By Yeoh Siew Hoon
I have to confess. I have succumbed. I got a Blackberry. Despite declaring I wouldn’t, despite my sincerest desire to be free of it, I have caved in. Let me tell you what did it. Paranoia.
I was about to leave for a 19-day vacation in France and two days before I was due to catch the flight, I got an email from a friend saying there may not be Internet access where we would be going.
I panicked. So many things to do. Deadlines to meet. Loose ends that had to be tied.
Plus, a friend’s voice kept whispering in my ear. “Get a Blackberry. It’s perfect for someone like you,” she said.
Two other friends I spoke to had told me differently. One said he gave it up after a week because he found it too intrusive and another, a hotelier, said he regretted ever insisting his company gave every manager one.
“Now that we have it, we have no excuse not to respond to emails.”
To which my tech geek friend – notice it’s always a woman who has an answer to everything – rebutted, “If it’s a company mandate, then yes, I can see how it would be intrusive. But you? You are a free agent. It will free you even more. You can decide when to switch it on or off.”
Well, when you put it like that …
The day I was due to catch my flight, I got a call from another friend (male) who said, “Babe, I hope you’re leaving all your gadgets behind.”
“No. And I’m bringing my Blackberry,” I said proudly.
“Babe, you are insane,” he declared.
So, now I am paranoid about whether this latest device will ruin my holiday. Already half my baggage is made up of gadgets and all the paraphernalia that come with them.
Here’s what I am carrying. An iBook G4, which has just been upgraded to the Tiger platform (grrr) and 1GB RAM, a hard disk drive containing stuff from my PowerBook G4 which I leave behind when I travel, my Sony digital camera, iPOD, iPOD Shuffle, Altec Lansing speakers, my mobile phone, radio and, of course, the BB.
Sometimes, I wonder why we even bother to go on holidays. Before we leave, we have so much stuff to clear. While we are away, we worry about stuff left behind. When we return, we have to deal with a backlog of stuff.
Here’s the other thing. When I told my friends I was going away for 19 days, everyone went, “Wow, so long.” No one said, “How wonderful.”
It seems to me that we live in a guilt-laden world. Few of us take long breaks anymore. Most of us can’t afford to be away for an extended period of time.
Or perhaps it’s because we don’t know how to be idle anymore.
Someone is late for an appointment and what do we do? We take out our phones and start SMS-ing. We go on holidays and what do we do? We check our emails.
When Tom Hodgkinson, author of “How To Be Idle”, was asked on practical tipson how to be idle, he said, “Part of this individualism is you feel this pressure that you alone have to conquer the world, and if you don’t work all the hours God gives then you start feeling really guilty.
“If you can stop feeling guilty, then I think it’s easier to start doing what you want to do.
“The way to stop feeling guilty is to read stuff - I’m not saying my book, but works by Bertrand Russell or Oscar Wilde, people who weren’t losers but who didn’t believe in the work ethic, and argued this thing about guilt or wrote philosophy about idleness.”
A friend drove me to the airport. “Is this all you have?” he said, referring to my one small suitcase.
“Yes,” I said proudly. I pride myself in travelling light. “Half of it are books and my high-tech toys.”
“For 19 days? Are you sure you will have enough clothes? Or were you just planning to wear your underwear throughout?” he asked.
So, now I am worried that I will be a semi-naked albeit fully wired traveller.
Actually, I am most worried about whether I will even have time to be idle during my break and whether my Blackberry will make a fruitcake out of me.