The following e-mail conversation is real. It took place between a Legal Underground reader and its editor, Evan Schaeffer. Due to the quick advice that was dispatched from Legal Underground headquarters, the victim lived to bill time another day, but just barely.—Ed.
Dear Mr. Schaeffer:
Two hours ago I was sitting in my office and heard a huge explosion like a freight train and then the windows blew out and the ceiling caved in. I’m still breathing but not very well, and I need help fast. I’m trapped underneath my desk and I think my legs are broken. All I feel is a lot of weight pinning me down. It’s probably the back part of my desk plus some boxes of documents from that Johnson file I’ve been working on all month. As far as I can tell there’s no blood, but everything around me is very dark except for a little light from my laptop which is under my desk with me.
My purse and my cellphone are both out of reach. I’ve got an iPod but I really don’t think it’s a good time for music. The one bit of good news is that I hear people talking just outside my door, which means someone’s out there saving lives. Unfortunately, no one’s saving mine, which makes me think they must be saving the partners first. I’m just an associate. Sorry to sound bitter, but this tragedy has me wondering why I ever agreed to work at this stupid law firm in the first place.
I hope you can get word to someone that I need to be rescued. If you’re wondering where I work, I’m at the firm you wrote about in last week’s advice column, the one that's being targeted by meteorites. I guess that explains what happened to me—it must have been another meteorite.
I swear I’m getting all teary-eyed just thinking about it. Why me? There’s so much I wanted to do with my life. And if I die, who’s going feed my fish?
Signed, Only-Minutes-Left-to-Live in Los Angeles
Since I agree it would be terrible if you died, I’m going to do everything I can to come up with a plan to save you. While I’m getting it together, however—I just checked and your firm's phones are out—let me take a moment to congratulate you for serving as a perfect metaphor for the plight of young associates everywhere. Even if you do end up dying underneath your desk, I think you’ll live on in your story: the story, that is, of how your firm has made you feel so lonely, so cut off from the rest of humanity, so trapped down by the weight of your work that you have no one to turn to but a more-or-less unknown weblog author. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but one with a lesson for all young associates.
The lesson, I think, lies in the manner in which I propose to save you. It’s going to seem very “out there,” but bear with me. First, you’re going to have to learn to relax. How can you relax at a time like this? One detail of your story was wrong: it’s a very good time for music. See that iPod? Turn it on. Choose some music that makes you think “happy thoughts”: thoughts about a beach or a ski resort, for example, or anything you want as long as it’s not the law firm. Now spend a little time thinking about the ways you’re going to escape the law firm—escape it both literally, by getting your broken legs out from underneath your desk, and figuratively, by using the creative powers of your mind to take you far, far away even though you’re still smack in the middle of the firm. You can even use your computer if you want. Just open your word processor and make a list: “New hobbies that will make me feel more like a person and less like a cog in someone else’s machine.” If your list begins to look like a poem, don’t worry—write a poem. It’s time to be creative. Nothing’s holding you back.
At this point, you’re halfway to being rescued. Even with the pain of two broken legs, I bet you’re already feeling more hopeful, more optimistic, more energetic. Which brings me to the last step in my rescue plan: Take a deep breath, count to three, and scream your fucking head off. I guarantee you’ll be rescued in no time.
Your friend, Evan Schaeffer
1. Advice to Law Firm Partners #6 (Meteorites!)
2. The "Advice" Category--all previous advice posts