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It’s funny.  On the surface, most people would think I’m a phone nut.  I’m on it a lot, and I tend to have phones right near the edge of the envelope, technology-wise.

Right now, I have both an iPhone (personal) and a BlackBerry (business – paid for by my company).  I have them set up to manage email and my appointment calendar.  I even have RDP and VNC installed on my iPhone, so I can remote manage several computers from anywhere I can get a cel signal.

I have big data packages for both, and they get used.

And I  hate both of them with a rare passion.

They’re like electronic leashes.  Everywhere I go, I emit a steady dribble of beeps, bloops, and musical ringtones – (my iPhone in particular, I have a number of custom, “unique to me because I made them” ringtones, so I can determine what kind of call is coming in, or who is calling without having to even look at the caller ID).  Again, the level of customization and personalization I’ve commited to the devices might fool you into thinking I’m enamoured with the devices.

But let me stress again how far that is from the truth.

I customize them because I have no choice but to deal with them.  I go to lengths to make them less annoying.  Mostly, it fails.  I mean, it works to the extent that a snippet of late 70’s, early 80’s garage punk is a way better way of being notified of an incoming call than some chirping blip-bleep.  But it doesn’t make dread the call itself much less.

Half of my calendar year (excluding holidays) is spent “on call” – I can be no more than 15 minutes away from an internet connection (and thank god for mobile 3g sticks…  Does that count as a phone too?).  when the phone rings, there’s a good chance that something has gone wrong.  It’s going to be complicated.  It’s going to eat my time.  And it’s come at an inconvenient hour. Say, dinner time, or when a sane person should be comfortably in bed.

I also have to monitor pages and emails that are automatically generated by a mass of servers when they auto-detect something out of norm.  Given that we’re talking about hundreds of servers, it’s pretty much a given that the automated stream of error spam is pretty constant.  And even these are segregated by priority.  Some are more informational “Hey, Mr. On-Call man, I got a little busy at 8pm.  Try and figure out why when you get a chance.”  These come as emails.  A low tone bloop on my phone that I can (and usually do) sleep through.  Some are more urgent, of the “Hey, Server X isn’t responding to pings, and it’s IMPORTANT!!!” These come in as pages, and the noise is…  Well, let’s just say I’m not likely to sleep through it.

And it goes beyond that.  Because email is so important to the modern workflow, the fact that I can respond to it from anywhere, to a certain degree means the expectation is to actually do that.  I’m one of those guys you see who parks his car, steps out, and whips out his smart phone to read and respond to emails while he finishes walking the last couple of blocks into the office.  Distractedly missing his floor on the elevator (or absentmindedly walking off on the wrong floor), face buried in a BlackBerry.

From my side of that picture, it kinda sucks.  “Always on” is, well, draining.

When I have time off, I tend to turn my phones off.  Completely.  For days at a time if I can.  And then my mom ends up getting annoyed that I don’t return her calls (sorry mom, it’s not you – it’s the phone).

I dunno, I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.

And, well, the dang phone’s incessant reminders and nagging me with problems is the reason I missed the last two days’ worth of posts.

Something to say?


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