Logged off but tuned in

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2004

I’ve been lost for a week now. Last Sunday afternoon I came to the office to catch up on some things and dropped my laptop computer, breaking it.

My entire life was contained in that little box. Every appointment, every important document connected to the business or my person life. It’s become like an appendage, I carry it every place I go.

I can only compare its loss to losing my right arm or a beloved family pet. I almost cried.

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On Monday morning I went into my office. It took me about 10 minutes to realize that without a computer, I had no need for an office. So I turned the light off and shut the door and haven’t been back since. I wonder what people needed offices for before computers?

Instead, I moved into the news department. I set my email up on a computer there. It’s been a fascinating experience.

Being on the front lines is a good experience and puts things into perspective.

Our news department is located in the front part of the building, just beyond the reception area. The building is open when you come in so in the news department you get to see everybody who comes in, listen in on every phone conversation, see what everybody does.

I don’t know how circulation manager Shirley Forehand gets anything done. She’s got the desk by the front door and is our first line of defense. She has to run constantly to the morgue to fetch old papers for customers, deal with carriers who come with various problems and field most of the calls, open the mail, count quarters and prepare deposits. She rarely has a free moment.

Reporters struggle as well to get stories done, having to do many of the same things Shirley does when more than one customer comes in, or when Shirley is away from her desk.

Sitting in the news department, I’ve gotten to talk to a lot more of our readers than I normally do, hearing what they like or don’t like about the paper. That’s a good thing.

The changes have not been confined to work. Typically, when I get home at night, after getting something to eat, I would fire up the laptop and catch up on e-mail. Without it, I’ve become aware of several other people occupying my home. That’s an exaggeration, of course. I’ve been vaguely aware for some time now of some smaller, louder people running around my home, but now without my shield gone, I’m forced to deal with them. And just like at the office, I’m generally overmatched.

They’re pretty neat, though, and like Shirley and the folks in the news department, they have their own obstacles with which to deal that I’m getting more attuned to.

My laptop will be repaired and back within a week to 10 days. While I’m looking forward to it’s return, as is everyone in the news department, I’m going to try to use it more responsibly and not let it run my life. I’ve personally vowed to keep it turned off at least one day a week for most of the day while I’m at work and leaving it locked in my car every now and then when I’m at home. I may not be logged on, but I’ll be more tuned in. I’m sure it’ll make me a better husband, father and manager.

Most of us at one time or another have felt like throwing our computer against the wall. I think if more of us would occasionally act on that urge, we’d be better for it. The repair costs can be considered a training expense.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at andy.prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.