May 3, 2008

In the Palm of My Hand

Posted in silicon valley tagged , , , at 4:20 pm by siliconmom

In the palm of my hand,

From the siliconmom column archives by Alison van Diggelen March 2000

This winter, I joined the throngs in Silicon Valley who proudly parade their Palm Pilots.  I learned to cherish mine like a last remnant of umbilical cord, keeping me afloat in the heady seas of Dot Com Mania. 

However I soon learned that respect for my human limitations is a key part to living in harmony with a Palm.  My mistake was thinking that the control of my whole life could fit into the palm of my hand.

It’s fascinating to see Palms pop up everywhere from the board room, the student book-store to the Children’s Discovery Museum.  Forget flashy cars, cool khakis and teeny weenie cell phones.  The latest and greatest fashion statement in the valley is the Palm Pilot.

Typical example: last month’s job faire in Santa Clara.  Thousands of techies milling around, checking out the gold mining potential of over 200 recruiting companies. “Pre-IPO” banners shone like glistening Sirens.

The old fashioned way of passing out a whole forest of business cards is now pass‚.  With your Palm, you can politely ask, “Do you Beam?” With one press of the button, your card is automatically transferred to the recipient.  Looking cool and saving a few trees in the process is an instant recipe for feeling good about yourself.

I spent six solid hours plugging in the contents of my business calendar, my social appointments, address book, miscellaneous reminders and Christmas list.  There were still 1159 kilobytes of memory available, confidently awaiting my next few thousand appointments, like an enthusiastic boss, certain of my future success.

On screen, my life looked so simple, a breeze. I found myself saying “How could I have lived without one?”

It was satisfying to see how my day looks, my week, the coming year.  I got a heady feeling from shrinking my hectic life and my children’s schedules into the palm of my hand.  Now, at last I’ll have control over my life, I thought.

The built in secretary reminder saved me on countless occasions.  Not just for work appointments, but mundane stuff like getting kids to sports practice on time, returning library books, knowing when the cat needs vaccinations, even when my mother needs a call.

It’s perfect for early senility.  Just plug in the information and it will beep you every time you have to eat, put the trash out, take your tablets, get dressed or go to bed.

Problem is, I started to get carried away and scheduled how my day would run in half hour intervals.  Work time, kid time, nature time, couple time, social time, reading time, TV time.  Shocked at how much of the day I spent in bed, I scheduled myself to get up at 5 am not 6 and marked it, “work out time, creativity time.”

My sense of control and calm lasted about a month and then I started feeling like a frazzled operator.  My incessantly beeping Palm, was taking over.  I felt overwhelmed by the relentlessness of its annoying reminders.

My schedule didn’t account for gnarled traffic, fickle kids, meetings over-running, my husband’s deadlines, unforeseen accidents, and sickness. 

I was waking, working, eating and breathing to the beep of the Palm’s schedule.  Constantly trying to keep up with the machine, I became quite manic, sleep deprived and way out of control.  A slave to the Palm.

At the end of a long day in January, through the haze, a reality check hit.  I sang the children’s bedtime song

He’s got the whole world in his hands
He’s got you and me sister in his hands
He’s got you and me brother in his hands

“How big God’s hands must be….. all of us in his hands?”  My four year old remarked. 

I realized why this Palm was not working for me.  I had lofty ambition.  Trying to fit my whole world into the palm of my hand is not for a mere mortal like me.  To push, prod and schedule every last activity, even the lumpy ones into a space the size of a mango is absurd. Some things can’t be forced.  Creativity,  meeting children’s needs, spontaneity, and impulsive charity can’t be scheduled.  They need room, wide open space to breath, even to happen.

So, I’ve decided to have a Palm sabbatical and regain some control.  I’m going back to the old fashioned calendar system for a while.  That is, until they invent the Palm LV.  You know, the one that will simultaneously give you complete digital control over your rambunctious toddlers, your workaholic husband and your waistline.

© Alison van Diggelen