Goodbye Crackberry, Hello Freedom!

There is something liberating about wiping a Crackberry. It being no simple process, deleting your entire account must be a conscious decision, something you absolutely want and must do, effectively severing all of those emotional ties associated with that digital ball and chain. That is, of course, unless the person wiping a handheld is an impatient dictator with little acceptance for consequence.

As I sat alone in my cube on the last day of work, one of my final tasks was to deliberately wipe the dreaded Crackberry. If you have never been wired to such a device, it might be surprising to discover just how much meaning a little technological gadget can develop over time.  And with that meaning comes anxiety. Crackberries are like a homing device provided by bureaucratic despots to their underlings to ensure that someone is always available to do whatever the moment demands: accompany the superior to breakfast; save a file on a shared drive; or draft an immediate response, as dictated by said master, undoubtedly to something irrelevant. Eventually the notification sound of a message received, be it a beep or the device vibrating somewhere, can generate such a shattering of nerves that the person sentenced to carry the handheld must ultimately rely upon the flashing red light to indicate receipt of e-mail. Even then, seeing that little crimson bulb flickering results in an instant tensing of all muscles from the threat of loosing what small amount of time was left to oneself during a shortened weekend or evening.

Of course, not everyone experiences the same sensations towards this popular communication device. Many employers view Crackberries as the epitome of workplace efficiency, rendering staff always on. Touted as a means to make employment more flexible, the Crackberry has succeeded in rendering work simply constant. Now, through modern communications, it is not a question of whether an employee is able to respond during her off time, but why didn’t she?

Granted, it can be quite frustrating when working past the normal workday, which the Civil Service loves to publicise to would-be bureaucrats as five in the afternoon, only to have a task with a looming deadline impeded due to the inability of a colleague to save a file on the shared-drive. It’s even more annoying to find that said co-worker refuses to respond to your appeals for help via Crackberry. The argument could be made that if the associate in question had been competent in the first place, one wouldn’t need to reach her remotely, but that is neither here nor there. This is just to say that there is something convenient about being able to reach people all the time.

This availability of perpetual contact, however, has a spiralling effect. As with the example above of needing to reach a colleague after hours, workaholics wish to have access to support staff whenever they work as well. It’s just that they never stop working. And as a result, neither do their staff. Especially thanks to Crackberries.

I am sure, too, that there is an unconscious sense of power associated with Crackberries for Civil Masters ruling over their bureaucratic minions. The handheld certainly endowed Josephina Steele with control over her staff. Likewise, enjoying instant access to her underlings might also have helped mask some of the loneliness Josephina must inevitably have suffered as a result of living only for work.

In fact, Josephina Steele would likely cease to exist without her Crackberry, or at the very least her determined sense of self would be greatly imperilled by an inability to connect with people instantly. Her Crackberry was a symbol of everything Josephina was. She would relish in telling us how her boss, the Governor General, had reprimanded her for sending messages at three in the morning and muse over the possibilities of setting up her e-mail so that a message could be sent at a later time to camouflage her obsession with work.

That’s why it was so shocking to learn one day that she had accidentally wiped her Crackberry.

While Josephina struggled to make it appear a funny matter, the lines on her saggy face were more prominent than usual. Josephina had clearly lost sleep over the failure with her communication device. I had arrived later, fortunately, and the matter had been past off onto some other underling for urgent attention, but overheard Josephina quietly explaining to our Senior Manager that she had forgot her password and after a number of attempts to log in, the Crackberry just wiped itself.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, always easily distracted by the pressures of working for Josephina, even when one of the tech support guys dropped by my cube to relay more of the story. Laughing, he mentioned with some wonder that Josephina would have had to punch in the wrong password ten times. And at that, she would have had to do it consecutively without breaks. “Had she just waited thirty seconds in between attempts,” he chuckled, “the device would have just been locked, as opposed to wiped.” A bellow from Josephina’s bunker caused the techie to start and scurry off.

It really wasn’t until my last day when it dawned on me how difficult it must have been for Josephina to successfully wipe her Crackberry. Reminding me to deliberately erase the handheld device, the same techie smiled knowingly, recalling the very incident as I was: “just type the wrong password in ten times.”

When the moment came, I elatedly began typing in false passwords: “I hate this place”; “freedom”; and “goodbye”. It was invigorating, knowing that I would soon be free from this electronic enslavement and the horrors of this job. And then something interesting happened: a little window popped up after but three or four failures, prompting me to type the word “Blackberry”. Entering anything but the required word only resulted in locking the device, obviously to avoid the accidental wiping of a handheld in a pocket or a purse. Josephina would have had to type the code word in to have continued with the wiping process.

Moreover, as the magic tenth attempt approached, the rate of frequency by which the code word had to be input increased: by the seventh, eighth and ninth failures, to proceed with each subsequent attempt required the correct typing of the word “Blackberry.” And on the tenth attempt, a special window appeared with the statement: Last attempt! Information will be erased on failure! The user, very certain of either the password or an intent to wipe the device, must then click OK to be prompted to the final log in screen, which now after the direction to Enter Password is followed in parentheses by the words Final attempt!

Giddy with the prospect of freedom, I happily typed, “Fuck you!” and wondered, had Josephina really completed that entire process, wiping her Crackberry? One would have to be an absolute moron not to see the warning signs. Furthermore, after about five attempts, wouldn’t you be wondering if you really remembered your password and wait until the next day to seek tech support?

It was odd, but suddenly made sense in the context of Josephina’s modus operandi: “never take no for an answer.”

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