Thingish Things


Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Apr• 20•11

A few months ago, in the midst of the political campaign season, I tried to start my car with a Blackberry. Not with new Bluetooth technology that allowed such a maneuver, but with the device itself. It was in my right hand, and, without looking, I was trying to manipulate the thing into the car’s ignition slot.  I  couldn’t figure out why the “key” wasn’t cooperating.

Some time before that, I “lost” my Blackberry while on a campaign conference call. I was at home, and, while trying to sound 100% engaged in the topics at hand, I spent 97% of my energy during the call looking under newspapers and turning over pillows in search of the missing device. It wasn’t until the call was over that I realized I was talking on it.

I did the same thing in an earlier campaign, but with my then-infant daughter. “Where’s Georgia?, I bellowed throughout my house, panicked.  The little one was nestled snuggly in the crook of my arm.

Okay, that one’s hard to admit.

I realize this behavior is crazy, and, when it occurred, I assumed it was caused by the early onset of old age, exacerbated, maybe, by the frenetic political campaign lifestyle — three or four hours of sleep a night and 500-plus emails a day for months on end. But, after confessing this bizarre behavior to colleagues, I was relieved to learn that others working in my industry — young people in their 20’s even — were experiencing the same thing: wallets in refrigerators, mismatched shoes, trips back home to turn off a coffee machine that had never been turned on.

I now know that people in similarly crazy industries have experienced comparable symptoms. Studies from Stanford, the University of California San Francisco, and elsewhere have proven it and are digging into the cause.  What they are finding is that this über communicative and multi-tasking lifestyle of ours is melting our wits. It is destroying our short-term memories.

There is also an element of addiction to it, the studies are finding.  And like with any addiction, this one tells you that you don’t really have it. I-can-drive-better-stoned has been replaced with I-am-a-multi-tasking-golden-god, which of course isn’t true either. The rush of talking on two lines, blasting an email to 10,000 people, and Tweeting and Facebooking 10,000 more all at the same time is too often followed by the kind of keen remorse one can only experience after inadvertently issuing a news release with a headline beginning: “President Barack Osama…” — under one’s candidate’s name (That wasn’t me.)

The Internet revolution is still a baby.  And the speed and portability with which it is moving is exhausting and debilitating. And yet I am the first guy on line at Best Buy when that new gadget is released — just a little something to keep the other gadgets company while in bed with me at night.

Why do I get the feeling that I’m going to end up chained to a bed with porridge dribbling down my chin?  Then again, I’ll be in good company.  We can Tweet.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Joseph Mercurio says:

    I’ve been doing that for the last 35 years in the business.

  2. Feeling better already.

  3. Me says:

    J&K still laugh at the time we left a school basketball game and, as I walked toward the glass doors to the outside, I was pointing at them with my car keys and pushing “unlock”–completely expecting one of the doors to swing open as they would at a grocery store:-)

  4. You did not, Ann! That’s priceless. Did they open?

    • Me says:

      I did. And to my surprise, they did not. I also discovered earlier today that it’s best to put one’s key in the ignition rather than storing the keys in the sunglasses compartment between the visors and trying to start the car with reading glasses. In my defense, it had been a really, really long day…

      Not much of a defense, is it?

  5. Your Friend says:

    Love this piece. I did the same thing in a department store once with my daughter Caitlyn in my arm. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only father to do that.

    If it will make you feel any better, some day all of our devices will be swimming around inside us in the form of tiny nano-bots, so you won’t be distracted by holding anything or looking for anything. Does that make you feel better? Don’t blink, it will be here sooner than you think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.