Sunday, June 3, 2007

You Brought Your Laptop With You On Your Last Vacation, Didn't You?

I just came back from a three-day vacation. I had a great time relaxing with the kids, playing Scrabble with my mother-in-law, and staying at a snazzy timeshare condo that the in-laws had arranged for us. It was great getting away from the lab for a while. And yes, I have a great affection for my in-laws and out-laws.

Of course, "getting away from it all" is a misnomer. Vacations in my line of work, and possibly yours, too, don't mean that there is no work to do. It just piles up while you're away. My list of things to do didn't get any shorter while I was away, but now I have less time to do it in. And most likely more tasks have been put on my plate while I was away. I know from previous experience that at least half of Monday will be spent simply reading and responding to emails. I also had materials to read, a lab book to update, and a report to write, but I was a rebel and didn't do any of it. Still, all of this "vacation work" sorta puts a damper on the whole "relaxation" thing.

"But wait," you say, "just bring along your laptop and work when no one else needs you."

Sure, no problem, I'll just log on in-between swimming with my toddlers and grilling steaks with Dad. I'll call in to the office on my cell phone to "check in" while I drive back to the condo. Maybe I can squeeze in a few emails between watching "Flushed Away" with the kids and playing a game of Scrabble. You laugh. But I know you're out there, with your laptops, cell phones, blackberries, and PDAs. You're laughing because you do it, too. One coworker of mine is even dorky enough to bring his laptop and cell phone with him on camping trips.

According to a recent poll, one in five people who go on vacation bring their laptop along, mainly for keeping up with work:

Two in five downloaded their email while on vacation. 80% brought their cell phones. 50% checked work voicemail messages. According to the poll, these "techno-geeks" are typically highly-educated, under 40, and white – like me. Coincidently this is also the demographic I suspect is most likely to show off their Star Trek uniforms on first dates, but I digress.

What's wrong with this picture? Hello?!? Vacations are supposed to be about getting away from work, not taking it with you. I'm very, very good about not doing these things. I actually believe my workplace won't miss me for a few days, and any work I miss will eventually be caught up with.

But wait, just bring along your laptop and work when no one else needs you. Yes, I said it, and I did it. I brought along my laptop, and worked on it after everyone else went to sleep at night, but I swear it wasn't for work. Um, well, not for my day job, at least. I was busy working on some fiction writing (a side hobby of mine) and playing computer chess. So there. Besides, my room wasn't internet-ready.

Gasp. Yes, it's true. My room didn't have an internet connection. In this day and age when everything that includes a battery seems to be internet capable, and a significant portion of the population are beginning to resemble the Borg, my room was still operating without the world wide web. Geez, roll your eyes! How very pre-90's!

I should also mention that I had my wife's cell phone with us, but it, too, is not subscribed to any internet service.

Ah, but never fear! The condo lobby offered a single internet-ready computer that could be logged into – for the low, low price of $4.00 per half hour. Who the hell would pay four bucks to check their friggin' email, I ask? You'd have to be pretty hard up to shell it out. Being a cheap bastard, I chose to stay away, and thus you weren't graced with any blog entries for days. How did you ever make it without my illustrious wisdom catapulted to you via the binary mysteries of the www?

The last place I stayed, on a business trip to Berkeley, was an old "grand dame" hotel which turned out to be a dump. [I've stayed at enough of those "grand hotel" places to know they aren't nearly as wondrous as you would hope. Without free breakfast, and often without even swimming pools or hot tubs, you're basically paying for a nicer lobby, and the rooms are usually smaller and badly furnished. You're better off staying at Best Western, IMHO]. The lobby at that Berkeley hotel had four computers you could use, free of charge, up to 15 minutes a day. To do so, you had to get a code from the front desk. The problem was that 15 minutes is NOTHING. First of all, the connection was slow, so by the time I was able to log into my email server and actually start reading emails, nearly a third of my time was gone. Actually putting thought into my replies meant I was only able to read and reply to a fraction of my inbox. Begging for a second code was successful in doubling my time, but it was still a stretch. That same hotel offered free wifi in the lobby, but my ancient laptop was not wifi compatible. Luckily a coworker had a wifi-capable computer I could use to get some extra work done.

Anyhow, I have now returned to the modern world, and thus you get this blog post to complete your day. Enjoy.

Oh, and I rock at Scrabble. In one game, I had two 7-letter words. Beat that, you techno-geeks!

Image taken from HERE.