Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Forty-Four Seconds: An Annoying Disaster and Possible Blessing from a Master Teacher

One of the things I really love about the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the emphasis on meaningful prayer to help us in our daily walk. We are taught to pray morning and night by ourselves and to pray with our families also. A husband and wife are taught to have a prayer together as a couple daily. We are taught to discuss our lives and our decisions with the Lord and to listen to the Spirit to seek guidance and personal revelation. We are taught to pray for deliverance from temptation and to constantly strive to repent and draw closer to the Lord. We are taught that God is a loving Father, indeed, the Father of our spirits (see Hebrews 12:9; see also Acts 17:28-29), and that He will listen and answer (though the answer may be "No," "Not yet," or, rather often in my case, "What on earth were you thinking?"). Apart from the blessings of divine intervention and revelation that can occur when God wills, daily prayer brings clear and obvious benefits just from helping us to refocus and to consider our standing before God and our relationships with others. Family prayer or prayer together as a couple helps strengthen relationships and bring unity. I suppose it would make sense even if there was not a God, but there most certainly is and prayer to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ is one of the most vital and wonderful ways to draw closer to Him and have His blessings in our lives.

With all that, with a lifetime of teachings and experience teaching the importance of daily prayer, you would think that it would be an easy matter and that temptations to skip it would be easily overcome. Yeah, that would make sense. I hope it will be even easier after the instructive little disaster I just suffered from the conspiring hands of a Master Teacher.

Part of my day job involves working with intellectual property strategy and, for some select clients, getting into the nitty gritty of crafting patents (usually complex ones) as a US patent agent. Recently I was preparing to file a complex patent that I really wanted to file that night (didn't have to be then--was more of a self-imposed deadline with an initial priority date already in hand from a previous filing). I made some last minute improvements, verified things with the client, and prepared the documents for electronic filing with the US Patent and Trademark Office (uspto.gov). A little after 10 pm Central I began uploading my documents, with plenty of time to have them in by 11 pm (midnight in Washington) to have the filing count as being on that day. As I was going through the filing process, my wife came over and asked if I would move a box of books upstairs that we could put on the porch to give to a local thrift shop. "I'm a bit stressed right now," I said as I stared at my laptop. "I'll take care of that when I get this filing done." Then a few minutes later she came by again. "I'm going to bed. Would you like to have a prayer?" Again, I was zoned out of everything except my shrinking laptop-centric world. Hardly looking at her, I said, "I'm just about done. I'll be up in just a minute and then we can pray." Off she went. It was about 10:20 pm then and I was maybe 5 minutes away from success.

Things were looking good. I had all my documents uploaded and all the information updated and ready to submit. Now just a quick check. I clicked on one of the links showing my uploaded documents to have the PDF file displayed just to verify that the upload had gone smoothly. I clicked on the link to the Oath and Declaration and, bingo, up came--wait, what on earth? The fee calculation document was displayed. Then I clicked on the drawings link and up popped the power of attorney form. Huh? I removed some documents and uploaded them again and still had the same results. I called the USPTO help line--wonderfully, the patent help desk is well staffed and almost always able to help me get quick guidance when I have questions. I reached someone right away, and as I was identifying myself, the line dropped. I was using a landline, so it wasn't a fading cell phone signal. It was as if they just hung up on me. Huh?? I called again--same thing. And again. For the first time ever, I couldn't reach the help desk because of what looked like some bug in their phone system. OK, think, think. Ah, the problem might not be theirs but my browser. I was using Firefox. Maybe if I switched to IE I could get better results (tip: I probably could have just cleared the cache on Firefox--plus I had probably opened too many windows).

I went back into the USPTO web site, opened my saved case, checked the documents, and HURRAY! They were all properly uploaded after all and ready to submit. Whew. Still plenty of time--it was only 10:40 pm. So I submitted the case, paid the fee by credit card, and relished sweet success at last. I assembled the documents I had submitted to send to our client in an email to announce the successful filing, and then--oh no--noticed that there was one more document that I had forgot to attach in my rushing. A minor document, not one that would jeopardize the filing date of this application, but one that was still needed. No trouble, I still had plenty of time to add it to the case and have everything together on the same day (splitting some parts across that midnight boundary could result in a "notice of missing parts" and a late fee--stay away from midnight!).

So I went to the IE browser window that was currently displaying the receipt and filing information for the case I had just filed, and tried clicking on the "Attach documents" tab. No, that didn't work. It took me back to the beginning--I guess the case was no closed and I was logged off--so I had to re-enter the system. No problem, just a few seconds of delay. Then, to access the case, all I had to do was enter the serial number information and the confirmation number from the browser window that was on display . . . a few seconds ago, before I moved away and before I saved it, as I normally do. Ugh. With all this trouble, I had become distracted and forget to save information that I always instantly save. No trouble, though, the information could be retrieved. Let's see, how? I know! I'll just call the Help Desk. Reached a friendly person, started to talk, and then they hung up on me again. Oh, right. The phone problem, whatever it was. OK, think, think. Ah, I found the way to retrieve and display receipts from recently filed cases, and voila, there was the filing information I needed. No problem! Success at last. Got the data, pulled up the case, attached the final document. Verified that it had uploaded properly - yes it was there, all was good-- and then clicked submit. Success!

The confirmation for the successfully submitted document was now displayed. Finally I could relax. As I looked at, I noticed in a bold font the confirmed filing time for the document that completed my case: 00 : 00 : 44. Forty-four seconds after midnight!! So much stress, so many barriers, so many things went wrong, and at least the last part of that journey was all in vain because I could have just waited until the next day to file that document--they don't care if it's 44 seconds or 23 hours after midnight--it was still the next day. Bizarre. Frustrating. It was like I was up against some kind of conspiracy to impede my work. Why? How bizarre. How strange. How unkind.

I shook my head in frustration as I went up the stairs--and then saw two boxes of books that my wife had brought up and put by the front door. Ouch. I felt like a loser of a husband, having neglected my wife's request for help for my own vain pursuits. She had split the big box of books into two and carried them up herself, figuring I'd forget. Um, ouch.

I went into our room ready now for prayer. She was sound asleep. I had completely missed the prayer that she had wanted to have. Now I was an even bigger loser. As I looked out the window of our bathroom, reflecting on the frustrations and the conspiracy that had hindered my efforts, I looked at my own reflection and realized that I had fallen into one of my classic weaknesses, becoming too focused on my projects and missing more important needs and opportunities around me. I had failed to help my wife. I had missed prayer. And if I had only taken time to pray and to help, to put my wife and our marriage of my self-imposed deadlines and imagined urgent needs, then few moments of delay that would have caused would undoubtedly have saved me far more time than was lost. If I had taken time to pray, I am sure that I would have been more focused and not forgotten to upload one of the documents for the case. I would have been more efficient and not overloaded Firefox with dozens of open windows that probably led to the problem with the links. I would have retained the filing information right away and, if it were needed, would have had it ready to deploy. If I had taken time to pray, I think I would have had success with a completed filing by 10:25 pm. Instead, it was 44 seconds after midnight, and it might as well have been hours after midnight.

I know this sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory to some of you, but one could suspect that somebody was kind enough to pull a few strings to make everything go wrong. Failed links and failed phone systems coupled with unusual mistakes that I made in my haste (failure to upload all documents, failure to save filing information immediately) led to a 44-second disaster. Perhaps just a fluke, but I think I should accept it as a tailored blessing from Someone very kind who can also be most annoying for our good. If I will only learn from this possibly tender and tailored disaster, maybe I can better do what the Church and the scriptures have taught me to do all along: put my relationship with God and with my wife ahead of all the secular distractions this world offers, and never forget to pray.

Have you had any 44-second disasters you'd like to share?

8 comments:

Creek said...

Jeff,

I think you're being way too hard on yourself. You were simply trying to do a good job and give your client the best possible service. Your wife should understand that, and God certainly understands your intentions. Don't beat yourself up for going above and beyond the call of duty. Muslims schedule prayers five times a day and I'm sure they have 44 second moments, too!!

You could've saved your work for the next day. However, how do we know it wouldn't have interrupted something important then, too?

Like you, I've had many 44 second moments. The last one resulted in my car being totalled by a BYU student in a hurry to get home for a holiday. We can't assume things went bad for this reason or that. Sometimes it's just the way the chips fall.

Anonymous said...

Is it wrong that, as a fellow EFS-WEB user, I find this post amusing in a sick, twisted way that only one who deals with an US administrative agency can appreciate?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Thanks, Creek. But if you knew me better, you might soften your position regarding the beatings. I should introduce you to a few other readers here....

Best wishes!

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Anon, hello from a fellow EFS-WEB user. Normally a pretty decent system.

Michaela Stephens said...

I have had two incidents.
Once a memory stick got corrupted which had about a year's worth of writing stored on it.

Another time I had my PDA die on me. That's very bad because my PDA is like my BRAIN.

Interestingly enough, both times it happened to be during a period when I was trying to ignore some of my duties. It felt like a message to me:

"If you get frustrated because your electronic device is not doing what it is supposed to do to serve you, how do you think I, God, feel when you, my child, are not obedient?"

Yeah. I repented fast.

Carey Foushee said...

This is what religion/spirituality is all about -- these wonderful simple concepts that sometimes appear outdated on the surface but then reveal their value to us when we put them into practice.

Not sure I'm exactly saying that right, but hopefully you'll get the idea -- its late night for me and I really should get to bed so I can say my prayers :)

Anonymous said...

This post really made me chuckle, Jeff, I guess because it reminds me of some of my own obsessiveness. What really makes me laugh is the way that your experience prompted you to write an 1,800-word blog post about it, which is to say you seem (as Creek hinted) to be obsessing about your obsessiveness (another bad habit I recognize in myself).

FWIW, there's an old story whose details I forget but whose point I remember. A priest is talking to a rabbi about the beauty of the fact that Jesus has forgiven us, and then the rabbi asks, "What's the point of God forgiving us if we can't forgive ourselves?" There's also the Buddhist story about the two monks who are traveling around and encounter a beautiful woman unable to cross at a river fording. The monks belong to an order that abstains from all physical contact with women, so the first monk refuses to carry the woman across. But the second monk sees that she really needs the help and agrees to do so. A week later, the first monk says to the second that he still can't believe he could so easily disregard his vow and touch that woman. The second monk replies, "Are you still carrying her around with you? I set her down at the river bank a week ago."

Birthday SMS said...

Amazing Information on blessing on Master Teacher..

Good one...