Monday, May 6, 2013

When Multitasking is Inappropriate

Americans are renowned for our love of multitasking.  While people in other countries may settle for simply reading part of the morning paper on their way to work while riding on the bus, we use that time to put on makeup, send multiple text messages, eat breakfast and shave, all while driving at 70 mph down the freeway. You may argue that nobody would both shave and put on makeup while driving, but that's only because you haven't passed Marilyn Manson on his way to work.

I'm not complaining about our multitasking addiction. Let's face it, you don't win two world wars by letting your time go idle.  I'm only pointing out that our desire, no, impulsive need for productivity forces us to grab each day like a ripe orange and not only squeeze every drop of juice out of it, but use the pulp for compost and turn the rind into an artsy creation we can share on Pinterest.

This trend has only accelerated with the advance of technology.  Not long ago, spending time with others relegated you to carrying on conversation with those people and not much else.  Now, in addition to checking that box, you can literally check your inbox, chat with your more interesting friends and research what's happening in your community this weekend.  If nothing else you can redeem the otherwise useless minutes with a game.  Because the only thing better than listening intently to your friends tell you about what's going on in their lives is to listen to them half heartedly while aggressively destroying pig-made fortresses with birds launched from a virtual slingshot.  Look at my productivity soar!  Now I'm spending time with you and having a good time!

Unfortunately I was raised in a time when multitasking was not as appreciated.  I wasted years of childhood with unproductive hours spent climbing trees and riding my bike, when I could have been mastering chess, learning to play multiple musical instruments, rising in the ranks of soccerdom and getting my black belt in karate, all at the same time.  Fortunately, today's parents aren't about to let their kids waste their time the way that mine did, which will save us all when we go to war with China, which will unexpectedly declare that the conflict should be decided by a head to head soccer match, with competitors to be selected from the best chess playing violinists from each country.

I recently experienced multitasking gone too far, when I stopped by the bathroom at work.  Personally, I view the restroom as a serial tasking environment.  I take care of biological needs, then I wash my hands, then I dry my hands, then I leave.  Some feel the need to expand this to carrying on a conversation while using the urinal, or reading in the stall, which I can accept, albeit with reservations.

What is not acceptable is carrying on a conversation over the phone while sitting on the toilet.  Yes, somebody in stall number three was simultaneously doing their duty while doing their dootie.  For me, this is just a bridge too far.  When I speak with someone over the phone, I really want to do so without hearing the sounds of fecal matter leaving their body.  I would rather they not be splitting their attention between what I'm saying and when to pinch it off.  And I would really rather not borrow someone's phone who was juggling it in one hand while wiping with the other.  Call me old fashioned but I have to draw the line somewhere.  Can we all agree to make the restroom a no-phone zone?