Saturday, March 27, 2010

Give It A Rest

People: put your arms by your sides and step away from the keyboard.
I mean, all this connectedness is fine. You can catch up with your old college buddies and make dinner plans with friends. You can send jokes to your mother and post pictures for your family to enjoy. You can Facebook and LinkedIn and Plaxo until the cows come home, creating a virtual rolodex that encompasses almost every person on the planet whom you've ever met.
But just because you can doesn't mean you should. Or more to the point, you certainly can, but it doesn't have to be every minute of every waking day. Amazingly, things will keep happening to people even if you don't know about it or can't post a comment immediately. Unless you're the charge nurse in an intensive care ward, sometimes a little breathing room is a good thing. Put most eloquently by the great Lebenaese-American writer Khalil Gibran, "Let there be spaces in your togetherness." Put less eloquently, give it a rest.

I say this because it seems as if there is no such thing as down time anymore. Getting up early used to mean a few uninterrupted hours of quiet when you could have some breakfast and read the paper. No more. The first thing we all do is check our smartphones or computers, there to find messages sent from the night owls among us or those in far away time zones, many requiring as-soon-as-possible comebacks. Rather than taking time to consider the thought, idea, apology or proposal, we fire from the hip at 6:37AM. What's worse, if you respond, chances are better than even money that you'll get a blast back sooner than later. Before you know it, the shots are flying back and forth with abandon. True, your holster may fit over your pajamas, but your aim may be thrown off by your fuzzy slippers.

At the other end of the clock, remember those days when you waited to call someone back until after hours, knowing that they'd be gone for the day and you'd get their answering machine? You looked conscientious, you got to say your piece, and you felt like you were on top of the situation, all without having to engage in any dialogue. Well, forget that approach. Now if you fire off a response or reply as you sit down to dinner, odds are it will spark a question by dessert. You respond in kind, only to have the next volley appear just as the jury comes in on "Law and Order." Of course, you feel compelled to comment, which drags you away and causes you to miss that snappy comeback from Sam Waterson on the fade out.

It's no better on the weekend. Like many, I'm generally running around Monday to Friday, which means that getting a concentrated block of time to do creative work waits until Saturday or Sunday. My general M.O. was to rough something out Sunday AM, scrub it in the afternoon and dispatch it by dinner. That approach gave me a guilt-free, sense-of-accomplishment evening, knowing I could get a good night's sleep before any criticism kicked in. No longer. Once I hit the send button I know it's only a question of if I'll make it through "60 Minutes" or not before the responses start rolling in.

Doesn't matter anymore if it's your kid's birthday party, dinner with the family or movie night on a Saturday, someone somewhere is anxiously drumming their fingers, having just hit send and waiting for you to reply. In fact it's gotten so there are precious few circumstances where you can sell the idea that you are truly out of touch and can't be expected to respond. . Funerals are good. So are plane flights. Surgery is a solid excuse, but only when you're actually under anesthesia; recovery doesn't count.

That's why I'm puzzled by a specific detail in the unemployment numbers. In the blizzard of statistics from the Bureau of Labor is one that the average work week actually fell in the month of February by a tenth of an hour. Certainly not in my circle. And with averages being just that, if the people I'm dealing with are working more, someone somewhere is getting a whole lot of paid days off.

It's not that I agree with the Kapauku Papuans of Western New Guinea: they believe it is bad luck to work two consecutive days. I'm happy to put in the time, and try and keep the train moving. And yes, sometimes that means you can't work just 9 to 5. But while I'm not religious, I do think the Lord was on to something when he decided to take the weekend off.


Marc Wollin of Bedford seems to always have something that needs to get done. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

No comments: