I come from an era, just after the dinosaurs and just before the oil shocks, wherein you worked only when you were at work. You got up in the morning, got yourself ready, and went to a place where you did your work.  At some point toward the end of the day you stopped working and went back home.  In a sense, things were digital in that non-digital existence.  It was either/or.  Working or not working.  Not both.

Now, you work regardless of where your cholesterol inflated bottom can find a chair. I have a cell phone and a laptop, and the world is my oyster.  Or the world is at my fingertips.  Or perhaps, through the magic of digital technology, my fingers are actually becoming oysters.   Ew.

I am, right at this moment, waiting for a mechanic to figure out why my car is groaning like an orangutan with an ulcer whenever I turn the wheel.  But not really waiting.  I am actually working.  I just called a ‘client’ and explained to her why her device would not work and what to do about it.  This was a follow-up to an email I sent about 10 minutes ago, and a pre-cursor to a visit to her a little later in the day.  Now, I will check my e-mail, call a tech support team with whom I am embarrassingly familiar, call and cancel another appointment, write a report, research a new product I just learned about, decide whether to share the information about the product I just learned about, watch a podcast on the application of a product everyone knows about, digest and share that information, all from the relative comfort of an automobile repair shop with Wi-Fi.

I am of two minds about all of this, as I am of two minds about so many things these days.  (I’m thinking of having my forehead tattooed with a one on the left side and a 2 on the right side.  Or, in the Seuss model, ‘Think 1 and Think 2),

There is much positive about being able to work anywhere:

  •  Stuff that really must get done (although I quibble about the word ‘must’) probably will get done.
  • I can save sick days for when I really need them, for example, bad weather, the day after the Superbowl and the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.  Oh yeah, and when I’m sick.
  • It makes me feel like I am a true part of this manic, result driven, documentation inundated, stress strewn existence.  Although I am of two minds about the benefits of this as well.

There is also much negative about being able to work anywhere.

  • There is no factory whistle that tells us when to stop, put down your tools, hitch up our carpenter jeans and point ourselves toward home.
  •  Clocks become meaningless.
  •  Cables (USB, firewire, ethernet, serial, power, etc.) take on an importance once reserved for car keys, corporate stocks, and rich uncle Mortimer’s will.  They are tangible representatives of cosmic events that are crucial to one’s continued happiness.
  • Expectations of supervisors, middle managers and other assorted executive types expand automatically.  They may refer to a computer mouse as ‘that clicky thing’, and even, like one of Thurber’s Ohio aunts, believe that electricity is leaking out of the wall sockets, but it doesn’t matter.  Your mission, whether or not you choose to accept it, is to master the technology, use it efficiently, and cram 90 minutes of activity into every 60 minute hour.

All of which makes me wonder why that orangutan, who doesn’t have an email address or a cell phone, should be lucky enough to stay home when his ulcer flares up.  Just who is at the top of the evolutionary tree here? Hmmm?

 

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