I remember life before cell phones, smart phones, even before computers, Iming, texting, iPods and podcasts. It was a slower paced existence, I think. The workday had clearer boundaries; work at home was paperwork and was limited by its weight in the briefcase. My accessibility was ample and more than adequate, but had healthy limitations.
The issue of techo-infringement came alive when we bought our summer home twenty-five years ago; we purposely got an unlisted land phone number. One of our clients had the habit of calling at all hours of the day, but most especially at 6 pm on a Friday to discuss long term planning for his shopping center. This happened regularly, and he wasn’t the only client who loved to call during “family time” on the home line. The unlisted number was a major coup; I did so ever so hesitantly and with fear. “What if he asks for the summer home phone? What will I say?” He did ask, and I just requested that he leave a message on the office phone that we checked often enough. That worked for a while.
Our next techno-quandry was “To get a fax machine or not to get a fax machine.” At that time, urgent documents and packages were being sent by FedEx or courier. There was usually time to read and react before getting a phone call from the sender who wanted to discuss details. There also was always the excuse, “I can’t do it now, FedEx hasn’t delivered yet today” or “The courier must be stuck in traffic.” The one client who was outright pushy about our getting a fax machine was the one who used to call for answers before he even sent the documents to be discussed. He also called twice on our 25th wedding anniversary (a Saturday), said he felt bad, and had his assistant call twice more to get the address in order to send flowers. Ugh! He also added that he would be sending a fax machine for an anniversary present.
So, we adjusted to the fax, even the thermal paper, and the pace at work quickened a bit. I learned to say “Let’s talk about this fax that just arrived in 45 minutes,” instead of dropping everything and running to the machine and then the phone.
We held out on the cell phone for quite awhile. My reason was that I really like to sing loud and off key in the car without the thought of anyone interrupting me on my drive to and from work or while scoping commercial sites. I also loved that time in the car was time when no one could bother me. It was alone time that I was most reluctant to lose. I worried about the threatening infringement of the outside world that would inevitably happen because I would be unable to turn it off. I’m like the kid in the science experiment who has a marshmallow in front of her and is told not to eat it until later (http://vimeo.com/5239013). Yes, it is possible to delay the encounter, but it’s more likely that I would fail this test. The cell phone would be an un-detachable umbilical cord connecting me to the outside world always, every minute, every second, every day of the week. But like the marshmallow, I caved. At first I said I’d use it only for emergencies and family calls. Before long, it created Grand Central Station in my brain. I finally did discover the silent switch, but was never able to fully disengage from the little bugger.
Switching to computers was not much of a decision. It was a user experience delight. My beautiful Macs transformed drudgery into quick easy tasks. I loved the efficiency and the accessibility to information. It was a toy to enjoy at work and home. No regrets—no misgivings… and maybe that’s why I so easily slipped into the iPod, iChat, iPhone and now iCloud. Perhaps the fact that my daughters used these tools so effectively and with such gusto influenced me. In short, I got more from these “advancements” than I lost—and I liked that. Having all of my music downloaded into a gadget that delivers all music, all the time right into my ears is a gift. Being able to listen to my tunes and podcasts actually motivates me to get on the elliptical, take a walk, to survive a trip through the grocery store in my “swell,” affluent suburban neighborhood. The camera on my iPhone takes better pictures than my other cameras. Because I have it with me most of the time, I tend to take more shots and better pix happen. As a professor, I really appreciated having all of my materials for class available on line. I saved a lot of time and numerous trees by avoiding the copier machine and all of those handouts.
I’m not sure what the next techno-option will be and whether or not I’ll indulge. I am cautious about being too connected. Too many connections make mayhem and stress in my head; it becomes “more” without creating something “better.” I need alone time, quiet time, as much as I need information and communication. One can’t dominate the other. There is something absolutely wonderful about sitting on the deck at night with nothing to do except look at the night sky and hear the frogs, not my gadgets, peep.