Post-It Note of Anger

August 4th, 2007

Lately (say, the last year or so), I’ve been noticing something really odd that I do.

I work night shifts. Part of that means that I’ve got long, long stretches of time with not much to do. I spend it browsing the net, or studying. Sometimes, during that time, something will annoy me. I’ll have some bug that crashes an application. Or I’ll find out that some website won’t work if viewed from outside the US. Or I’ll realize I ordered dinner, forgetting that I brought a sandwhich. All things which would annoy anyone, to some extent or another.

But then I get a phone call or an email or something else that puts me to work, and I’m busy for 30 minutes or an hour. And the whole time, the annoyance/anger is there, but I’m too busy to notice it.

Then, when I’m done with my work, I realize that I’m angry about something, but I can’t remember what.

The anger doesn’t disappear when I get distracted by work. The anger doesn’t lessen over time. It just sits there, at a low level (if I’m really angry about something, I don’t forget why so easily, so it’s only the little issues that sit there forgotten). And I’ll stay angry until I remember what the heck I was angry about. It’s like my anger is on hold on speakerphone the whole time.

For example, imagine that I stub my toe. Hurts like hell for maybe 20 seconds, then I’m fine and happy again.

Now, imagine I get a phone call 5 seconds after I stub my toe. I get to work, and an hour later I’ve taken care of work. Now I realize that, for some reason, I’m pissed off. I try to remember why, but I can’t. But that doesn’t help. An hour later (mildly angry the whole time), I remember stubbing my toe, and 15 seconds later I’m no longer angry.

Now, let’s look at another example: some software keeps throwing up bugs, and I’m trying to troubleshoot it. Phone rings, get busy for a while. Finish work – still angry. After a while, realize that it was due to the buggy software. I continue troubleshooting where I left off, and when the bug gets fixed, I’m no longer angry.

So the anger is like a post-it note. It sits there on the fridge, and I keep seeing it out of the corner of my eye, knowing that it’s something I have to take care of. That makes me eventually get up and read the note. Sometimes it’s something that doesn’t apply any more, so I toss the note. Sometimes it’s something I have to take care of, so I do it.

It just really sucks some days when something annoys me at the start of the night shift and I can’t remember what it was until I’m on my way home. Imagine being marginally annoyed for 13 hours and then finding out that it was because the coffee you bought half a day ago was lukewarm.

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