My Very First Breakdown

Some of you will be surprized that I ever break down at all. Back in drumcorps (in Northern Aurora, anyway), they used to say I was a rock. But everyone has his or her breaking point. I reached mine on Wednesday.

I came to work Wednesday morning feeling generally sick. Sore throat, dry eyes, headachy, nausated, mild fever (I think). But I didn’t even consider not going. I wasn’t puking, and I could walk, so off I went. (Note: Monday was a 12-hour day. Tuesday was a 10-hour day. I was expecting things to let up just a little…) Of course, oodles of mail came in — three full mail tubs full. (Two is a light day, and four makes you want to give up and camp out on the floor and just work all night.) But I plugged away, all day, feeling like shit. Loni left at 5:00 to get her hair permed, and Rama and I continued to plug away. Andrew, our Team Leader, jumped on Loni’s machine after she left and started processing work over there. Aaron called around 6:30pm to let me know that work let him go home early, and I told him I’d be home in about 45 minutes. Still felt like crap, but I was looking forward to seeing Aaron soon.

Now, there are two phases of the processing that we’re responsible for: (1) entering payment information into the computer and printing reports for clients, and (2) encoding checks and preparing the client’s deposit for Item Processing, where the actual banking magic happens. (You know the line of numbers on the bottom of your checks? Well, after you write a check, someone at the bank encodes the amount of your check on the bottom right-hand corner of the check. Look at your cancelled checks online sometime, and you’ll see.) We got to a point in processing where Rama and Andrew were processing the last account, so I started encoding their checks from previous accounts. And, in the middle of encoding one deposit, my computer told me to change my encoder ribbon. *sigh* Annoying, but only mildly so. Changed ribbons, continued being highly productive. Only half an hour to go.

Or so I thought.

Justin from IP (Item Processing) came and picked up the about 1200 checks we had processed and encoded and took them back to work their magic on. They use the encoding we put on the checks (and they encode other checks from other places, too, like banking centers) to debit each checking account for the encoded amount. Hence, your check gets "cashed." Anyway, I continued to encode.

About two deposits (of 300 checks each) later, I saw something bad. Very bad. The encoding wasn’t right. The bottom third of the numbers weren’t printing correctly. This is bad, because the machines in IP are automated, and read the MICR line to enter the info into their system. If the numbers aren’t printed right, the machines can’t read them. At all. When I had changed the ribbon on my encoder, a little piece of plastic in the new ribbon had been defective. I should have checked the encoding sooner, but I didn’t. It was my fault, but it wasn’t. I almost swore aloud when I realized what had happened. But I kept my cool, got out the box of white stickers, and began putting blank stickers over the encoding for over 500 checks. Called Aaron to let him know I’d be later than I thought.

After all the checks were stickered up, and I’d fixed my encoder, I began encoding again. But this time, the machine I work on made me do it differently. Usually, the machine encodes by showing you the amount that is to be encoded. If it’s right, you hit enter, and it goes. On to the next check. After it’s encoded once, though, you can’t go back and do it that way again. You have to do it the hard way, which is to enter each check amount manually on the computer, then hit enter. This relies on your being able to read the checkwriter’s handwriting. So, of course, once I reached the end of the first deposit, I found I had misread one check and I was off by 60 cents. So, I had to compare the calculator tapes to the amounts I’d encoded. (If you’re not following, it’s not all that important. Suffice to say everything was going wrong at 8:00 at night.)

Cue Justin from IP. He came in with two more deposits that he’d taken back earlier, and said, "I can’t run these."

Without even turning from my computer, I snapped (a little too sharply), "Which ones did I miss?" At which point I turned to see two full deposits in his hands.

I saw them, and I knew I was fucked. I could feel the tears starting in my throat. He left, I went back to trying to find my encoding error, and something just snapped. Finally, abruptly, I turned away from my co-workers, put my elbows on the desk and my head in my hands and cried, "I’m tired and I’m sick and I just want to go home!" And, embarrassingly enough, I started to cry.

This seemed to weird out my supervisor, who said, "OK. Go home."

I answered in my best teeny weepy cute voice, "Really? I can go home?"

He said yes, and asked if I had found my encoding error, and asked what else is left to re-encode. I wiped my eyes, handed him the checks, apologized, and went home. Aaron had Hamburger Helper ready for me, and I laid down on the couch and watched TV with my Honey-Muffin and took aspirin and went to bed.

And that’s the story of My Very First Breakdown. The End.