Call me a rebel, but I flatly refuse to take my cell phone into the ladies’ room.
There’s something voyeuristic about sitting in a cubicle, listening to the person two stalls over nattering away about what happened last night while they deal with today’s call of nature.
The only thing worse
would be sitting in my stall, contemplating the universe, and having to deal with someone’s technical support crisis on the phone — and trying to explain away the bathroom echo.
The phone has no place in the bathrooms of the nation. At least, not in the office.
I will, however, confess to sneaking a peek at my BlackBerry while ensconced on the throne.
The difference? With a BlackBerry, no-one can tell what you’re doing. There’s no audible dialogue. The bings and boops of instant messaging are absent (IM bings and boops drive me crazy — I have been known to go into my next-office neighbour’s domain and mute her computer speaker when the constant IM sound effects became intolerable). The BlackBerry is, if properly set up, a delightfully silent electronic companion.
Call it discreet workaholism — my BlackBerry and I are virtually inseparable. Among the electronic shackles in my life, it is the most tolerable. It turns itself off automatically at a pre-programmed hour, and wakes up again the next morning. I can deal with its summons when I choose to — once I learned not to immediately grab it when it announced a new message. I’m in control, not the other way around. According to experts, that is a good thing. People in control of their lives (or who have the illusion that they are) tend to be healthier and less stressed.
Yet despite all of the fuss about the importance of work/life balance, vendors are now threatening us with the constant presence of information. People will always know where and how to find us. There goes control.
There are pros and cons to this new technology. There are times when I would be deeply grateful to know where certain colleagues have gotten to, and how to get in touch with them — especially colleagues who are infamous for their lack of responsiveness to most communications media. There are times when I want to be found, to deal with issues right away. But there are other times when I’m just as happy to be unreachable, especially by the (mercifully) small group of people who have the notion that their problems, big and small, must be the number one priority for technical staff, regardless of what other crises are in progress. The building may be on fire, but if their personal printer needs ink, well, drop the fire extinguishers and hop to it.
On the whole, it’s easier in those cases to be inaccessible until the bigger problem is dealt with.
With constant presence information available to all, there will be no escape. Instead of creating the polite illusion that we weren’t available to respond to an inopportune contact, computerized stool pigeons will announce that we were just ignoring the caller.
And we won’t even be able to hide in the bathroom.