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When You Can’t Be In Two Places At One Time

May 27, 2016

I need Jack and I need Frank. You boys are our first two contestants. 

<Ring, Ring>

Are you going to answer that Rodney.


<Ring, RING>

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. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

One Comment
  1. April Johnson permalink

    So true! Way to go. Those decisions drive me crazy too!

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