There are obvious ways to murder a pager. A big hammer, for instance, is immensely satisfying. Running over it with a car a couple of times, forward and backward, or backward then forward, is less satisfying. I want to hear that crunchy sound up close.
(During recuperation from knee surgery in June, I tried to lighten my foggy mind and wrote this piece. I can walk and bike fine now, but in reviewing this writing, I think some readers of this paper may appreciate my frustration. So, I decided to haul it out to share with you today.)
I don’t think I am a violent person by most measures. I can talk a good violent talk but hesitate when it comes to execution. That’s why it’s pure fun to fantasize, especially in my state of post-operation-getting-over-anesthesia, alternating between pain and painkiller-induced light-headedness, and disorientation followed by brief periods of lucidity. Having just had knee repair surgery, it’s good to sit/lie around in body, while wondering and wandering in mind.
Of course, the poor pager is totally innocent; it’s only the symptom. But where would I go to vent my years of frustration with what this pager has done? It bugs me daily, and frequently twice daily, for no serious reason other than, “this is to inform you that **** is up and running,” i.e. “this is to tell you there is nothing important to tell you.” There have been periods where we couldn’t escape the noise even on Saturdays and Sundays.
This is not my pager, and that’s why I can afford to badmouth it. It’s my dear husband’s; part of his former job is to be informed of the status of this one contentious (and cantankerous) facility. However, there is the situation of “being over-informed” or even “over-concerned,” both in individuals and in organizations. And in both cases, it can amount to a choking or suffocating environment for humans. People in the organization who are on the list for this facility’s updates have been treating the daily multiple beeps like part of the meaningless white noise background. It’s as if, for each announcement, there is first a warning announcement that the announcement is coming before the actual announcement. It’s just like the ludicrous nature of “pre-planning.”
I am typically spared the late afternoon update since my husband is still two hours away from coming home for dinner. But the 7 a.m. alarm has inadvertently woken me up enough times that I see red, or steel, in this case. We hoped that in the coming weeks, this pager would transition to history in our home life. Even my husband’s stepping down/aside/backward/forward had taken months. The final approval and signatures were in place only this past week. He pointed out, not totally facetiously, “It took less time to assemble the first three atom bombs than it’s taken to find a replacement [for my job].” Everything seems to creep and crawl.
Poor little pager has been unfairly caught in my sideline frustration and wrath. It’s a perfectly innocent device — the pager, that is — that’s been so abused as to lose its original meaning and function, i.e. sending truly urgent messages. Were it not government property I’d be happy to dispose of it and give it a proper burial. Since I cannot really kill it, I can only fantasize the murder.
Drop it in the toilet (and I am not fishing it out for anybody). Trebuchet it over the canyon. Blow it out of a potato gun. Dissect it bit by bit, and send bundles via snail mail to some grand poobahs. I feel better now.
Coda: I am definitely a saner person now that my husband is officially onto his next adventure where he will not have to spend 80 percent of his worklife following compliance rules. Following rules per se is almost a non-issue, following conflicting and pretzel-like rules is another entirely … but that’s another topic.
Till next week,
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.
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Editor’s note: Dr. Yang has a PhD in Management from the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at Wharton for a number of years, and consulted for small groups and small organizations and on cross-cultural issues. Her professional worldview comprises three pillars: 1. All organizations are social systems in which elements are inter-related. 2. To improve organizations, the focus should be on the positive dimensions on which to build. This philosophical foundation is Appreciative Inquiry. 3. Yang subscribes to the methodological perspective that she is part of the instrument from which to gain quality data from respondents, and with which to compare and contrast with others’ realities.