As I sat in my seat on the airplane taking me to LAX (getting to Reno from NYC is more difficult than you'd think!), I started to read some of the magazines I'd brought with me. My back issues pile was getting out of hand and what better way to get through it than to lug it with me and discard as I finished? It's not like I didn't have things to do, what with the fire and an upcoming "presentation" at the conference, but hey - forced relaxation!
My seatmate, on the other hand, was busy with his cell and his Crackberry. Clearly, I'd been placed next to Someone. Several times before we pushed away from the gate he made calls, placed e-mails - all work related. All Very Important. After all, he was Somebody. Then they gave us that "turn off all electronic devices" announcement. He turned off his cell. Not the Crackberry. Now, it's not like he didn't know it was still transmitting, because every time an attendant walked by, he'd palm it. But because he was Somebody, the rules didn't apply. After all, Somebody's always need to be working on a device with keys made for newborns and screens the size of credit cards, not listening to silly FAA regulations.
I felt like a dinosaur, sitting there with my Old Technology of print on paper, 8 x 11 (or larger). How very mid-last century of me. Obviously, I'm Nobody.
Finally, I asked him to turn the thing off. He was angry. His self-justifying response was that it wasn't transmitting (sorry, I know how the damn things work and it really was transmitting). That he needed to be working the entire flight and if I didn't like it I could call an attendant (which I'm now sorry I didn't do, just to confiscate the thing). I responded that I didn't mind his working, but rules are rules and just turn it off.
Funny thing is, I did mind his working. Not because it was noisy or I was feeling guilty about not working myself, but because we're now in a society where Everyone is Someone Very Important. He couldn't take a transcontinental flight to relax - read a book, sleep, listen to music, play solitaire. He was So Important, such a Somebody, that he had to work. In my Nobodiness, I was going to finish some magazines (got through them all!), do a Sunday Times crossword or two, possibly nap.
From up in the sky, what can you really do about things on the ground? Nothing. No one is that Important, that much of a Somebody that they can't take time off. But we, as a culture, have decided that's really not the case, that we need to be (somehow) involved. Even from 30,000 feet.
This man worked for an investment bank, which made him a Somebody. He dealt with financial futures. Very Somebody-type work. Me? I work with people futures, helping teach the next generation. And I'm glad that makes me a Nobody.