E-mail creates instant office

When I moved down to Anchorage from Barrow, I was determined to succeed in my own business.  I figured I might get bored at times working out of my home office but those few moments of boredom would be more than compensated for by my increased productivity. Not only would I be working for myself – a tremendous incentive to make every moment count in and of itself – but without the distractions afforded by an office community I would have that many more productive hours to give to my business.

What I didn’t figure on was the ability of the human animal to make connections no matter what the obstacles may be.  I didn’t count on the fact that in a virtual office, you have a virtual office community that can be every bit as distracting as the one you see in traditional offices.  All those people who gave me reason to lift my nose from the grindstone before were still around.  They were all there in my e-mail.

The first thing I do when I get down to my office in the morning is check my e-mail. The last thing I do before I put myself and my computer to sleep at night is check my e-mail.  My day consists of fits and starts, ten minutes of concentration on my latest project interrupted by 30 minutes of e-mail correspondence.

What makes this the most mind boggling is that I am not talking about time spent opening all the jokes, cartoons, political statements, etc. sent around endlessly by everyone. No, I manage to waste a good part of my day in e-mail conversations over much more important topics.  You all know them. What you had for dinner last night, what you watched on TV, what the kid’s teacher said he did that is bringing him one step closer to being a full blown juvenile delinquent, what the latest diet says you can or can’t have for lunch and why this precludes choosing any restaurant that doesn’t include yak milk in the menu.  All the normal office topics that are periodically interspersed with comments on why management has their heads where the sun don’t shine.

The only thing that interrupts the e-mail flow is periodic telephonic hearings with the Barrow court during which I find I actually have to pay attention.

When I sit in front of my computer in the morning, the first order of business is to send out e-mail responses to my East Coast correspondents who have already been at work for a few hours and are deeply into conversations that I need to get up to snuff on.  My sister’s company has recently been sold and there is much gnashing of teeth over corporate changes and what that might mean to her future employment status. A cousin is about to celebrate a big birthday and is dithering over how to do it – should she go on a cruise, to a spa, to France? This involves much back and forth over the relative merits of each proposal as well as how appropriate each is for the age being reached.

As I finish the first round with my East Coast correspondents, my West Coast correspondents start to check in as do early rising Alaskans. I catch up on who is coming down from Barrow, where they’ll be staying, if they need a ride and when we’ll be meeting for lunch/dinner.  Anchorage e-mailers start early in the morning lining up a lunch date.  A lot of discussion goes into the latest restaurants in town and whether anybody is feeling particular towards one ethnic food group over another that day.

By this time I’m ready to head to Caf� Loco, my stand in for the office break room.  I pass a few pleasant moments with the staff there and then head home.  It’s now about 11 AM and if I’m lucky, I get an hour’s work in before I have to meet my lunch date, head to Curves and get home in time for the afternoon’s e-mail rush.  This usually means that the next block of real work doesn’t occur until about 3 PM. By 4 PM, I’m exhausted by all the (e-mail) writing I’ve had to do and feel I owe myself and my dog our walk before it gets too dark.

By the time we get home, it’s 5 PM and my creative juices are spent.  I head upstairs to feed my birds their dinner while engaging in scintillating conversation with them that includes mind numbing repetitions of the phrases, “How are you?” “I love you?” “Cao cao?” (apparently the Hawaiian word for food), and, of course, “Give me a kiss”.  And I realize that the birds are the only living creatures I’ve had a conversation with all day who were actually in the same room with me.

I’m not sure that’s altogether a good thing.