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A business-as-usual county commissioners’ meeting on Monday night turned animated when commissioners considered a cell phone stipend plan, which almost cost county department heads their BlackBerrys.
For months, county finance director Ann Hardy has been tweaking proposals to relinquish the county’s cell phone contracts and turn them over to employees. Due to an IRS regulation, Hardy says the county could be responsible for more than $100,000 per year in tax liability if the county didn’t turn cell phone contracts over to county employees. County employees would be given a predetermined cell phone stipend in lieu of a county-provided phone.
It sounds simple, I know, but the decision turned out to be anything but.
As Hardy went through three different stipend options from which commissioners could choose, I assumed I knew which option commissioners would back.
The proposed stipends were divided between regular cell phones and “smart” phones, or in this case, BlackBerrys, which allow for e-mail delivery, Internet access and, on occasion, a phone call or two.
It turns out only one commissioner knows the true importance of a BlackBerry—a palm-sized piece of Heaven—as he lauded the devices and waved his “smart” device in the air.
So as commissioners were mulling details and modifying their motions, I realized just how dependent on my BlackBerry I had become.
In writing this column, I realize I’m exposing my own addiction to my BlackBerry, but it’s 2009, so I’m not ashamed.
They’re wonderful, and I often find myself wondering how I functioned before this technology entered my life. In fact, I’ve never even seen the aforementioned county commissioner without his BlackBerry in hand, ever.
But he always returns my e-mails and calls immediately, so you won’t hear any complaints from me.
It’s not just my own BlackBerry device I cherish. It’s much easier to get in touch with people who also carry the devices.
Believe it or not, people aren’t always clamoring to return reporters’ phone calls. For some reason, a quick e-mail seems to be returned faster via a BlackBerry for the last-minute, on-deadline details than a phone call.
Driving home after the meeting, I found myself wondering if I could go back to the old way and still succeed without my BlackBerry. After all, it would be nice not to be awoken at 4 a.m. when a rogue piece of junk mail makes it through the filter and sounds off.
So I challenged myself. For the rest of the evening, which didn’t leave much time after I finally got home, if the e-mail alarm went off, I wouldn’t look at it. I would walk over to my laptop three feet away and check my e-mail the old-fashioned way.
I was proud of myself for the feeble accomplishment until I crossed the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge on my way into work Tuesday and realized my laptop was still sitting in the same place it was the evening before waiting for me to check my e-mail the old-fashioned way.
More than two hours after first leaving, I finally arrived at work with much less gas in my tank and an acute understanding of just how dependent on technology I had become.
I may have forgotten my computer and perhaps my mind, but at least I had my BlackBerry.