I saw a commercial the other day that hit a little too close to home.
It was for an online banking service, Wells Fargo or Bank of America or one of those big banks, and featured a guy who was always on his phone. The ad shows him checking his email, looking up directions and doing banking things like paying bills and transferring money.
At the end he’s standing in front of a movie theater with a women, looking at his phone and saying “I know what’s playing.” The woman gestures to the marquee in front of them and says, “So do I.”
The commercial made me laugh, but I think my laughter may have been a cover for my embarrassment because I am that guy. I’ve probably done that exact same thing. Or sat in a restaurant and read the menu off my phone with the printed version sitting on the table in front of me.
Everything is an excuse to use my iPhone.
I’m not a tech geek. I don’t lust after the latest gadgets. If anything, I’m always late to the game when it comes to electronics.
It took me a long time to get my first computer. It was one of those old iMacs, the kind that came in pretty colors and was shaped like stuffed triangle.
I didn’t buy an iPod until they had been out for years. I still don’t own a Nook or a Kindle even though all my reading friends have them and love them.
And I didn’t get my iPhone until six months ago.
Part of the reason I don’t jump on the gadget band wagon is that I agonize over large purchases, large being anything over $50. I think about it and weigh the pros and cons. I window-shop. A lot. I Google. I read consumer reports. And I talk about the potential purchase ad nauseam.
In the case of my iPhone, I would be grocery shopping and my mother would say, “I can’t remember if the recipe takes milk or cream.” I would reply, “If I had an iPhone I could look it up.”
Or if I was taking a trip for business and printing out directions I’d think, “I wouldn’t have to waste this paper if I had an iPhone.”
For almost a year my mantra was “If I had an iPhone…”
Then April, I finally stopped at a Verizon store and bought an iPhone and my mantra changed from “If I had an iPhone” to “what would I do without my iPhone.”
I am constantly checking my work email (which probably isn’t a good thing) or Twitter, listening to podcasts and surfing the internet for information I don’t need. Or, in some cases, information I could more easily find elsewhere.
So, I identify with the guy in that commercial. Sure he could look up at the marquee and see what time his movie starts, but it’s more fun to look on your phone. And you got to take your fun where you can find it.
Every day on my way to work, I drive pass a construction site where they are building a new gas station and convenience store.
For the longest time it was just a big hole in the ground. I often wondered if it was going to stay a hole or if they were going to do something with it.
Then a fence went up, with a sign saying announcing a new Mobil station.
Since then the project has moved quickly. When I drive by at night, I’m always impressed by how much has happened during the day. In the morning it’s just a steel frame, but by the time I go home there are walls. Or a roof.
It must be a good feeling to have such tangible proof of your daily accomplishments.
I usually get to the end of a day and wonder what I did to occupy nine or twelve or sixteen hours. I answered emails, placed an ad, talked on the phone, booked a show, wrote a contract. I have nothing to show for any of that.
But if you’re a builder, you have a roof. Or walls. You can look at it and say, “That’s what I did today.”
Of course, there are parts of my job that are satisfying.
A year or so ago I attended a meeting of the philanthropic committee of a large technology-based company to ask for a donation.
I was talking about our organization and describing the youth programs.
I told them about a little boy who had come to a show. I spoke to him on his way into the theater and he appeared painfully shy. He wouldn’t take his eyes off the floor.
After the show, he bounced down the stairs, ran up to me and proclaimed, “That was the best play ever!”
I told the committee that it was moments like that one that remind me of why I do what I do.
The faces around the table were blank. It’s not that they didn’t like my little story. I think they never asked themselves why they worked where they do. In all fairness, they probably make enough money that they don’t have to justify their careers with touchy feely excuses.
But when you work for a non-profit, you have to remember stories like the little boy’s transformation to make it worth it some days.
I had another one of those moments this evening.
We’ve started a series of free shows featuring regional artists. Tonight a young man who grew up in the area performed. He’s played in bars and clubs, but never performed solo on a real stage with lights and a sound system.
The audience cheered him on like he was a rock star.
It was a dream come true for him and he was still glowing from excitement when he thanked me after the show.
So maybe I didn’t install a roof today, but I accomplished something after all.