Archive for April, 2010

Am I Off ? Who Can Tell, Really?

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

I called in and immediately got hit by “I thought you were off …” Naturally, I responded with the knee-jerk “What does that mean?”

In a time of nearly impossible quality control, how could a CEO of a midsize PR firm actually go away and be away? I mean, I love my staff and all (all being the key word) but I’m a realist: What place on earth would AT&T not make my BlackBerry go buzz?

This friend of mine went to Mexico for a week and didn’t bother to check his email–fool. He returned to the bad word: “You won the contest of a Free Weekend in Amsterdam–Flight Included,” but only if he wrote back by week’s end. Which he couldn’t have. When my foolish pal begged in to say he was away, they scoffed, “Was there no copy shop/Net café/hotel center/person-with-computer where you were?” I mean, you’re a guy who checks his email once a week?

I can turn off like the best of them. And it is, however, in your better interest to not tell anyone you’re on, off, or in between! Who would know? I’m here, I’m there, I’m used to it. If I run away for a few hours on a workday, or reschedule a meeting here and there, who’s questioning where I am located?! Or–who cares?

These Out of Office pronouncements (OOFs) are badges we wear like the “Sent from my iPhone” banner that reads more like I-got-one-do-you! We chuck so much information onto our bounce-back responses that I am waiting for John Carpenter’s new scare-flick about the girl chased by knowledge picked surreptitiously by an errant email responder. Lately I’ve been sending returns to OOFs with my own: “But please come back.” It confuses people.

[I use “Sent from a good old-fashioned desktop” on outgoing emailsl.]

So, we covered email. When it comes to phones I’m all set because I screen, like you, and get the details via voicemail. Do you want people to hear the live sounds of your vacation spot? Way too revealing. Now I’m in the market for a good sound machine so I can put in New York-style traffic noises while lounging poolside. (”That splash? That was all Carrie Bradshaw!”)

Then there’s the infrequent in-person meeting we have to miss since we’re actually away. You could send someone in your place, but that would be rude and questions arise. Lately, I’ve been making excuses for not showing up in the vein of I stubbed my toe, because I wonder if taking a break is seen as a sign of weakness in these fantastically-connected times.

What difference does it make if you’re calling, writing, jotting a note down, sending a FedEx, Twittering, or tossing a quick text to check the heck in. When I am on mars, they will have 4G I’m sure.

Naturally, I’m as self-important as the next guy. I have to wonder if The Vacation has any meaning. It’s either a proclamation you are way too busy to think about the sender; or the ability to say, Look, I have an assistant, dude! What would happen if everyone took a deep breath and said, “I’m not in; I’m lurking.” Then you’d know how important you were ’cause someone responded to you when they were a little bit away.

And the funniest part of this rant was as I write it, on the beach during a week of speeches in a lovely location, I am starting at a not-skinny older man with his Blackberry left waiting for vibrations on his belly while he sunbathed. What a mark that left, for sure! Explain that to your mistress, bucko.

In this year of “vacationots” I bet you can be in office pretense mode…and you are fooling no one. I went to see my parents a few weeks ago and turned everything off except for conference calls, but told no one except Twitter followers. My assistant let it slip to someone in my office, who told a client; that guy in turn asked me how the dunes were in a call I was assumed to be in the office for. It’s a game that only real fakers can win. I’m exhausted having to describe it. You know what? I think it’s really time for a…

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