Just now, while I was trying to figure out a way to describe the actual amount of loathing I feel sometimes when deadline approaches, I decided to go with the following analogy.*
I work at a weekly paper, and I feel pretty comfortable comparing the office to the African plains because of the boiling heat that seems to radiate throughout the newsroom on a daily basis.
Deadline is a lion, and I am a wildebeest.**
When a new issue of the paper comes out each Wednesday, the lion begins a new hunt. It lies in wait for the unsuspecting wildebeest, planning to pounce when the time is right.
On Thursday, it begins to walk slowly among the reeds as the wildebeest prepares for a new journey to find another source of life-giving water (a paycheck, if you’re trying to keep up with the reality in the metaphor), since the one he stumbled upon two weeks ago has dried up beneath the unyielding sun.
On Friday, the lion begins to tail the wildebeest, careful to stay far enough away not to be noticed.
Each weekend the lion slumps into the tall grass and stalks the wildebeest. Silently, it creeps ever closer.
On Monday, almost predictably, the lion makes a mistake. It makes one too many sudden moves and splinters a fallen limb.
Immediately, the wildebeest’s neck snaps to attention and his eyes widen in terror as he stares the lion right in the face.
Time is running out for the wildebeest, a fact of which he is all too aware. He has no time to waste so he begins to run as fast as his four legs can carry him. His eyes grow wider with each stride as they scan the barren landscape ahead for any sign of shelter or escape.
The lion, who burst into a full dash as soon as he realized he had been seen, is relentless.
He’s gaining, and the wildebeest can hear his paws thumping the ground more rapidly with each passing moment.
By Monday evening, the lion is in full pursuit and the wildebeest can’t afford to rest.
He runs through the night without sleep.
Tuesday dawns, and he continues to sprint for his life as the sun rises above the horizon.
Tuesday afternoon brings the feeling of the lion’s sour breath on his neck.
Suddenly, however, the lion is no more. The chase began quickly, and it ended just as fast.
The weary wildebeest spots a new water source, and collapses in relief on Tuesday night. He awakens Wednesday morning, and the chase seems like nothing more than a distant memory.
The wildebeest knows another chase will begin again soon, but, for now, he is content to rest by the sparkling water and drink in a new day.
* Believe you me, the wildebeest analogy fell far short of the actual amount of loathing I have for deadline day.
** A wildebeest, for those who may not know, is a kind of antelope and it mostly lives on the African plains. Simba ran from a herd of them during the stampede in “The Lion King,” and they trampled Mufasa after Scar let him fall from the rock while the herd was fleeing from Whoopi the hyena.