Have we all heard just about enough about the dangers, both physical and evolutionary, of texting? Do we need another article haranguing against smart-phones on dinner tables? Isn’t it crystal clear to us all that “living in the moment” is now only a behavior for which we pay thousands of dollars to experience in a spa? Technology has changed our orientation to the world around us. But I don’t particularly care about all that right now.
What I do care about is personal phone calls at work. (Quaint, isn’t it? That sentence conjures up visions of Judy Holliday at the switchboard.) For reasons which allude me, the technology of a “phone call” has obscured the intent of the call. The fact that people needn’t speak to communicate, or use a telephone belonging to an employer, seems to have blurred the lines for many. Show of hands, how many times has the clerk at your checkout register been tapping his/her acrylics onto a phone? Have you ever entered a boutique and not heard the shopkeeper on a personal call? The last time you frequented a restaurant with a host/hostess, were they looking down and squinting, behind their station in the dark? There are work situations in which personal communication is not only permissible, it is probably encouraged. I was recently on a film shoot at which the principals (waiting upwards to 15 minutes between takes) typed away, happily passing the time. But those particular employees were not actually working while making their personal calls. Their attention was not expected to be anywhere but on themselves.
Now here’s where the rant builds up steam. I have lost count of how many of New York’s finest I have seen texting or making personal phone calls while working. I suppose the traffic officer would argue; “Hey, I can give tickets and text at the same time.” Perhaps, but you’re in uniform and; a) it is unseemly to be engaged in personal activity, and b) you are an officer, and if you’re not seeing something and saying something, why should I? I have also seen “beat” officers, standing and texting on a corner, officers in squad cars (thankfully, the passengers not the drivers) texting as well. Now unless that is how the police department now communicates with its officers (and for all I know, it is) I find this truly distressing.
I am not suggesting that we all don’t have personal emergencies that need attention. But what I’ve witnessed is far more lackadaisical than an emergency would ever suggest. Somehow, because we have the technology, we’ve decided that rules of the workplace and common decorum need no longer apply. I’m no techie wonk, but I’m willing to posit, that we’re only going to get more little sexy toys with which to play. Perhaps we should engage, now, in the real face to face conversations about what is appropriate and what is not. Maybe I’m just an old fashioned gal, but I enjoy being looked in the eye, be it by a police officer or dinner companion (or one and the same, if it’s Tom Selleck in Blue Blood.)