The day was beautiful. Perfect summer. Bright blue cloudless sky. Comfortable temperatures in the high 70s. A slight breeze. Minimal humidity.
I needed a prescription from my doctor in Needham. It’s 50 miles away, but normally it’s about 45 or 50 minutes drive time. Not, however, on Friday afternoon in mid-July. If you live around here, you know a summer weekend starts Thursday afternoon, and climaxes late Friday when everyone is coming home from work, jumping in the family buggy, and taking off for somewhere else.
New York, New Hampshire, Cape Cod. The population of New York is on its way to New England. The mid-Atlantic and New England regions do a population swap every weekend during July and August.
We forgot. It was the day of the asshole driver. The ones who cut you off, the ones who hog the lane driving slow, but refuse to let you pass.
There were endless stretches of “construction” consisting of miles of orange cones without a worker or machine in sight. Closed lanes and crawling traffic. Accidents. Little ones on the side of the road which required each driver to slow down for a good, long look. Major accident with sirens, police cars, and ambulances. Accidents which close lanes in two directions … and of course require all drivers to stop and take an even longer look.
Police, supposedly there to keep traffic moving, who hang out casually in the middle of the road having a friendly chat with fellow officers about upcoming dinner plans — making it impossible for traffic to move. They get paid extra for that.
It wasn’t just one road. It was everywhere. Bumper-to-bumper for miles in every direction.
When we got to the doctor’s office and they’d forgotten to get the prescription ready — atypical of this usually efficient medical group — I was ready to have a temper tantrum. To lay on the floor, kick, and scream. I didn’t. I simply said we’d just spent a couple of hours getting there through the worst possible traffic and I wasn’t leaving without my prescription.
I got my prescription.
We took Route 20 home, which means we got home. Otherwise, we’d most likely still be out there, in our car. On the road. Dehydrated. Demoralized. Depressed. Dying of starvation and probably snapping at each other for want of anyone else to blame for our own gross miscalculation in planning to drive in and out of Boston on a Friday afternoon in the summertime.
For all the years I commuted, with a daily deadline requiring getting there, though hell or high water. For all the years I dragged my reluctant carcass out in the morning to plow through traffic to meet a deadline that was not a deadline, but a lost hope. Because the product or project had long since gone off the rails but no one had told me, this experience was a ghastly reminder.
Did I work better under pressure? No. I worked regardless of pressure. Really, I worked best with encouragement, resources, and sufficient time to do the job properly. When those conditions could no longer be met, I worked less and less well until finally, I could not work at all.
I doubt anyone works “better” under pressure. Just some people deal with it and others break down.
Modern management has a lot to learn about how to get the best from their workers. They don’t seem to be learning.