“We Have No Time to Stand and Stare”

On my way to the airport yesterday, I pulled out the laptop, hoping to finish my new piece on last week’s Shahrukh Khan’s airport escapade.
Just as I started typing, my cell rang. While answering the call, I heard an SMS “ping”. The moment the call ended and I started reading the SMS, the phone rang again. Since it was from a number I did not recognize, I let it go to voicemail and within moments, I received an SMS voicemail notification. While checking the voicemail, I involuntarily logged into my email account and found almost 50 emails downloading into my various inboxes. The voicemail was from a person, who I needed to call back and just as I connected to him, another call came in, which was redirected automatically to voicemail, waiting to be checked a little later.
Putting the phone aside momentarily, I quickly skimmed through the emails, trying to take action wherever it was urgent or immediately important. The phone went “ping” again. There was another SMS asking for an urgent reply to an email that had been sent just a couple of hours back. I went back to the laptop and searched for that particular email, trying to frame a cogent and intelligent reply. In the meantime, the person who’s last call had gone to voicemail called again and I had no choice but to answer, despite the fact that I needed to concentrate on getting the email reply done first. I finished the call, but in the meantime, I had lost the thread of the contents of the email I was replying to and had to start focusing my thoughts all over again.
I quickly finished answering another 10 odd emails, when the phone rang again. I groaned internally, since this was from a person, who I knew would not let go for at least 5 minutes, which at that time was 4 1/2 minutes too many. In those 5 minutes, which eventually stretched to ten, there were 3 more SMS pings. As soon as the call ended and I started reading the SMSes, the phone rang again. It was a colleague who also wanted a reply to an urgent email he had sent…just 10 minutes ago.
Checking the mail with its 2MB attachment took another few minutes, by which time the car had reached the airport. I unplugged the high-speed Internet stick and shut the laptop. While checking in, there were two more phone calls, which I let go to voicemail. In the lounge, while juggling the callbacks to those phone calls, I took the opportunity to finish off replying to the rest of the emails, a task that continued in the aircraft as well, until the steward politely asked me to stop.
It was only when I was airborne and my phone was offline and the laptop had no Internet access that I could finally just sit and focus and concentrate and write out this piece.
And if you’ve just come down with a headache reading these frenetic words, think of what must be happening to those hordes of managers who go through this, all through the day, day after day. And I don’t even use a Blackberry!
(With due apologies to W H Davies)
What is this life, of calls and cells
We have just time for texts and mails
No time to wait and think and plan
And pace our lives or ride a slow train

A poor life this, full of multitasks
No time to sit and just smell the grass

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