Sunday, October 16, 2011

Skirting the RIM of Hell

Hello everyone. My name is Simon, and I used to be an addict.

I was using morning, noon and night. It was the first thing I needed when I woke, last thing I did before I went to bed. Sometimes I didn't go to bed at all, and continued through the night.

However, I sought help and sorted myself out, and that's why I'm here today to tell the story. I successfully rejected part of my life that was spiraling out of control with, frankly, only one outcome.

It is now ten months since I gave up my BlackBerry.

Today I'm completely clean. True, I have an iPhone, which sort of works as a phone and has all the non-phone things you expect these days. From a phone, of course. And although they say the first 100 days of sobriety are the hardest, these last ten months of abstinence have been relatively easy.

For a start, I no longer panic at the sight of a little red LED winking at me; I don't suffer spikes in blood pressure caused by the clanging chime of doom that annnounces a new missive; and my spine is returning to normal curviture, as I am no longer finding myself hunched over like an early 1970s prog rock guitarist.

That said, switching to methodone - sorry, iPhone - hasn't been without its side effects. Syntax, for exampled, has struggled, with coherence occasionally varying wildly.

E-mails to important people (you know, bosses, CEOs) have been hampered by words like "of" and "on" being autocorrected to "if"and "in" in the final article.

In fact this feature is so counter-productive I have terned it of and will now mayk do with my own spalling capeabillytees.

So while you congratulate my self-restraint, I have to confess that this last week I have been feeling terribly smug. Smug in a sort of German-standard-of-living smugness. Smug in a couple-posing-as-husband-and-wife-for-Sunday-colour-supplement-furniture-ad way. Smug in an "I invested well in my 20s and am now retiring in my early 50s to live in comfort and wear a lot of pastel" level of smuggery. I'll stop now with the smug references.

Because when people come to remember where they were during The Great BlackBerry Blackout I will simply recall enjoying the silence. No one was sending e-mails, so there were none to be read. Entire business meetings were conducted with near 100% attention. Train journeys became torturous events as newspapers returned to brief popularity. Conclusive, engaging conversations broke out in households. One person even walked across to my desk to ask me a question in person. In person!

People were left hurt, baffled and unable to cope (Colleague #1: "Where's the fax machine?". Colleague #2: "The what?". Colleague #1: "The fax machine!". Colleague #2: "What's that then?". Colleague #1: "Aaaaagggghhhhhh!"). Some threatened the return of Hotmail. Others took to begging in the street for just a fix, a sniff of e-mail. Just one - it didn't have to be an entire back-and-forth.

So, for a few days, people actually had to open their laptops to do some work. Engagement with others meant, for a short time at least, writing messages with thought, rather than stabbed out on a tiny QWERTY keyboard in the back of a taxi.

Ridiculous to think that BlackBerry's outtage (which, ironically, my iPhone's autocorrect thinks should be "outrage") should have been considered by many to be some sort of temporary return to Year Zero. As if being blamed for causing the UK riots wasn't bad enough, BlackBerry was now being held responsible for bringing the world of business communications to its knees during a time of worsening global financial mayhem.

Makes you wonder how on earth they coped during the great Typewriter Correction Fluid Shortage of 1981...

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