Saturday, September 21, 2013

James Caan’s Phone Policy

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If this were the 90s then a no phones policy would be absolutely relevant but, alas, it is not. That's why if you're my boss and you see me at work, you are going to get hell'a angry, my friend, because it's 2013. I'm not sure if you've walked into a phone store or crawled out from under your rock in like the last decade, but if you have then you would know that phones can do a little more than call, text and make monophonic ringtones, leaving these policies with more holes than James Caan's car in The Godfather. However, since absurdity always prevails, workplaces and educational facilities alike continue to pump fuel into James Caan's no phones policy, despite the fact that the phones that this policy was originally intended for hardly exist anymore. So if it's antiquated and makes no sense, then why aren't I eating toast right now instead of writing this post?

To kick this off, let me ask the question: how would you even define a mobile phone these days? Because I'm going to jump ahead and assume that everybody has their own idea of what a 'phone' is, most notably the Calculator Generation. The Calculator Generation are the large group of the population who grew up either before or in the time when the biggest technological advancements were the television and the calculator - two devices that each serve (or served) their own single purpose. How they differ from the generations that followed is that many of them find it difficult to shake this notion of singularity in a time when a product's top selling-point is multi-function. This is understandable considering that calculators were not unlike everything else at the time: fridges cooled things, cars drove and played analogue radio, pencils wrote, Africans served Satan and, most importantly, phones made calls. For example, if anybody has ever pointed at your laptop or smartphone and asked you 'what does that do?' and your head has almost exploded from the sheer shock of the question, rest assured that they are from the Calculator Generation.  And with the Calculator Generation, this is with whom these no phones policies live on, because they weren't brought up to ask questions like 'what is a phone?'

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So once again, what is a mobile phone?

Could a phone be something that makes calls? Well yes. However, if I put Skype or Viber on my iPod, now it can technically make calls as well, but it's still an mp3 player and not a phone, otherwise it would be an iPhone! So actually no. In fact if we're going to go ahead and define phones this way, then if I install Skype on the computers at work, under a no phones policy, those computers should be confiscated immediately.

Still not convinced? Then what is a mobile phone? Could it be something that holds a SIM card? Actually, not even a little! Sure, maybe in the 90s when only mobile phones and Improvised Explosive Devices had SIM cards, but we're a little more versatile now. Many laptops and tablets, like the iPad, can hold a SIM for 3G and 4G wireless connectivity, and needless to say, they are not phones, they just are what they are! Need I delve any further in regards to SIMs?

Um...what else? If not those things then what is a mobile phone?

Jesus! Maybe it's something flat with a screen, some buttons and can fit in your pocket, but you'd be wrong about that too because that could be anything: once again, an iPod Touch - which looks almost identical to the iPhone 3G; any seven inch tablet - because they simply look like big phones and the Galaxy Note II is only an inch and a half smaller than that; a Kindle or any other e-reader device; a television remote; my solar charger looks like an orange iPhone; my black gloss portable hard drive looks like a phone as well. So don't be getting any of that shit out at work! Especially if you know that your boss monitors your productivity via the surveillance cameras (which is all kinds of illegal in New South Wales, by the way).

But let's play devil's advocate and stop arguing semantics for a minute. Say that a phone is simply something that's sold with the sole purpose of being a 'phone', by a phone salesman at a phone store - can you tell me when the last time a phone was just a phone? A time when people didn't use them to surf the web, watch TV, check their schedule, shop, look at boobies on their lunch breaks - a phone was just a bug the shit out of your worker phone! Simply an upgrade from a Pager. Name a year! 2003? 2005? Let's say 2005 for safety. 2005! Eight years ago! Not two! Not five! Fuckin' eight years! Lets put this into perspective: the Bird Flu broke out in 2005; the London Bombings happened in 2005; the Xbox 360 was released in 2005; Pope John Paul II died in 2005; Fuel prices started to rise in 2005; the fourth Harry Potter film out came out in 2005 - and there were eight of them! That's how long ago it was, and I'm still getting lip about this having my phone bullshit? C'mon! When are we going to get over it?

But you know that I could have probably gone with an earlier year, right? I just chose 2005 so that I could safely say that smartphones and feature-heavy mobile devices were becoming more prominent, but you think that's when it began, na, na! People had plenty of warning to adjust their stubborn-attitudes! Let's dig a little deeper. Five years prior, Bill Gates gave ugly man-birth to Pocket PC 2000. Putrid looking devices, but they were just that: Pocket PCs - smart devices, but not at all phones. When 2003 came around, it was rebranded to Windows Mobile and offered in three different flavours. While 'Classic' continued the Microsoft Pocket PC offering, 'Standard' and 'Professional' brought phone capabilities to the plate, thus giving us what we now call 'smartphones'. Now I'm quite well versed in what technology is out on the market and how they all compare, but if somebody on the other side of the room whipped out a Windows Mobile device right now and asked me to tell them if it's a phone or not without me getting a real good look, I'd need binoculars and a case lodged with the FBI to give a definite answer - Windows Mobile devices, phone or not, were virtually identical. So if I can't tell, what the fuck good is my boss that was born during the disco going to be at telling the difference! The moral of this paragraph is that just because something looks like a phone doesn't mean that it is.

I do understand though; holding a phone at work is not a good look, especially in customer service, but only because there's a stigma attached to it now that has been propagated by my generation. Of course, in stark contrast to the Calculator Generation, by 'my generation', I refer to the overstimulated, 'this phone is a tablet hybridised with a laptop and entertainment system with an attachable vibrator' generation. When I was a kid, like all kids, my parents couldn't get me to read a book over the sweet allure of watching a film, now kids are like'fuck movies!' They can't even sit through an entertaining hour and a half without pulling out their phone anymore, let alone sit through an excruciating eight hour shift at work, and it's only going to get worse. But despite that somewhat accurate stigma, despite the fact that I may well be one of the people that attach that stigma, I still resent the assumption that just because I have my phone out that I am definitely, one hundred percent checking my Facebook or Instagram or playing Angry Birds or I'm texting or tweeting pictures of my food over the more useful things that were originally envisioned in the advent of the smartphone, things like checking my to do list, appointments, writing, reading - essentially, things that I can do fine without technology but choose not to.

Another stigma attached to phones is that they're unsafe when used in moving vehicles, but that's all that's prohibited - phones. The problem with that is we still don't know what a phone is! Fuck! I don't know about you, but there's nothing like the rush I feel when I pull out my iPod Touch when behind the wheel of a car or when I'm sitting thirty thousand feet up in an airplane; I mean, that's guts, you've got'ta know that! You would think...oh yeah! You would think because there are lives at stake here that we would want to be a little more specific, but obviously the lawman isn't doing much thinking at all here! In the latest, very helpful NSW Road Users' Handbook, I can find sections restricting the use of 'mobile phones', 'GPS units' and 'visual display units'. What I cannot find are sections on media devices, mp3 players, tablets, ebook readers or even laptops. This is unless of course you were to class these as 'visual display units', but I suspect this refers more to any DVD or TV displays, so I suppose we're throwing this one into the 'open to the interpretation of the cop on duty that day' basket then! Even in last year's amendment to the road rules, which tightened up on mobile phone usage, it still failed to mention any other device apart from phones, even though it specifically admits that drivers use their phones for other things by alluding to the 'audio playing functions' of a phone. But I know all too well that one day I'll be pulled over to the side of the road, arguing my way out of a fine, trying everything I can to explain the subtle differences between my iPod and the iPhone they allegedly saw me holding. Mark my words!

You want to know Australia's mobile phone rules on airplanes - juuuuuust forget it; we have no clue what's goin' on! But in the US, they know. This is all I need - from my boss, my teacher, my flight attendant, the roads and traffic authority. Just three magic words, because after all, the last five minutes of your time I've taken up has simply been a word game. "Portable Electronic Devices!" Oh fuck, just take me now, America! "No person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any (here it comes!) portable electronic device on any of the following U.S.-registered civil aircraft". Say what you want about the United States, but that's how you do a no phones policy!

Don't take any of this the wrong way, it's not that I have a problem with rules, I just have an issue with the stupid ones, and this one is supremely-idiotic. It's not even that I think that it isn't warranted. I just don't want people coming to me with their dumb-fuck rules, filled with their dumb-fuck terms that were probably made while watching new episodes of Friends and expect me not to have a litter questions. I personally would like to see a no nonsense policy, that way my bosses and teachers will make sense when they talk. All I'm saying is to be specific about rules, not wishy-washy, otherwise all you're doing is building an easy path to dissent. It's all well and good to say that you can't take guns into the courtroom and you can't be holding an electronic device while the engine is running because those are black and white concepts, but when you throw terms like 'bullets' and 'phone' around in this day and age, you might as well have said nothing.