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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Virtual Office and Its Impact on the Actual Human

My friend Tara is back and visiting, having moved to Belgium roughly a year ago.

We are waiting for starters at Bar La Grassa. She lifts a glass to her lips, speaks around the rim. “If I have to go to Bruges or Delirium again –” She takes a sip, doesn’t finish the sentence.

Apparently that is what one does when visiting Tara in Belgium: travel to Bruges/drink one’s self dizzy at the Delirium Tremens brewery.

It is inevitable that she will make both trips again.

The move to another country has been hard on her, not because of her shaky yet better-than-the-average-American’s grasp of Dutch but because her job is in her home.

And our little Tara is an extrovert.

“You don’t brush your hair some days, am I right?”

She looks at me with that intensely focused look she’s capable of but says nothing.

“You remember to brush your teeth?”

She sighs. “Why bother? I’m in conference calls around the clock…”

“How about pants? Do you remember to put on your pants?”

She waves me off with one dismissive hand, smiling. “What’s the point? I’m not going to see anyone.”

“Can’t you go to a coffee shop or something? Find some free Wi-Fi?”

She laughs bitterly, shakes her head. “They don’t do that. Not to mention the fact that there’s no free Wi-Fi anywhere but the McDonald’s, and you know how I feel about that.”

I do indeed. Tara believes in conversation, food, and wine, quite possibly in that order.

I am thinking of Tara this afternoon as I walk through the skyways of Minneapolis in search of lunch. There, sitting at a table outside one of many dining establishments, is a woman logging on to her laptop, a phone in her ear, all the while balancing a briefcase on her lap, a puddle of business-ly accoutrements at her feet.

She’s yelling into her phone as I walk by. “So tell me what’s going on with you! I hear you’re in some trouble! Oh, and I’m sitting in a public space, so if you hear anything weird, it’s just background noise. Ignore it.”

I pause for just a moment, fight the urge to lean in and babble something “weird” like “The Vikings stand a good chance this year!” or “Sure it itches, but that’s what the salve is for!”

To her, I – and the others streaming by – are background noise; and to me, she is someone getting set to hear more, from the sounds of the opening gambit, than she perhaps should in a public setting.

Or perhaps she’s had all she can handle of sitting at home in her underwear, the dishes soaking as she makes another call.

I cannot judge this. Unless, of course, she makes another “background noise” statement.

Wait. No, not even then.

The caveman* in my head – the one who advises that I mind my own business – rears up, shakes his massive, shaggy head, and lumbers toward the cave’s opening and into the light.





• See yesterday’s post. Whenever surrounded by large groups of people I wonder about the caveman’s ability to be diplomatic.

44 comments:

George said...

In Bruges was a great movie, maybe she can recreate some of the scenes from the movie with visitors. Maybe not.

Simply Suthern said...

I am fortunate enough to be able to work at home once in a while to offset the extra miles I have to drive now. I log in and stay in my sleep garb as long as I can while drawing away in my mancave. I hate working in such a quiet environment.

I tend to stand in the front door alot, looking out at the social squirrels and feel like screaming, give me background noise or give me Springer.

Joshua said...

Whereas I would prefer to be at home all day, confined indoors, pantsless even on video conferences. Just as long as I remember not to stand up.

Pearl said...

George, I loved that movie as well. But to recreate? :-)

Simply, ahh, I knew we were kindred spirits. I get a lot of work done at home, but somewhere in the background, Springer is always on...

Joshua, I've worked from home before and I think you actually work HARDER, in some ways -- wait. That sounds funny...

Joshua said...

You made me giggle, so, bonus!

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

I have done the work at home thing...wasn't good for me. I missed the interaction with my fellow slaves. I lost all motivation. Then I retired. Yes, a direct connection.

Pearl said...

Delores, I did an awful lot of work from home when I was a court reporter (transcript creation) and found that I'd be up too early, still undressed well after noon, and still working late at night. To top it off, yes, it's lonely...

Sarah Has Moxie said...

Lesson learned is to always remember the new laptops have a built in camera when using skype for conference calls. I'm just sayin'....maybe she can make a few extra bucks while she multitasks... ;)

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

Hubby answered the Skype call in his underwear. Everything went just fine until he stood up to open the office door to let the dog in. At least at that point, the caller could see he wasn't entirely naked!!
Rosemary

Pearl said...

Sarah, there's good money to be made by young ladies without inhibitions. :-)

Pearl said...

Steadfast, Skype has changed how we view the world!!

Silver Strands said...

Yup - that's a toughie. I could live in my PJs (and sometimes do) ... I know I've become too comfortable when my kids don't try to talk me out of a quick trip to the grocery store while in my pajamas anymore.

jabblog said...

I'm quite happy being alone and not seeing other people - well, apart from my husband, of course. I like not having to talk - I talked for a career and was happy to retire from it;-)

Pearl said...

Silver Strands, but not in your bedroom slippers, right? Right?! :-)

Pearl said...

jabblog, I can see myself heading in that direction some day. For now, though, I need to be held accountable by other humans...

Vicus Scurra said...

Next time that she moves, counsel her to move smoothly.

Eva Gallant said...

Sure it itches; that's what the salve is for! I love the way your mind works! funny stuff.

jenny_o said...

Caveman diplomacy probably consisted of a large stick and larger muscles.

Someday - when you're ready - it would be interesting to hear about ALL the voices - I mean, people - in your head. So far I believe we have the short guy with the cigarette, now the caveman with the bushy head ...

Pearl said...

Vicus, it took me a moment... :-) I would really like to sit next to you at a party.

Eva, I enjoy the ridiculous.

jenny_o, I think it was more than that. When a small group of people absolutely must rely on each other -- think of the winters! -- then they had to know when to get involved and when to pull back. What do you mean, am I serious? Of course I'm serious!
And the people in my head are many and are all an integral part of me. :-) I think we all house many people -- I have one in particular that only comes out when I'm supposed to be serious/paying attention. THAT guy is dangerous -- luckily he can be distracted with promises of cigarettes and physical exercise. THAT guy could get a gal fired...

Audubon Ron said...

I know Tara's pain. I don't get out much either.

It's 11 a.m. and I haven't brushed anything.

Pearl said...

Audubon, somehow, I see you with a post in the backyard, something a fella can get his back into. :-)

injaynesworld said...

Love this and can so relate as I work at home, too. You totally should have leaned in with that comment about the "salve." :) As always, I leave here with a smile on my face, my dear Pearl.

Pearl said...

Thank you, Jayne. You've no idea how much I needed that.

Tom G. said...

I'm sure that Bruges and the Delerium Tremens, are like taking out of towners to the Mall of America, and feeding them lutefisk.

For all of the medieval beauty of Bruges, it really is just a museum piece theme park for tourists. And with 300+ different Belgian beers, there are so many better options than a glass of Delerium Tremens.

Sigh... I do love Belgium

Anonymous said...

I SO wish you would have said something about salve into her ear! (This is Kelley from Kelley's Break Room. My computer isn't working right!)

Suldog said...

I do believe that "Well, sure it itches, but that's what the salve is for!" will now be my go-to thing to say every time I pass a cell phone user.

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

I have worked outta the home two separate times in my career. It ain't all it's cracked up to be, esp. if you have your own business. Always looking for work. Home isn't home anymore, you always feel "on."
That said, it sucks here on the 25th floor downtown, too.

CarrieBoo said...

Yep, being home in mi' scruffs, rocks. Maybe not as much as the caveman at the jukebox playing AC/DC repeatedly, but a pretty close second. Love your last three posts, Pearl! Shiver me timbers.

Fragrant Liar said...

I LOVE working from home. Some days I get up in my birthday suit, and just get down to work at my desk. With coffee, of course. I'm not a total savage.

jenny_o said...

You're probably right about the caveman diplomacy. And definitely right about the many people we house in our heads.

Great post as usual, enjoy your day!

alwaysinthebackrow said...

Working at home-not for the faint of heart or light of clothing, if skyping. I have a balance of working from the computer and telephone from home, while making numerous appearances in a very public place. Still would prefer retirement. Oh, and Tara, could I PLEASE come and visit you in Belgium? I promise not to make you take me to Bruges or to drink DT's. PRETTY PLEASE?

R. Jacob said...

Working from home could be fun, except for the work part.

Laraine Eddington said...

I'm awfully glad I found you.

Pearl said...

Tom, when one lives in Minneapolis, one would be REQUIRED to take visitors to the MOA, wouldn’t they? I haven’t been to Belgium yet, but I probably will force her to take me to Bruges. :-)

Kelley, I’m way too polite for that. :-) Minnesota Nice, ja know. But there are anywhere from two to four comments running in my head at all times!

Suldog, I raise a glass in your direction, sir.

Dawn, it pretty much sucks everywhere. :-)

CarrieBoo, thank you! I seem to have themes run in, um, spurts. The caveman has reared his craggy, noble head. Next week I’ll probably find something irresistible about boots or something.
Ooooh. I need winter boots, that’s right…

Jenny_o, :-) You, too, sweetie.

Alwaysinthebackrow, retirement?! Oh, no! We would really miss the, uh, the – yikes. What would we miss about working now???

R. Jacob, I think you pretty much nailed that.

Laraine, you keep talking like that, honey. :-) (And I’m glad you found me, too.)

Hasidic Plumber said...

I worked at home for a short while. At first i thought it was going to be great. Little did i know. It's awful. I much rather go to the office 3 or 4 days a week and work 1 or 2 from home.

Working everyday from home, makes you stop caring for yourself, you let yourself go. It's kinda sad actually. I said never again.

The human contact you receive in a proper working enviroment can't be replaced for anything.

K A B L O O E Y said...

Salve is a funny word. Thank you for using it. Not for applying it, because god knows, that's none of my business, but by all means slather away if you're feeling itchy. I meant thanks for putting the word in my head. Salve. Tee hee hee.

Susan in the Boonies said...

"Sure, it itches, but that's what the salve is for."

Priceless.

Well, if the salve WORKED, it would be priceless.

:-D

Diane said...

I was working in my office this morning and my granddaughter came over and pointed out that I was dressed in a 'less-than-exemplary' manner. Apparently it is no longer acceptable to sit in one's home office in a pair of old flannel jammies and my husband's ancient sweatshirt. Geeze. Fashion advice from a four year old.

powdergirl said...

Oh crap. I'm doing everything wrong again. I've been home from work for 3 years now and I haven't done a damn thing. Well, I have brushed my teeth and my hair and have yet to don sloppy clothing. But. I was supposed to be WORKING? Crap.

Dan said...

Bahahaha...hehehehe....
anyway, pants are over-rated and chewing gum gets rid of the toothbrushing thing.
I too fantasize about doing bizzaro things especially when in a public place and someone is on a phone growling the callee out or making some sorta important business decision...like walking past sans trousers or standing really close to them and nodding my head saying 'yeah, good idea, that's what I would do' when they decide that they have clinched the deal.
Nice post madame...

Andrea said...

I'm all for people getting out but I hate it when people get into long (or even not long) conversations on a cell phone in a public place. Really, I don't want to know that her boyfriend cheated on her or that her client might just face ten years for embezzlement or that you left your laundry sitting in the washer. I really, really don't.

the walking man said...

I feel for the woman on the bench...damn the world has come to the point where if we are not tied entirely to the digital age and our jobs we lose all we work for.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I worked at home for 15 years as a full-time freelance writer and sometimes I would get so starved for conversation that I would even talk to the Jehovah's Witnesses -- not about religion -- but about my latest book project or their families -- when they came around. Once my husband was home and saw them looking at their watches and backing away from the door. He laughed that I was the only person he knew who could drive the Jehovah's Witnesses away with my stream of consciousness chatter. By the way, I absolutely loved your imaginary interventions with the woman multi-tasking in public!

R. Jacob said...

If you work at home I will apply as your intern.