I tried to do the impossible last week. I tried to get away. And I did it, too. For about three hours. And then… Then I paid for it.
Last Thursday morning, I woke up in Santa Barbara. It’s a beautiful town, a little chilly in the morning, but it warms up nicely after the sun burns off the haze. I had left strict instructions to my department not to bother me unless the world was exploding. The world rarely does that, actually, so I thought it might be possible for me to leave my cell phone and Blackberry in our room when we went downtown for a little walk in the California light.
By way of background, let me articulate my long-held Law on the subject of vacation: Every minute of interruption for a business reason requires an hour of time to re-establish equanimity. I refer to this, modestly, as Bing’s Law. It means, for instance, that a one-minute phone call produces anxiety, aggravation and thought that demands a full hour to burn off. A ten minute call eats up 10 hours of head space. And a full conference call can wreck a whole weekend.
For this reason, I try to make sure, on the few days I escape from the crushing, omnipresent, omnivorous business bubble, that my electronics are near for only one very early morning interchange and a similar shot of reality near bedtime. Anything more and I might as well be working.
Fine. I took a walk analog. Sue me.
At about 2 PM, my wife looked at her cell phone, probably to check for the time, and saw that she had six messages. That’s not good. She checked in. It was my office. In the two or so hours I had been out of touch, Atlantis had cracked open and fallen into the sea. I’m not going to tell you what it was. Some butthead did his butthead thing, that’s all. Suffice it to say my presence was required, if only digitally.
So I sat on a bench next to a bum with a smelly sleeping bag and a foot-long beard. I envied him.
I dealt with the situation until it was resolved as much as possible. Then I got up and tried to re-enter the world where people have uninterrupted thoughts and feelings for a few hours now and then.
In the end, it’s the illusion that gets you, the hope that truly destroys your peace of mind. Or maybe it’s just the hubris to believe that escape is possible. Hubris is always punished. We must appease the gods.
For the rest of the weekend, I carried my cell phone the whole time. It didn’t ring once.