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The Column

What To Do at Work Besides Work
7/21/02

I am putting off other work in order to write this column. You are probably doing the same in order to read it.

It's amazing to live in a world with so much progress, yet we pretty much get the same amount of work done that we always have. We just spend more time on the web.

I can't picture my father when he was my age, sitting at his desk, trying to play mini golf. Of course, he probably had a typewriter when he was my age. Maybe he played real minigolf instead. With a styrofoam cup from the break room for a target, a rolled up piece of paper for a ball, and a yardstick for a putter. That's a little easier to picture, but it's still a stretch. I should ask him.

(Insert noises denoting me dialing a phone.)

"Dad, when you were my age, you had a job, right?"

"Yes, of course."

"Did you ever play minigolf at your desk with a styrofoam cup from the break room for a target, a rolled up piece of paper for a ball, and a yardstick for a putter?"

"No. What are you talking about?"

"Thanks, dad. I have to get back to work."

My dad didn't play minigolf. But even if he procrastinated in other ways, my early-20s dad couldn't match me for the tiny amount of time I spend doing actual work in a day. See, I can get the same amount done in two hours that anyone thirty years ago could in eight, so there's no point in trying to pack even more in there.

I've got access to a lot of devices that make my job easier. I don't waste time walking to the office library to look up facts for stories when I can just look them up on the web. I don't waste time dialing people's phone numbers because I have everyone already programmed into my phone. And I don't even waste time dialing their name anymore, because I IM them instead. Which leaves me a billion hours free every day that I can use to get frustrated at on-line jeopardy when it doesn't load all the way. The tease.

My desk is near a meeting table, so sometimes I spend my time listening to the meetings that go on there. This one group of people has had the same meeting every day at noon for the last two weeks. They haven't come to any kind of resolution yet, but they've come up with reasons for all of the reasons why they haven't come to a resolution. I don't even know who these people are or what resolution they're supposed to come to, but every one of them has "executive" in their title.

I just took a break from writing this column to toss a football with my editor. Working in sports is good that way. My editor nailed the screen with the ball and I was afraid that I'd lost the whole column. Tossing a football with your editor is bad that way.

Even when I'm doing the work that I get paid for, I can still find time to chat with my friends, or send e-mails to people telling them that I am too busy to get lunch. That's why I could never be a cabby. Not the lunch thing, the IM and e-mail thing. Cabbies have tons of down time and nothing to do with it. I see a lot of cabbies on cell phones lately, and I wonder how high their phone bills must be. I bet the late-shift cabbies totally screw with that free nights and weekends thing. They're like the really fat guy at a Sizzler that no one planned for.

I saw a homeless guy on a cell phone a few days ago, begging for change. I wondered who he was talking to, and how come they didn't send him some food. Then I wondered why he bought a cell phone instead of eating. "Don't give him your money! He's just going to spend it on minutes!"

You can IM people on their phones now, or send them phone messages from the web. That makes sense if you're somewhere that you can't talk, but sometimes my friends sit in a cab and IM people. Maybe they're being quiet because they don't want to interrupt the cabbie's phone conversation. Or maybe they're talking to the cabbie. Or that homeless guy. They're probably IMing, "Sorry, I don't have any change," but it comes out as "SOrry I dont hav NE changem."

There's that commercial where everyone sits in a meeting and IMs each other about how much their motivational speaker sucks. And while he did suck, the people IMing on their phones aren’t much better. I'd much rather be at my desk, playing minigolf. Also, their motivational speaker is in a Pepsi commercial with Britney Spears and Austin Powers.

I wonder if there are any cups left in the break room.

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