Ever Feel Like You Are One Dumbass Away From Completely Losing It?

The moment when you finish writing a book is transcendent. It only lasts a split second, but for that second all is right with the world. A tsunami of self-doubt and an avalanche of second-guessing immediately follow this feeling of perfection.

If you can project yourself into that frame of mind, you might also be able to imagine that it would be a bad time to encounter incompetence. In that fragile state of mind I am sure you would prefer interacting with people who take pride in their job, people who go the extra mile—people who know their ass from a hole in the ground.

I was not so fortunate.

After finishing the manuscript for “My Favorite Second Chance,” Book 2 in The Lake Effect Series, I had the terrible misfortune of encountering a few people who fell a good distance below the “A” for effort bar.

I am admittedly old-school when it comes to galleys for my beta readers. I must have hard copies. I do. Yes, it is archaic, but it is a fact. I like paper and red pens. This disorder requires me to utilize a copy center to duplicate and bind the manuscripts for delivery.

Gone are the days of pride in workmanship. If you were hired simply because you were the only one that passed the drug test—that does not inspire great confidence.

I walk in with my original manuscript. I am anxious, sweaty and suspicious. It is more stressful than leaving my firstborn at daycare for the first time. (Mommy loves you sweetie, I’m just saying it is difficult.)

Problem Number 1: Long line. The person at the front of the line is someone I don’t want to talk to right now. I have to busy myself with other items to avoid detection.

Problem Number 2: The copy clerk cannot perform mathematical calculations. I have 303 single-sided originals that I want copied to double-sided and spiral bound. (I know, but I like it!)

“My largest binding only takes 200 pages.”

“Yes. There are 303 copied to roughly 152. It will fit.”

Long pause. “It will be tight.”

“But it will fit.”

Problem Number 3: I purchased red pens and 10×13 envelopes, for the reader packets. The problem occurred at checkout. Please keep in mind I am purchasing two items, I am anxious and I do not want to make a new friend.

“Did you find everything OK?”

I would like to reply that if I did not find everything “OK” I would be asking how to locate the missing item, NOT checking out. I persevere toward courtesy. “Yes, thank you.”

Helpful checkout clerk, with strange hair ties, looks out the front window of the store. “Oh pick that up. Did you see that? His dog did his business right there and he didn’t clean it up.”

Alert the media. I definitely want to see fresh dog poop right now. I hold my tongue and ready my debit card for swiping.

“Not yet, I have to get all this in there first.”

All TWO of my items? How will you manage? I remain silent.

The machine displays the phrase, “Slide Card.”

“You can slide your card now.”

Now? Are you sure? If only I could read. Still keeping it all in my head.

Somehow I exit without murdering a single soul.

I return at the appointed time to collect my copy order.

Problem Number 4: The project is not ready. Let’s review the process. Lay pages in tray, press single-sided to double-sided picture, enter number of copies and press “Start.” Walk away. Apparently there was some grave error in the copying process and the middle section did not get copied double-sided and now the pages will not fit in the binding.

“She told you it would be tight, right?”

“Yes.” Seething venom boils in my veins.

“Can you come back in an hour, right before closing?”

“Of course. I do need them today.”

Now I am imagining an entire black market manuscript duplication ring. They are purposely delaying the project so they can make extra copies to send to their Book Dealer. I am physically sick to my stomach.

I return home and avoid sharp objects.

The alarm beeps and I race to the car to return to the scene of my torment.

“Oh, thanks for coming back.”

Did he somehow imagine, after our previous conversation, I would NOT come back?

“We have those books ready for you right here.”

He retrieves what can only be described as a large Happy Meal box, and deposits it on the counter.

I have to ask, “What happened to the pages that were copied incorrectly, the one-sided pages?”

“Oh we shredded those. It was easier to re-copy them.”

Doubt tugs at my heart. I wonder if the Book Dealer is watching me. “Oh good.”

The clerk extracts one book. “There, all double-sided. And it fit much better, too.”

Shocking.

He rings up my order, does not tell me to slide my card and I figure out how to pay—all by myself.

I open the Happy Meal box and I do not see my original manuscript. Panic seizes my brain. “Where is the original?”

“I think we were binding the original.”

“No. The original was one-sided, so that doesn’t make any SENSE.”

He searches the counters while I mentally restrain myself from leaping over the barrier and up-ending every trashcan in the copy center.

“Oh, here it is. She left it by the copy machine.”

Again, shocking.

I think I was only one quarter of a dumbass away from completely losing it—on this day.

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