Sunday, December 18, 2005

Oh, I'm stressed

Date: Dec. 18
Mileage: 43
December mileage: 273.8
Temperature upon departure: 39

Today's ride was sponsored in part by my good friend, Jen, who is currently freezing her ski tips off in Alta, Utah. Jen is the bomb. This picture of a "b'eagle" kick'n it atop Salty Dawg also is for her. Go B'Alaska!

I get the sense from some of the e-mails and comments I get that many believe I live a charmed life up here in the not-so-frozen north. And I do, really - the scenery, the strange encounters, the wildlife, the biking. I love it and that's what I write about. But I still have my desk-jockey alter ego to contend with, and she is having a hard time sitting out this Sunday, knowing that when Monday comes there will be so, so much to do.

I don't typically get the Sunday blues, but this week before Christmas is going to be tough. The phrase "I'm going to be so busy this week" is pretty vague, and doesn't really get to the heart of what most of us do in our off (i.e. non-biking) time.

I'm a journalist ... a small-town journalist. I work for a weekly community newspaper. Weeklies are nearly universal in their penchant of hiring ridiculously small staffs to multitask (i.e. stumble) through each issue, and I was hired to multitask that multitasking. I sometimes write in my blog about my work as an arts and entertainment reporter. Despite the fact that I usually write between 3 and 5 articles a week, reporting is only a small part of what I actually do. What makes my job a job is my work as a production editor. I am the person who each week takes a random jumble of ads, photos and haphazardly-written stories, throws them on a computer, shakes them around a bit, and hopes beyond hope that a coherent and even well-designed newspaper comes out. Sometimes, I find a nice flow. But most weeks, I feel like I am staring down a 5,000-piece puzzle with a 2 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

It's especially hard this week because my boss has been laying on a beach in Hawaii for three weeks, and the staff shortage has finally caught up to us. The reporters already don't turn in their stories until the 13th hour, so on Friday afternoon they piled on me a couple of sickly-sweet holiday stories that I need to interview for (and write!) tomorrow. Why can't I start on them until tomorrow? Because the people I need to interview are busy enjoying their holiday, and won't be available until then. So, basically, tomorrow will be like trying to put together a 5,000-piece puzzle while talking on the phone, scribbling madly on a notepad and piecing together a couple of 600-word articles. Then on Tuesday I'm supposed to edit it all. Well, if a four-letter-word is accidentally dropped into the copy somewhere and makes it to press, don't blame me. (I'm just kidding, Carey! I don't think my boss reads my blog ... but you can't be to careful.

OK. I'm done ranting. But everyone needs a chance to vent once in a while. One of the reasons I went on a 43-mile bike ride today was to work out some of that anxiety. I think I'm feeling better now. I usually am able to deal pretty well with stress. In this profession, you really have to be. No matter what size of publication we work at, journalists live and die by deadlines, low salaries and public scrutiny. So most of us become either a.) a person who actually thrives in stress situations and becomes more productive (or crazy) in the process. Or, b.) a person who dies of multiple ulcerations of the stomach at 41. Every once in a while I worry I might become that second person. Then I remember - "oh yeah. I'm signing up to ride 100 miles over ice on my bicycle, by choice." That makes me feel much better.