Back in my Old Life, people had a habit of panicking whenever I wasn't around for any length of time. Like, any length of time. Ten minutes could be enough to set certain folk off. They'd phone a couple of times, then follow up with an email when I didn't pick up, then get my out of office response and rather than just wait the hour for my dentist appointment or whatever to wrap up, they'd start calling up other people and getting them involved in the problem. So I'd come back to three phone messages, an email saying I had three phone messages, and five people who didn't know how to solve the problem running around trying to help. It would invariably take ten times longer to delete the messages, talk everyone down from the ledge, and untangle the ensuing mess of having all those extra cooks in the kitchen - none of whom had been given the recipe - than it took to deal with the original issue.
I'm just gonna come right out and say it: my specialty is vegetation. Vegetation. Frankly, it's generally not all that pressing. I know this; you know this; why the hell didn't they know this? One of life's enduring mysteries. I've started thinking of the Vegetation Emergency as a recent entry into the long list of cryptids that humanity just can't seem to shake its belief in. I picture it being green and leafy and vaguely humanoid, shaking hands with Ogopogo and Sasquatch as they welcome it into the fold: "Hey, man, good to meet you. You really caused a stir out there today - nicely done."
I started setting my out of office response to read, "If you are suffering a Vegetation Emergency, please contact (so-and-so) for assistance. Otherwise, I will address your request when I return from the fricking dentist in thirty minutes so keep your panties on already."
(Okay, so those last thirteen words are pure fantasy, but I dearly wished from the bottom of my withered little heart that I could say them.) Not that deploying this clever message changed anything, mind you, but it did make me feel a little better to passive-aggressively point out that there is no such thing as a Vegetation Emergency. (Medium Fry asked me for an example of an oxymoron yesterday and that is precisely the example I gave her. True story.)
So fast forward to my New Life, and you can imagine my surprise when my good friend - let's call her The Boss - called me up one day as I was heading back to site after vacation and said, "Hey, I need you stop at (such-and-such) Creek on your way in. They're having a Vegetation Emergency out there."
... "No. They're not."
"You know better: there's no such thing."
"Well, they think they are anyway. Can you stop in?"
(I should mention at this point that I was on a pants strike at the time of this conversation - it was just too damn hot for pants for the duration of my vacation, and I wasn't quite back to work yet, sooo...)
"Um, I'm not exactly dressed for the occasion."
"Don't worry about it. Just go help them out."
"Seriously. I'm wearing a skirt."
"Haha, Wes won't mind. Tell him I said it was alright by me."
"Okay, Boss. Whatever you say. Tell him I'm on my way."
Oh well, I thought, it'll just be Wes and maybe a couple of his helpers. I'll just pop in and pop out and no one will even know about this major safety violation and wildly inappropriate pipeline right-of-way fashion faux pas...
And this is how it came to be that I found myself on right-of-way, in a skirt and some token safety goggles, stopping dead the activities of no fewer than eleven pipeline construction workers. A trackhoe slowly creaked to a halt, mid-scoop. Three fellows who were hand-bombing some erosion berms put down their shovels and stared. The construction foreman and inspector looked up from their conversation and grinned and waved. I died a little inside.
(I should also mention that there aren't a lot of women around your typical construction spread. And none of them are wearing skirts.)
(weakly) "Uh, Boss told me you guys are having a, um, vegetation *gag* emergency?"
"Oh, yep, yep, right over here, we don't know what to do about this."
"Y'know, I was just driving back from vacation - I wouldn't normally wear - it's just that Boss said..."
"Oh, no, haha, it's great, just great. Man, this is the best thing we've seen all year! Thanks for coming out. Like, really, thanks. You're gonna be famous now."
Wouldn't you know, it turned out not to be a Vegetation Emergency after all, yet that fantastical creature still managed to follow me all the way from my Old Life to rise from the depths of someone's imagination in the middle of Saskatchewan and bite me in the ass again. Amazing.