All Work and No Play Makes Jack a 2.0

The line between work and the rest of our life is blurring more every day. Thanks to cell phones, laptop computers, email, and instant messaging we can be available anytime, anywhere. I'm sure at this very moment there are people in a lab somewhere working diligently on a waterproof cell phone that can go into the shower so we won't ever have to worry about missing a call again. Hopefully they'll design it with a carrying cord rather than a clip. Well, except the S&M version, which could have both.

It's gotten so bad that Blackberry, a mobile wireless email device created by the devil so you never have a moment of peace and quiet, is running ads with a huge headline telling you to "Blur the line between 'The Office' and 'The Beach'." What a great idea! It even shows a businessman lying on the sand. In a suit. And I don't mean a bathing suit. Hey, if I want to be contacted by the office while I'm at the beach I'll pick up the bottles I find along the shore to see if there's a message inside for me. True, I have been known to put conch shells to my ear to check for voicemail, but that's only if I'm expecting a call. But take a wireless email gadget with me? No thanks. I'd rather troll for crabs naked.

As a freelance writer my time gets jumbled enough as it is. I don't have set hours so there's no clean delineation between work time and play time. I'm tempted to say that if I'm not working it's play time, but that doesn't quite cut it since it would mean that staring blankly out the window hoping the new cloud that just appeared in the sky will be the inspiration I need to, oh say, finish this column would be considered play time, and that's not fair because if that were the case then I'd be accused of hardly working. As if I don't hear that enough from editors as it is. But I know when to shut off the work and not answer business calls. Okay, so what if it's usually an hour after a deadline has passed and I haven't seen that inspirational cloud float by yet, the important thing is I know when to do it, right?

The problem is that work has become too much of a focal point in our lives. A recent survey of college freshmen found that 74% of them think it's important or essential to be "very well off financially." Meanwhile, only 40% think it's important to "develop a meaningful philosophy of life." Since this adds up to more than 100%, apparently a lot of college freshmen need to either take remedial math or increase their meds so only one of their personalities takes any given survey. This is a radical change from 1967 when there weren't as many meds available so you had to self-medicate. Just kidding. Actually it's a radical change because back then 86% of the freshmen thought having a philosophy of life was important while only 41% thought money was critical, though they only thought so because it would allow them to buy plenty of self-medicating drugs.

If students think money is that important then they're going to work as much as necessary to get it, and in the process further blur the line between work and real life. This isn't just a problem here in the United States. A survey in England found that nearly two-thirds of the workers there have confused their office with their bedroom and have had an on-the-job romance. Thirty percent of them said they've had intimate physical encounters at work, with the most often cited locations being the stairwell and the elevator. It makes sense. After all, you never know when you'll have to make a quick exit while making a quick entrance.

This gives new meaning to the concept of career fulfillment. It also shows that people are having an increasingly difficult time differentiating between work and the rest of their life, something a baby in Holland, MI (city motto: "All the tulips, none of the drugs or sex") is fated to experience for the rest of his life. It seems that his father, who is a self-proclaimed geek, decided that tacking Jr. on the end of his newborn son's name was way too 20th century, so he convinced his wife to name their child Jon Blake Cusack 2.0. Seriously. Boy, are they ever going to be surprised when he hits his Terrible Twos and they can't upgrade him to version 2.1. They're also going to be surprised to find out what happens when the other kids hear about it. Not to mention the actor with a similar name. Face it, this poor kid is in for a life of getting beat up and sued.

With luck he'll end up having Alex Keaton Syndrome, where the child swings in the opposite direction from the parents. He'll dump the 2.0 and change his name to Starshine --just Starshine, sell phones instead of using a cell phone, and the only blackberry he'll be interested in is the jam that goes on his English muffin. He'll understand that work exists in his life so he has the money and time to play. And he'll be a great disappointment to his parents. But he won't know it, since he'll be at the beach. And unreachable. One can hope, can't they?

©2004 Barry H. Gottlieb All Rights Reserved.

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