?

I get a twitch in my neck when I'm nervous. It's awful and embarrassing, though I haven't suffered it for quite some time. I must have learned to deal with tension a bit better.

There is a spot on the left side of my lower lip that apparently twitches when I'm enraged. That tiny muscle continued to spasm as I read the email, wrote to Boss that I was very disappointed but not surprised by this response, told Friend of my abject hatred and anger, took a shower, and began to drink the first of what will be many glasses of wine.

It twitches still.

*****

Awful as it may be - and I do have some sense of how hideous this is to write - the only way to make my lip stop twitching is to picture myself moving through racks of blouses and slacks in that bright lighting they use for displaying retail wares. I see myself asking a salesperson a question and moving in the direction she indicates. I would approach a counter and smile at the man behind it, ask for a slip of paper and write down a name, address and identifying information. I would look at him meaningfully and he would nod before I smiled my thanks and walked away.

Not that I'd actually do it, mind you. But I'll probably worry later over how much I enjoy the thought.

5 comments:

Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

You're a much, much nicer person than me. In the same situation, I would imagine the stabbing part of the story, not the information gathering.
I hate dealing with jerks like that. Enjoy your wine tonight; I would take you out for drinks myself if I could.

post-doc said...

Thank you, BH. For being understanding and kind about my evil nature. I glow with gratitude. Or drunkenness. One of the two, definitely.

Amanda said...

I think you show admirable restraint in not going ballistic and telling more people about what this... this.. saboteur. Enjoy your wine!

Alethea said...

Thank you for thinking I'm wonderful. I think you're wonderful for your patience - even though you say you aren't a patient person, it's the actions that count - and your forbearance. In the cycle "what goes around, comes around" you may not get into a position of power relative to this man jerking you around the last month - but you might. Then, watch out!

And I am totally sure you deserved your article to get into that journal. The editor decided it should make it in, and I've never heard of anyone deciding on that based on pity - once it's published, no one will know how long it sat in review limbo. It has to be objectively good. So it was.

Psycgirl said...

I think you deserve as many glasses of wine as you want. Dr. Smooth has been ignoring my deadlines lately and I am so. very. angry. I wish I had your patience and politeness. I mean - we wouldn't ask for stuff if we didn't need it, right?

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