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Turn Your Ringer Off...Put Your PDA Away. People Are Meeting Here!


Posted on February 14, 2007

By Jean Jaworek

I’m wary of nostalgia.  I owe this to my maternal grandmother.  She reached for a wet blanket whenever one of octogenarian buds began waxing eloquent about the past.  With a  sharp memory until the end, she could vividly recall the devilish details of bygone days.  Thus, the misty-eyed recollections of yesteryear were likely to garner a deceptively agreeable nod and the rejoinder, “Yes, yes, the good old days with children dying of croup and diphtheria.  You can have ‘em.”

I’m reluctant to pine for pre-cell phone, pre-PDA days mindful that Nana might be watching from a better place stoked to put the whammy on me.  This brings to mind the specter of restless nights lost dream-walking and technology-free, along the kind of isolated dimly lit roads that feature so prominently in sci-fi thrillers.  Sans phone, I’ll feel menaced, afraid and entirely alone.  It goes almost without saying that I’ll awaken in a cold sweat. 

So I guess I see it both ways. I’m not part of the Luddite crowd raging against all electronic gizmos.  I like some of them a lot and really find it hard to imagine doing my job without them.  On the other hand, I’m not ‘down with’ some of the unnecessary foolishness and really just bad manners I’ve come to view as their evil spawn.   

Driving and talking on a cell phone held clamped to either ear is unsafe and dumb.  Insurance statistics prove it.  We know it, and those of us who do still do it are needlessly risking our own lives and those of others.   That’s why you can get a ticket for it in most places. 

In a movie or theater, we’re asked to turn off all electronic devices around the time that the house lights go down.  For the most part, the theatre-going population complies. We agree that the distraction of a ringing phone spoils the collective immersion experience that makes going to a theater fun.

Why not at meetings too?   Isn’t the point of a face-to-face event that your mug will be giving its undivided attention to that of others?  What cheek to be trolling through your emails while someone is trying to communicate with you?  It’s just plain rude.  Why can’t we collectively acknowledge it as such and take action accordingly?  More to the point, why can’t I get myself to speak up about this when it counts, before a meeting begins?

Recently, our smallish departmental meeting was attended by a vendor who had traveled three thousand miles to be there. One of our guys-- a multiple face-to-face gizmo offender -- showed up with his usual appliances. He repeatedly and conspicuously, checked his emails while we met and left the ringer on his phone.  By the time the meeting ended, I wanted to swat him with his PDA.  Still, I couldn’t bring myself to say a thing.  I like to think, I don’t care much what the other kids think about me, yet, I admit I’m as hide-bound to the court of corporate opinion as the next employee.  To be thought a quaint stand-in for Miss Manners, opposed to the more extreme forms of multi-tasking, makes me quail. Who wants to be thought backward?

But it also gets me down to think to recognize that I’m waiting for someone else to take action and deal with something that’s bugging me this much.  Nana would be disappointed. 

So I know what I’ve got to do.   I’ve got to find a phone booth, even if it’s only in my mind and change from mild-mannered blogging reporter to a character with the strength of ten and steel enough to enter a meeting room and ask that all electronic devices be turned off.   I need to make Nana proud. 

               

    

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