Seconds after the speaker announced a 15-minute break, nine of the 10 heads around the boardroom table bowed.
I’ve since learned that was the BlackBerry prayer. People lower their eyes and, with reverence, silently check their texts, emails and other social media messages on their smartphones.
The guy across from me actually was working two smartphones at the same time.
I, head No. 10, prefer dumb phones.
I’ve never texted, never managed emails from a phone and lasted only 24 hours on Facebook before killing my account.
Still, it was with a pang of alienation that I walked out of that conference room three years ago to sit outside on the front steps of the building.
Rod Bessett would have taken a seat next to me outside. The 59-year-old treasurer and district manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 in Appleton, like me, is a perplexed member of a disappearing breed: those who prefer face-to-face over Facebook, talking over texting and socializing over social media.
Bessett has inched into electronics, but on quaintly individual terms. He texts, but only with his wife, and he doesn’t want anyone at work to know even that.
He doesn’t own a personal computer.
He emails in the office, but only reluctantly, and the people at work know he really has no choice. His former secretary would agree.
Several years ago, Bessett eschewed emails, leaving to his secretary the task of opening the messages. She would print out and show him the most important ones.
But, in other ways, he considered her work unsatisfactory, and his boss had consulted an attorney to figure out the best way to fire her.
Of course, Bessett’s boss emailed that advice to Bessett. Of course, Bessett’s secretary opened that email.
He checks emails now.
But he credits his new secretary with helping him ride the waves of technology until he reaches retirement.
People call us Luddites, but that’s not accurate. We don’t oppose technological change.
We might, in the future, embrace some up-to-now undiscovered marvel, but we see no advantage in those now available. For now, we’re tolerated by those who understand we can succeed without the whirring ring tones and beeping text alerts.
We represent another, more deliberate way of doing business. It’s not accurate to call it old-fashioned because it’s as relevant now as it was before the first smartphone hit the market.
Bessett, I and, I can only guess, a handful of others like us are content to let evolving technologies pass us by as we sit on the front step, making eye contact, talking.
Chris Thompson is editor of The Daily Reporter. He can be reached by email at chris.thomp … never mind.