When You Can’t Be In Two Places At One Time
I need Jack and I need Frank. You boys are our first two contestants.
Are you going to answer that Rodney.
Remember this game goes pretty fast, so pay attention.
Are you sure you’re not going to get that?
Here’s your first question. Let’s play!
I have a demanding job. It requires that I carry a phone literally 24×7. I’ve taken Support Calls at 8,000 Feet hiking up a mountain. I’ve taken phone calls in the middle of the desert in a tent. I’ve taken phone calls in church. That doesn’t even count the calls in the middle of the night. Sure, I grumble a little, but if you’ve ever had an extended period where you were out of work and money was beyond tight, I don’t think you get to complain too much about a job that pays you. If it bothered me too much, I’d go get a different job.
Often I’m on these calls because something broke. I’m typically on two or three different phone lines at the same time. I can sometimes convince people I’m in two places at once. And through it all, I absolutely have to be accessible.
This week, I found a time that I could not be in two places at once. My phone showed me the number calling. It was our Incident Management team. I ignored it. Next, our site manager called. I ignored it. Throughout the hour, I got calls from a half dozen people, including our client. I ignored them all. Something was seriously broken and I wasn’t going to do anything about it. Well, not for an hour at least.
I thought a lot about what I was willing to interrupt for my job. If I leave dinner to take a work call, am I saying my family is less important than my job? If I take a call while on a scout outing, am I saying my job is more important than our scout troop? If I walk out of church to take a call, am I saying my job is more important than God?
It’s something I struggle with. I’m going to take the call regardless, but am I sending the wrong message? Obviously, I do. don’t I?
I think the answer has to do with my motivation. Sure, I’ve appreciated a phone call that got me out of a boring meeting. Who hasn’t? But, I hope the message I send is, I made a commitment, and even if it is inconvenient, I’m going to honor that commitment. To my family, I hope it says, “These are the requirements of the job. The job pays for our house and clothes and food. I value those things so much for you that I’m willing to leave in the middle of a family event to make sure I don’t put them at risk.”
So, why was Wednesday night different? I wondered that myself. Why was I willing to let systems fail, employees be frustrated, customers not get service? How did THAT action reconcile with my previous statements?
And then I thought about being in two places at once. While hiking up the mountain, I could both hike and handle the call. At dinner, I wasn’t forcing the meal to come to a halt. Dinner could happen while my phone call was also happening. In church, if I’m not teaching a class, the meeting can carry on without me. I can be in two places at once.
That wasn’t the case Wednesday night. Wednesday night we played a trivia game with 8 Boy Scouts (How To Teach By deception.) I wrote the questions. I wrote the rules. I’m the only one who knew the answers. If I took that phone call, the game would come to a screeching halt. Literally those boys would have nothing to do. I realized that when it came right down to it, taking calls for my job during other activities did NOT signify that my job was more important. It simply meant that I was willing to be in two places at once. When the hard choice had to be made and I was forced to reveal my true priorities, I picked the boys.
I learned something about myself Wednesday night, and it was comforting to feel like I measured up.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved