Friday, November 20
The internet on this airplane isn’t working. I’m much more irritated by this fact than can possibly be reasonable.
I’m as addicted to the network as anyone I know, at the best of times, but that’s usually just me looking for another easy hit. It always seems like another thing altogether when I’m physically stuck somewhere. Looking for another hit, sure, but the way you mean it with a lab rat in a sensorily impoverished environment. Why is everybody on their phone in the waiting room, at the bus stop, in the airline terminal?
Well, because, Jesus, who doesn’t want their mind out of the neutral-colored carpets and stale HVAC air? It’s like being back in highschool. Going to gym class. Sitting in the kind of meetings that have consultants in them. There you are, stuck, and then the network gives you a pipeline out to the part of life where your movements are your own and you’re not standing in line for anything at all.
You go to a lot of meetings these days (if you’re living the kind of life with meetings in it) and people will have tablets or laptops or whatever it is in front of them. Maybe they’re pretending to take notes (maybe they are taking notes, sometimes). Maybe they’re checking their e-mail. Maybe they’re looking at cat pics on Instagram, or writing the code they’ve been thinking about for weeks, or arguing about Science Fiction novels with people on MetaFilter. Who can tell?
There is an impulse to describe this behavior as disrespectful of others' time, which is more or less correct but incomplete: Is it rude? Certainly. It is a breach of implicit social contracts. But then it’s also a turning back on itself of the disrespect for time that is structurally innate to all but a handful of meetings in general. It’s clawing back a thread of interiority and selfhood from the howling void that is Meeting Time—a kind of time within which countless people spend a majority of their working days.
(I was going to write “their working lives”, but when Meeting Time reaches a certain density, it consumes so much of the official workday that people who are inclined or required to produce things not produced by meetings are forced to extend the “actually doing shit” part of their jobs into nights, weekends, nominal mealtimes, very early mornings, and vacations.)
You laptop-using meeting goers? You compulsive touchers of iPads? You with your distracting screens and your shattered attention spans? You have my approval and support. Something is being taken from you, and in the depths of your soul, you know it is something important. You have quietly elected to take a little of it back. Shine on.