Presenting Craig Cardimon’s Deadline from Hell for Tech Writer Halloween Horror Stories Week. This week’s Halloween stories are celebrating Halloween and the terrifying things that happen to technical communicators.
As my manager, Diane, was passing by on a Monday morning, she stuck her head in my cube to ask if I would document an interface. I said sure, remembering to ask who my point of contact was. She replied, “I am. I’ll send you the info.”
I continued working on my current task, expecting the email to pop in at any moment. Nothing happened, but my manager was very busy in meetings. She would shoot me an email when she could.
Tuesday rolled around. I was hammering away on my current project when my manager stopped in. “Remember that UI I mentioned the other day?” she asked. I nodded, hoping I was about the get the info I needed to start working.
“The deadline has been pushed up,” she said. “Could you have the users guide ready by close of business today, around 5:30 PM? I promised our clients they’d have something in their hands.”
Again, I nodded. “Sure, maybe. I’ll see what I can do.”
Diane was already striding down the hall to her next meeting when I called out to her. “Diane, I don’t have any materials yet. I still need access to the interface.”
Her tone would normally would send me scurrying for cover. Five minutes after she took her seat, I knocked on her door. She barely glanced up, saying, “Can this wait? I’m swamped!”
“About the user guide to the new interface…” I began. I didn’t get far.
“Great! “ Diane interrupted, “It is done yet?” She looked truly hopeful.
“No,” I shook my head.
She leaned back and folded her arms. “What’s the problem?” asked Diane through pursed lips.
“Um…I never got the info,” I said.
“What?!” she gasped. “It’s already 11 am. It’s due in six hours!”
“I realize that,” I said quietly. “I never got the material.”
“Who’s your point of contact,” she demanded. “I’ll call them right now. This is due.”
“You said *you* were my POC on this.”
“Damn it!” she said, looked angry and frustrated. She shuffled through the mountains of folders on her desk and shoved one at me.
“Here,” she said, thrusting it toward my head like a dagger jab.
“Do we have this in electronic format, Word, PDF, anything?” I asked.
“No, we don’t,” Diane growled. “If I did, I don’t have time to find it.”
“You’re a writer, aren’t you?” She challenged, her eyes glinting. “So just type it in.”
“Get cracking,” she ordered loudly. “I’ll try to get *you* an extension.”
Diane said this as though it were *my* fault and dismissed me with a curt wave of her hand.
I spent the rest of the day killing myself, hammering in copy by hand.
I skipped lunch. Again.
One of the developers gave me access to the UI. I grabbed as many screen caps as I could in the time given.
I had the rough draft punched into shape by 5 PM and published. I emailed it to my manager.
I was on time! I made the deadline!
Feeling rather proud at having beaten a deadline under somewhat difficult circumstances, I stopped by Diane’s office to make sure she realized I completed the project.
I knocked on her door and poked my head in. She was eating a late lunch, which was more than I had.
She didn’t bother looking up from her hot take-away food as she said, “Haven’t you heard? The UI was pushed back one month.”
My jaw fell to the floor. I hit the bull’s-eye, but someone moved the target.
Sighing, I slumped away from the door like a traveler who barely made his flight, but then discovered he was on the wrong plane.
“Jeez,” she yelled after me. “Try to stay in the loop next time, would you?!”