Several years ago, I was contacted by an old university acquaintance, panicked and asking for a favour … which she then followed up by asking for another.
Acquaintance asks me proof-read her university degree thesis days before submission, offering to pay. I pull nearly an all-nighter to do so.
Acquaintance pays me with money and dessert … then asks if I could proof-read this manuscript she just happened to write while working and finishing her second university degree — again, for pay.
I hem, haw, say yes … but don’t actually receive the manuscript for a year.
I read it (not that great) and finish proof-reading it three months later. I try emailing and calling her to make arrangements to return her manuscript to her.
What I get in return is radio silence. For 19 months.
Because Acquaintance never responds to my emails, her manuscript takes up room on my side-table, collecting dust.
A person with far less tolerance probably would’ve cut her losses and tossed that stack of paper in the recycling bin. But, for some reason, I have this (perhaps unreasonable) sense of responsibility for looking after another person’s intellectual property – no matter how lousy.
Here’s the rest of the story, which I never got around to posting:
Several days after writing a post (see link above) asking writer friends for advice on what to do with the manuscript, she finally emails me with a message that essentially begins, “Thanks for emailing me. You’re very persistent … ”
Which is (1) some bullshit, and (2) not getting me any closer to returning her stack of crap.
Three days after that post – I’m resigning myself to the fact she’s ghosted and not coming back for her work – my dad has a massive heart attack (on Valentine’s Day, no less) and dies four days later.
Now that our family has a stressful four days to arrange my dad’s funeral, I send her one more email — conveying that I’m out of time to spend, I no longer care about the pay, and I’m moving in two months, so send a mailing address.
Hours later, I get an email.
We meet in person, she pays me for the work (and perhaps a bit extra? I don’t remember), we exchange words (apparently she was busy with work and settling the affairs of her own late father, who died about a year and a half before mine), and we part ways.
Later that evening, I log onto Facebook and defriend her.
I don’t share this story to generate pity (the fact that death finally ended this ridiculous episode was truly bizarre) but as an anecdote that’s served a dual purpose:
(1) It reminds me what NOT to do, should I ever end up writing my own manuscript, and decide to turn to my friends for their skills, sharp editing eyes and – most importantly – their precious, precious time: don’t treat it like crap.
(2) It’s actually lodged a possible idea for a short story in my brain … we’ll see if I can actually flesh out something remotely plausible.
It’s a lesson learned. It provided a silver lining.
But if I can help it, I’ll never deal with that woman again.