Premier’s right, that’s why my desk is tidy

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Rick Ma­cLean Rick Ma­cLean is an in­struc­tor in the jour­nal­ism pro­gram at Hol­land Col­lege in Char­lot­te­town.

I smiled when I read the premier com­ment in his year-end in­ter­view.

“The No. 1 chal­lenge is the pass­ing of time.”

Maybe that ex­plains the way I am. I hate wast­ing time.

True story: The man walked in, sat down, and stared.

“Is there some­thing wrong?” I asked.

“This IS a news­pa­per editor’s of­fice, isn’t it?” Odd ques­tion, I thought. “Yes, why?” “It’s so TIDY.” (And yes, he spoke with cap­i­tal let­ters.) I smiled. It was true. One of my re­porters earned the ire of my pub­lisher one day when he walked by and saw the ar­chive of old re­ports, news­pa­pers, note­books and un­washed coffee cups on her desk.

“She needs to clean up that mess,” he boomed.

Be­fore he quit smok­ing – three packs a day, one smoke lit in his hands, an­other smoul­der­ing in his ash­tray, two packs un­opened in his shirt pocket – he hadn’t been so tidy. “Can’t do it,” I said. He stared. “She knows where ev­ery­thing is and I can’t risk her los­ing some­thing.”

“Humph,” he replied and moved on.

Her desk was note­wor­thy for its pile, but a messy desk is nor­mal in any news­room I’ve ever worked in. Re­porters are pack rats. You never know when some­thing will be use­ful.

Nor­mal for ev­ery­one, ex­cept me.

The day my vis­i­tor stared at my desk it was empty. Not a stray bit of pa­per to be found. It’s dif­fi­cult to ex­plain, but I’ve al­ways been a me­thod­i­cal per­son. I want to get things done, then move on. Pa­per on my desk means jobs un­done.

When I was in high school and wanted a 10-speed bi­cy­cle, I started sav­ing $11 a week from my job pump­ing gas. Not $10, not $12. Why? Be­cause it was 10 weeks to the spring and the bike cost $110 at Sears, taxes in­cluded. Ten weeks, $11 a week, you get the pic­ture.

I de­cided in 1999 to do an Iron­man-length triathlon – I’d never done a triathlon of any length be­fore. It started with a swim of 3.86 kilo­me­tres, then a bike of 180.25 km, end­ing with a marathon run of 42.2 km. I bought a book on how to train for the event.

“Ex­pect to train about 20 hours a week,” it said.

It was 11 and a half months to race day the fol­low­ing Oc­to­ber in Florida. I started cy­cling in­doors on a trainer, build­ing up to three hours at a time. The swims started in the pool, in­creas­ing un­til I could do 149 lengths at a time, not 150, as 149 was 3.86 kilo­me­tres.

By the sum­mer I was out­side, swim­ming back and forth across the river when the tide was slack. I called my wife one morn­ing just af­ter 7 a.m.

“I just fin­ished my swim,” said, fig­ur­ing she’d worry.

“I thought you’d just gone to the bath­room.”

A friend heard I was train­ing for the race.

“How long will it’ll take you to do the whole thing,” he asked.

I ap­pre­ci­ated his con­fi­dence. He didn’t ask me if I thought I could fin­ish.

“Fif­teen hours and 55 min­utes.”

He smiled. I fin­ished in 16 hours, one minute and 34 sec­onds. I had a cramp 50 kilo­me­tres into the bike that slowed me down.

Oh and this col­umn is sup­posed to be 550 words long. It is.


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