Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Storm of the century? BFD!

Blizzard! Danger, Will Robinson! Oh, all right: It's still just a blizzard warning, but I like to get a jumpstart on overreacting. The weather liars have been trumpeting THE STORM OF THE CENTURY since Sunday, so naturally, everyone's running around freaked out. Kevin said that last night at work, every customer immediately asked, after walking in the door, "Do you still have milk??" What the hell is it about imminent snowstorms that makes people flock in Pavlovian droves to the store to buy up all the milk, bread, and eggs? Do they develop a craving for French toast when it snows? As it turns out, W@lgreen's was indeed the last place in town to have milk stocked. Both the grocery and W@l-Mart were out. That's a LOT of milk, folks. Mayberry-ites must have the strongest bones in the Midwest.

Daniel and I started checking school closings last night, but of course this stupid school district can't plan ahead and put out an early notice. No, every school district surrounding this one had posted a closed notice last night, but not Mayberry. I guess having strong bones means you can withstand a trip to school through a foot of snow and gale-force winds. Kevin had to get up early because he's on the day shift today, so I got up with him and flipped channels impatiently to get to Mayberry's spot in the endless list of alphabetical entries. Daniel's school did close (yay!), but while I was waiting, I noticed that preschools and day care centers have the oddest names these days, especially church-affiliated schools. Among others, I noticed God's Treasures, Tomorrow's Hope (because the children ARE our future), and Lit-O-Lamb Preschool. The strangest, by far, was Excellent in Flight Daycare. What the . . . ? I'm picturing tots in aviator goggles and flight suits toddling around. Remind me to get a good look at the pilot the next time I fly out of Indianapolis, would you?


Last night, my editor pal Jill called. Like me, she's a freelance editor and works for most of the same clients; for years, we saw each other's names pop up on e-mails and pub schedules, but had never talked. A couple of years ago, we wound up working on a set of companion textbooks and quickly became phone buddies. We e-mail and call every few weeks and often have delightful bitching sessions about frustrating authors, stupid copyeditors who don't know a comma from a semicolon, Hitler-esque production staff, and other topics that would bore non-editors to tears, I'm sure.

I've wondered a few times if we'd be friends if we weren't in the same field of work. Jill lives way out in the country, about 50 miles outside Phoenix, and spends her spare time riding dirt bikes and motorcycles. I'd feel isolated in that environment, and I fall over if I just see a PICTURE of anything motorized on two wheels. She's almost frighteningly blunt and straightforward, whereas I avoid confrontation and unpleasantness as though they're the main causes of cancer. She considers children an alien lifeform, and I . . . well, sometimes I can see her point. Heh.

Anyway, we're very different, but on anything related to editing, we connect like nobody's business. She called last night to warn me an unpleasant project might be coming my way; she had turned it down and suspected it would be offered to me next. Then we started talking about a nightmare project she's working on: a series of books for the new Office products coming out for the Vista update. A team of authors, editors, and product managers are working on the series, and except for Jill, sound like the most anal-retentive bunch you can imagine. In addition to weekly conference calls for the editors, the style guide is updated two or three times a WEEK (highly unusual) and is up to 86 pages. That's crazy. You simply can't work with a style guide that long. The worst part is that the authors, who have worked together on this series for the past 15 years, have a ton of style rules that exist only in their heads, as Jill keeps discovering. She'll make a correction only to be told "Oh, we don't do it that way." Jill then consults the style guide and can't find that rule. When she asks, they just say "Well, it's not in there, but that's the way we've always done it." Yikes.

Last week, Jill was on a conference call with the entire team, including the head honcho who started this series. (I can't say the name of the series, but it's a major one used in almost every college.) Head Honcho and the author team were arguing about some minor point, so Jill took that opportunity to doze a little while clutching the phone to her ear. Suddenly, she heard Head Honcho snap "Oh, BFD! I really don't care." She jerked awake, thinking "Did I really just hear this guy say 'BFD' on a conference call, or did I dream it?" BFD. Can you believe it? It's unprofessional, to say the least, but what a juvenile expression! I don't think I've heard "BFD" since sixth grade. We had a good laugh about it, but I told Jill she should have asked politely what "BFD" stands for, pointing out innocently that the acronym isn't on the style guide anywhere.


I just took this picture out my front door. You can't tell, but the wind is blowing so hard the snow is coming down sideways. Not much accumulation yet, however. Looking at this photo, I'm afraid I'd have to say "BFD!" Hee.