Monday, January 8, 2007

Mastering the Technology of the 21st Century Workplace

I have a love/hate relationship with cel phones. On second thought, no I don’t. I just hate them.
I loathe ring tones. There you are, enveloped in the perfect ambience of a beautiful restaurant, with classical or jazz murmuring softly in the background, and out of nowhere the Notre Dame fight song starts jangling from somewhere. Or the Minute Waltz. Or the thumpa-thumpa-scream of Top 40 hip-hop. To be followed by someone, always one or two decibels louder than necessary, discoursing into their pocket-sized annoyance.
I abhor cel phone service and reception. Dropped calls and stutter-step conversations ("What? Are you still there? Can you hear me now?") make me want to heave the monumental nuisance through the nearest plate-glass window.
I hate people who talk on cel phones and try to drive. I am not an idiot, and I believe I have better-than-average hand-eye coordination skills, but even I have a hard time piloting a vehicle through traffic and carrying on a phone conversation. I shudder to think of how that combination of activities might be handled by those possessing lesser skills.
And, frankly, I’m annoyed and more than a little frightened by the fact that no one seems to be okay either alone with their own thoughts, or with the present company. There always has to be that tiny box attached to their ear. The antithesis of the still small voice. The uninvited guest who steals the engagement from the companion across the table.
In the last six months, I have found yet another thing to detest about cel phones. It has to do with trying to operate a small business in the dawning decade of the 21st century.
Back in the olden days, those good ole nineties, employees had homes, with phones that were attached to those homes in some way. And if you needed to speak to an employee, you could call her on that phone, and if she were home, she would answer it. And you could say, "Someone called in sick today. Could you please come to work?" And she would say, "Yes." Or, "No." But you would have your answer right away and could then move on to the next person on the list if necessary.
But now it’s 2007. And I own a business in a small town. With a miniscule labor pool. And none of my employees have permanent addresses, much less telephones attached to those places. They have cel phones. Which are sometimes turned on. But which, much more often, are not. At least, not any time before noon, when it comes to young twenty-somethings who have not yet tired of the novelty of being on their own, out of school, and able to party far into the wee hours any night of the week. And we won’t even talk about weekends.
And then there is that handy little feature of cel phones, where the number of the caller is conveniently displayed to the "callee" when the phone rings. Which gives callees the opportunity to choose to ignore calls from unwelcome callers. Like bosses, or their places of employment.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I have hired the most sickly human beings in the county. And if an employee isn’t sick, some disaster has befallen a family member. Apparently, working at the Old Town Café brings down some kind of curse upon the relations of any unsuspecting unfortunate who accepts a position at my restaurant. Car crashes, diseases, multiple hospitalizations and deaths have been epidemic among my employees’ kin. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, almost without fail.
Those cel phones are damned convenient for calling in with the grisly details as to why Jane can’t come to work today. But somehow, the reception is all static and dropped calls when it comes to me trying to contact one of them to stand in for a fallen comrade.
Today, though…. Today I got just the teensiest bit of revenge.
One particular employee, the one who has hardly worked an entire week without calling in or going home "sick" at least once…finally hit the wall with me on Saturday. We had to call HER ten minutes past the start of her shift (and got, of course, her voice-mail) to try to ascertain where she was. Ten minutes later, she called back, obviously still in bed and obviously the worse for the night before. "I overslept." "Okay, so you’ll be here as soon as you can?" "Um, sure…."  Another ten minutes and the phone rang again. It was Little Miss Party-Hearty. "I’m sick. I don’t think I’ll be able to make it…"
So today, I made two phone calls. The first was to my accountant to arrange for a final paycheck. And the second was to Miss Party-Hearty. Her cel phone. It went immediately to message. And I fired her. Right there on her voice mail.
That is SO not the way to fire someone. I knew it. And I knew I should feel really bad about it.
But you know what?
I didn’t.
Shame on me. J


  1. Oh, I LOVE this entry!  I remember reading an essay, when Walkmans (is that the plural?) first became popular, that this was the beginning of a sort of unraveling of society, because it enabled individuals to be completely in their own little worlds in the middle of everything going on around them.  That's happened, and cellphones have only made it worse.  On the other hand, I have to admit, I'm grateful to have mine in the car with me each day, in case of any sort of problem.

    I love that you fired her on the phone!  She had it coming...



  2. Go ahead and revel in a bit of sweet revenge.   I think it was the perfect way to fire someone so thoughtless and irresponsible.   You could have chosen any number of other methods!  I think you actually exercised a lot of self-control.

  3. I love the cell phone for I'm at point A, you're at point B, how soon can we be at point C? The ring tones are too freakin' loud. And hey if she don't show up and you can only reach her voice mail, heck, it's as good a way to can her as any.


  4. Convenience or a depends on whether you're the caller or the callee...and the circumstances.  I understand your frustration and I don't blame you one bit for firing her in voice mail.  It was more "convenient" for you than playing phone tag to fire her.

    I do believe there needs to be some standard of etiquette.  It has brought a new level of rudeness to the world.

  5. I wouldn't feel bad about it at all!  And what IS it with people who go to the trouble of getting a job, but then apparently don't need the money that bad (or they would show up to work, right?) or who don't have the self-pride to at least want to do an acceptable job. I had a few of those employees too, and I didn't understand them at all.

    I hate those gadgets too.

  6. Oh, Lisa .... I could write pages on how much trouble those blasted cell phones cause, but I think you already covered the highlights.  Suffice it to say that I have a bit of a problem with them.  Well, not actually too much with them, but with their owners, who don't seem to be able to extract the damned thing from their ear.  Has there ever been another instrument that has brought out so much rudeness in people?  Okay, enough from me.  As to firing the gal with a message ... well, some times ya gotta fight fire with fire.  Good for you.  Tina