On my way to lunch, I’d witnessed the following: a parade of small Asian children, wearing the same green t-shirt and being shepherded across a busy intersection by frazzled adults; a guy do a flip on a pogo stick; a French bulldog that sounded inches away from heat exhaustion; and a flyer saying that scenes for White Collar will be filmed a few blocks from my office sometime over the next few days/week. You can’t say that Midtown isn’t exciting.
Today at the office was the one of those “I’m going to blast music through my headphones so no one bothers me as I write a 5-page paper/complete an entire problem set in one sitting” days, except I didn’t have any music to listen to and the things I do on a daily basis are much less thinking intensive. The entire day still had that isolated, narrowly concentrated feel to it though, and it took me until 3:30 to figure out why.
Normally, there’s a reasonable amount of ambient noise in the office. Someone is either chatting on the phone, asking the person next door about the status of a project, or having a mini-meeting about other important matters. On this particular Friday, the occasional murmurs of conversation were missing. It was quiet in a way that was more noticeable than the noises that the printer makes when it’s producing a 300+ page document. I became preternaturally aware of the clacking keyboards all around me. Everyone seemed to be typing something. I was probably typing something.
The subdued quiet seemed to exaggerate everything. Not only were noises louder, the sun seemed brighter, the room warmer (probably because the air conditioning wasn’t on). A basket for UPS packages on top of the cubicle cabinets appeared out of nowhere after I returned from lunch. (I can’t possibly be that unobservant.) I was also really tired. In keeping with my subconscious refusal to sleep at times that accommodate the normal workday, I fell off the eight hours of sleep every night wagon. This may have been a contributing factor. By the time 3:30 rolled around, I was ready to go home and couldn’t really sit still. I got up twice to get water I didn’t really want to drink and decided to take the mail out twenty minutes earlier than I normally did because all I wanted to do was walk around, jaywalk across busy intersections, and look dreamily at the passing storefronts.
Whether it was because I was tired or there were no ambient noises to distract me, I was also incredibly irritated at the computer today. It runs Windows 7 and has the latest version of Microsoft Office, so in theory, it’s all good to go, but for reasons that I have yet to discover, it runs at the pace of an arthritic dog and gets upset when there’s too many tabs open in Chrome. I’ve been dreadfully spoiled by my trusty MacBook Pro, which is the one item I will refuse to leave behind in the event of an airplane accident, tornado, fire, earthquake, or flood. This morning, when I was waiting for the computer to start up, I thought about how nice it was to simply open my laptop and have things instantly work. I decided that I waste about four minutes of my life waiting for my work email to load, which probably sums into a distressingly large number over the course of the summer. Then, if you add in the precious seconds caused by loading webpages, the loss in productivity is probably astonishing. I seriously considered whether I could bring my own laptop to work for about thirty seconds before realizing that I would have to carry it around. (As much as I love my computer, I hate carrying things more.)
At the end of the day, it seemed silly to get so annoyed at slow computers, but I wanted instant gratification when it comes to the Internet. Although a loading browser doesn’t impact my general day-to-day life in any real way, it feels like a demand for attention when I come face to face to it. Or more accurately, when I glare at it, which may be part of the problem. My tolerance for falling-under-the-standards technology is evidently much lower than I realized. I can wait an extra thirty minutes for a train to take me home, but a few seconds of lag as an image struggles to materialize, forget it.
So far, I’ve been trying to decide whether I might be less adept at dealing with technology than I thought or whether I’m just impatient. The photocopier perplexes me sometimes. The mail machine also requires a bit of thinking in order to get it to spit out the right postage. I had to ask, on two separate occasions, how to turn on a desktop computer. But I also know how to find personal information using a simple Google search. I have a thousand and one keyboard tricks. I own (too) many electronic devices.
I’m going to be self-indulgent and say I’m just impatient. Nothing that a good night’s sleep won’t cure.