On BlackBerries, Mickey Mouse, importance, and indispensability

Posted by J Matthew Buchanan at August 16, 2005 10:39 AM

A Blackberry as a symbol of importance?  So says Doug in his great post reflecting on a recent trip to the Capitol and commenting on Dennis Kennedy’s Contrarian View of the Blackberry.

I’ll take it a step further – in the right context, they mark those who believe they’re indispensable (or have a fear that they’re completely dispensable).

Start looking.  You’ll see them.

Try this thought experiment — take Doug’s Blackberry-toting important hall-walkers and congressional staffers out of the Capitol building and put them on vacation in a beautiful locale with their family.

In your mind, do they still have their Blackberries?  Are they using them?  How frequently?  What do their kids’ faces look like as they use them?

Ok, you can stop.  I’ll give you the answers:  Yes, yes, very, upset.

I’ll submit this anecdote as proof-

At the end of a recent trip, My wife and I were able to take our boys to Disneyland in California.  We had two days at the park with our two young sons.  No work.  No blogging.  Just Mickey Mouse, cotton candy, and lots of smiles.

I had my cell phone, but it was tucked safely away in one of the backpacks.  Never used it.

I couldn’t help noticing, though, that many other people weren’t able to cut the cord.  I didn’t notice many Blackberries (this is the Hollywood set, mind you, and those Blackberries popular with the DC set are so utilitarian), but I must have seen over a hundred people with earphones connected to their cell phone, which was typically stuffed into a fanny pack or something similar (don’t even get me started on those things).

And they were actually using them!

Here’s one example.  We were waiting in line for the Buzz Lightyear ride (my oldest son’s favorite, by the way).  As we patiently walked the maze, we encountered the same people over and over again (everyone knows how this works).  This one poor guy was with his family as well (wife, two kids).  Like me, he was on sherpa duty (stroller in tow, two backpacks, cameras, etc.).  But he also had a wire dangling from his ear.  On one of our passes, I traced the wire to his backpack.  By the time I met him on the next pass, he had retrieved his cell phone — a Treo 650 — and was holding a conversation about an e-mail he had just received.  He assured the other party to the conversation that he would “chew on that” and promised to “shoot something back in an hour or so.”

Think about the ridiculousness of this situation.  He must have just gotten an e-mail and had called (or took a call from) the sender to tell them that he would respond to the e-mail.  Man, this guy must be indispensable!

(what odds will you give me that he’s a lawyer?)

Meanwhile, the sun shone and his wife struggled to entertain their obviously disappointed kids.

As a father, I briefly felt bad for the guy.  He sacrificed time with his family — which is so hard to get these days — and committed to sacrificing even more (remember, he’s got some chewing to do and an e-mail to write, all in the next hour).  I also felt bad for him as a fellow sherpa.  “Dude, if you’re gonna sacrifice time with the fam, at least make it easy on yourself — shell out the bucks for the wireless headset.”

Then I stopped thinking about it – I had to get back to my business of the day.  My oldest was teaching me how to aim the blasters on the Buzz ride.  There’s this pointer thingy, and you have to….

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