Outside it was snowing again. I pulled my jacket closer around my shoulders. The thermostat was turned up to 80, but it still felt cold. My nose seemed to be running again. I got a precautionary tissue from the dispenser, drank some more tea, and blew my nose. After popping a couple of day-time cold capsules, I got back to the task at hand.
A distributor in Wisconsin was complaining that his order hadn't arrived. Why didn't he check the tracking himself? I sighed, looked up the number, and checked the status. The shipment was stuck in Nebraska, and judging from the weather reports, it wasn't budging today. I emailed Mark, the fellow waiting in Milwaukee.
"Too much snow in Omaha," I said. "Have a beer on me."
"Thanks, I'm LDS," Mark emailed back.
Last Day Sober? Liver Disease Sickness? Did he misspell LSD? I wasn't sure what Mark meant, so I left it at that. I hoped he was taking a taxi home. My nose was running again, and I went for another tissue. My waste basket was looking pretty full.
While I was rummaging in the closet for a new waste basket liner, the phone rang.
"AAA Shipping, this is Mike," I answered.
"Mike, did you get my note about today's meeting?"
It was the boss. Did he read my email this morning, the one where I told him I was too sick to come in, and that I'd be working from home today?
"Yes, I did," I said.
"Well, it starts in 30 minutes. Where are you?"
He'd called me at home, not on my cell phone, so that obviously was a rhetorical question.
"Sorry, Jim," I said. "I'm in line for the Dead Horse lift, and I don't want to lose my place."
Jim isn't stupid, so he caught on right away.
"I know it's nice weather for skiing, but you could have picked a better day," he told me.
"And miss all the pretty girls?" I asked. A sneeze attacked out of nowhere, and I barely managed to grab a tissue.
"Well, take pictures," Jim said. "I'll make up some excuse for you."
"Thanks," I told him. "I owe you one."
After I hung up I noticed three more emails had arrived. The waste basket liner had somehow ended up on the floor under my desk, and I crawled after it before dealing with the new messages. The cold medicine was kicking in, and my sinuses drained with an audible flush.
"Enter Subject" was the subject of the next message. I assumed it was sent using some kind of smart phone, where it was too much trouble to enter a subject.
"12 crates on loading dock, 10 ordered," was the entirety of the text. I had no way of knowing which order that was referring to. The message came from robx3255 at a generic mobile provider's address. He wasn't in my contact list, either. Past experience said that asking for an order ID would result in endless frustration as a variety of random character strings would be sent, none of which matched an actual order. I flagged the email and skipped to the next message, hoping inspiration would strike in the next ten minutes.
This time it was my mom. I should have never let her know my email address.
"Michael," it started. She always calls me that.
I like Mike. All my friends call me Mike. But to Mom I'm Michael. She hates the name Mike. "It's barely better than Mickey," she'd told me once. I didn't tell her that my fondest dream had been to have my friends call me Mickey. Mickey Mouse. Mickey Spillane. Mickey Mantle. That was a cool name. I never had the guts to tell my friends, though, so I was Mike. I often wondered what she'd have said if I had managed to get people to call me Mickey.
"Your dad wants to ask you about Sunday evening. Are you at home or at work?" She doesn't like to call my cell, ever since I told her about minutes.
"I have a thousand minutes in my plan," I told her. "Most months I use less than half." But Mom still worries that she'll use up all my minutes.
"I'm at home," I replied.
Next was a short confirmation from Jay in Albuquerque. The shipment was complete and signed off. I made a note in the database.
My dad called.
"Are we still on?" he wanted to know.
"Sure. Is there anything you want me to bring?"
"No, I think I've got all we need. Just be careful. It's supposed to snow again."
I knew that. I told him so and after we said good bye I hung up.
No new messages, and one waiting for inspiration. I emailed Jim.
"Do you know someone who sends smart phone messages as robx3255?"
His reply came immediately.
"Sorry, I'm in a meeting. If you need immediate assistance, email Mike."
That's right. The meeting. So much for having him check his contacts.
I opened the email from robx3255 again.
"Thanks for your note," I wrote. "I'm currently away from my desk. If you need immediate assistance, email Jim."
I'd have to owe Jim twice.