Glad to be Nobody

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.


stj said...

too many people are just too self-absorbed and ignorant these days and would have no idea how to relax and smell the roses. like you said they know that they're somebody and they are just too important to the job and the institution would crumble if, god forbid, they were out of contact for 3 days...everyone's an idiot except them...they have to make noise or else the boss won't know they exist.
i remeber being on a beach in the caribbean and saw a woman with her husband and 2 kids. hubby was crackberrying and the wife finally had enough and told him that if he was going to work on vacation she should have just taken the kids.
he proceeded to tell her that it was his job that got them the vacay.
well, she finally told him that if he didn't shutt off the electronic bracelet she was throwing it into the ocean. off it went but not until he gave me a look like "can you believe her?".
wanted to tell him that yeah i could and sitting here sipping a cold one watching the waves was better than working....don't think he would've understood.
by the way...next time get a steward and have your seat changed...i'm sure there were other bozos who wouldn't mind being next to an idiot....

camillofan said...

I can't say as I mind it when people work next to me on planes or trains, though I agree with you that they should work within the rules.

As someone who's a true Nobody in job/career terms (I mean, really: I'm so unimportant to my workplace that if I were to refuse on principle to work on planes, etc., it would come across as self-important for its very mootness), I'm used to looking up to everyone around me. I'm therefore quite willing to believe that the Somebodies I run across in the big wide world really are Somebodies. But I'd rather be me (i.e., the one with the library book).

Jandy said...

Being a teaching Nobody is better than an investing Somebody, even if our society doesn't pay the teaching Nobodys enough.