Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Deadline

"The deadline is approaching, have you written anything?" inquired my editor over the phone.
"And what deadline was that?" was my counter response as I frantically searched for the missing design specification documents on my desk.
"My dear fellow you tend to forget everything. I am surprised that you even remember who you are.."
"Well I've these few hundred business cards with my name on it or at least I think it is my name", I countered facetiously. "What was it that I was supposed to remember?"
A silence over the phone line told me that either the line was disconnected or my editor was having a silent heart attack.
"The deadline for the magazine article, that you promised you would hand in by the end of last week"
"Ah! You mean that deadline" I replied as I frantically racked my brain for excuses to offer. Hmm the dog ate my article, but I probably need to buy a dog first to corroborate that one. Or how about I have been having a problem with mice lately - which was not entirely incorrect considering the number of electronic rodents that my computer was going through. Maybe I could blame my kids, they would probably blame me for something when they grew up, so how about I got a headstart on them instead. But before I could dream further I was awakened by the spluttering noises coming from the phone. It sounded like the poor chap was having seizures of some sort.
"So what do you think I should write about" I said keeping it nice and conversational.
Something informative, something about two columns long - that was the gist of the conversation. A tough ask but someone had to do it. For an older audience too, darn it that eliminated the "A for Apple" scenario so cunningly envisioned for the younger readers. Informative, now that's a word, gives me license to cover a vast number of topics. Easy enough to find redundant facts and get them printed. A quick search on the internet was enough to gather the information. Maybe that deadline could still be met. Half an hour later and the article was winging its way towards my editor. So when I got the call from him soon after I was looking forward to hear the superlatives.
"Please, there is no need to thank me, though I know you must have been impressed"
"What's this?", was the terse reply.
"Information, facts, everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask".
The deep breathing over the phone told me that the man was obviously getting emotional again. Must have be overwhelmed by the beauty of my prose.
"I'd just like to read to you what you have just sent me"
"Please I was just doing what you had asked for - information. Just plainly presented in a clear and concise manner."
"Well this is what it says and I quote 'There are no wild deer of any kind in Australia, and the small red deer is the only one found in Africa..."
"True", I interrupted, " and I was really proud about that red deer fact. I don't think too many people know that one".
"Let me continue with what you sent and I quote 'There are some 50 different species of sea snakes, and all of them are venomous. They thrive in abundance along the coast from the Persian Gulf to Japan and around Australia and Melanesia. Their venom is ten times as virulent as that of the cobra. Humans bitten by them have died within two-and-a-half hours..."
"Pretty scary huh? And informative".
"You further write 'The black swan is the only species of swan to be indigenous to Australia. The black swan can be found in all of AustraliaÂ’s states.'"
"You think I can write about the Sydney Swans, get it Sydney Swans..".
"Continuing with this thing that you have submitted 'the burrowing boodie of Australia is the only kangaroo in the world that lives underground.
The emu is AustraliaÂ’s largest bird at a height of 7 feet tall. It canÂ’t fly, but it can swim and has the ability to run up to 40 miles per hour.
The dingo is a wild dog living in Australia. They were brought to the continent by the Aboriginals and are thought to be pests because they attack farm animals.
The dingo, a wild dog of Australia, plays dead when threatened by attackers. It can endure being beaten mercilessly for a long period of time before it seizes an opportunity to escape.
The duckbill platypus of Australia can store up to 600 worms in its large cheek pouches.
Australia's box jelly is the world's most dangerous jellyfish. Its toxin is more potent than cobra venom and can kill a person in minutes.' end quote".
"You know you missed the one about the Koala Sanctuary", I said, "I still have the facts with me. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary opened in 1927 in Brisbane, Australia, and it was the first, and is still the largest, koala sanctuary in the world. Tourists can cuddle one of 130 koalas, hand feed kangaroos and emus, and see a large variety of Australian native wildlife in the 50-acre sanctuary, such as wombats, Tasmanian devils, and dingoes. Koala cuddling has been banned in New South Wales since 1997, but cuddling is still permitted in Queensland, and especially at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. In Queensland, koalas can only be cuddled for less than 30 minutes per day. They must also get every fourth day off. At Lone Pine, koalas are timed for "clock on" and "clock off" when they go to the koala cuddling area."
Something told me that he wasn't really listening. "Are you there?", I asked.
"I am. And I have good news and bad news for you today".
"Bring it on, what about the good news first"
"The good news is that you will never be missing a deadline for us again."
"And the bad news?"
"You are not writing for us - ever again" as the phone line got disconnected.
That actually sounded like good news and good news to me. And if anyone is in the market for Aussie trivia just ask them to give me a call.

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