Friday, June 27, 2008

Encouraging Luddites

Over the last two months, I've been doing a monumental amount of freelance work. In fact, I'll have made the equivalent of a full-time salary in June and about 2/3 of one in May. A big part of this work has been telephone work for my former full-time employer. It just so happens that two huge jobs, one of which required testing by phone of about 90 people and the other of which required a sequence of 6 telephone lessons and essay correction for about 80 people came at the same time. To put this in perspective for you, I will have done somewhere in the ballpark of 600 telephone calls lasting from 5-10 minutes each over the past two months.

You can only imagine how this makes me feel about phone calls. In fact, one has to wonder if one of the reasons I continue to reject cell phones is that I did these sorts of phone lessons for over a decade day-in and day-out as part of my former job. The main difference then was that I had a maximum of 32 calls a day scheduled. From home, there have been days when I've had as many as 50 calls scheduled in a day.

When I took these calls in the office, it wasn't a huge problem if people called at times other than when they were scheduled since I was being paid for being there. One of the down sides to working freelance from home is I'm usually paid "by the piece". That is, none of the time I spend aside from completed calls is paid. Well, that's not exactly true. I get paid a whopping ¥100 (a bit less than a buck) when people are scheduled and don't call. This is essentially "nuisance" pay.

This morning, I woke up just before 8:30 which gave me a comfortable buffer of 90 minutes before the first calls started at 10:00 am. I sat groggily in front of my computer and tried to focus. Within a minute or so after reaching something approaching consciousness, the telephone rang. One of my students who was supposed to call yesterday decided he'd just ring me up early in the morning. While I will grant that he doesn't know if I'm in an office or at home, calling at 8:30 am is simply wrong in either case. Most offices don't start doing business until 9:00 am. Also, missing your appointment and calling whenever you feel like it is rude. This is tantamount to one of my private students being absent without notice then just showing up the next day at a time of her choosing and saying, 'I forgot my lesson so I'm here now and expect a lesson.'

Common courtesy should dictate that people do not call others early in the morning or late at night except in case of an emergency, but telephone technology and the way in which cell phones in particular have made people feel that they are entitled to access anyone any time have erased notions of time-based boundaries. In fact, I have had similar problems with people who are a part of my social life who don't seem to recognize that there are such boundaries. It took quite a few attempts with one troublesome family member in particular (you might guess which one) to get him to not call after 10:00 pm. As it was, once we got him to not call any later than that, he would always call just before 10:00 pm so that the duration of the call caused things to run late. He is a night owl and we couldn't get him to respect the fact that we started preparing for bed much earlier than he. He'd call at times which suited him best rather than keep our situation in mind.

Unfortunately, the only way I can prevent people from accessing outside of the bounds that civility would dictate is simply to unplug the technology that allows them to reach me. If things continue as they have been where people do whatever they want whenever they want based on their whims and convenience rather than with the needs of the party they are contacting in mind, rudeness is going to encourage me to become a bit of a Luddite and unplug the phone and the doorbell.


badmoodmike said...

Isn't technology wonderful!?

I am like you, I hate to be bothered by phone calls. Period. I think that it is a personal defect, because you at least have a good reason. I just don't like talking to people.

I think that I should explain how I do this, so be on the look out for my next blog entry.

Orchid64 said...

I like talking to people quite a lot. I just don't like the presumption that I should be at their beck and call and at their convenience just because we have the technology to tap people on the shoulder from a distance.

I'll be looking forward to your next blog post! I always do. :-)