It’s the twenty-first century. Our lives are filled with electronic devices of every shape and size. Not that many years ago, the receptionists at my office took down handwritten messages from callers. Now everyone in the office has a personal voicemail box. There are many advantages to living in the age of technology. But progress comes with a price.
My office continues to forge ahead, keeping up with technological advances. Now we have document scanners. I had known for a few weeks that we would be getting some, and they arrived on Friday. I was informed that someone from the Information Technology department would be coming next week to set up the devices. I knew from the first mention of the scanners that it was going to be a dreadful experience for me, and I was not disappointed. Apparently, the I.T. department wasn’t busy, and someone was dispatched within two hours. It was going to be a bad situation no matter what, but now it was ten minutes after four o’clock, and that would not leave time for cleanup.
I braced myself for what was coming. The I.T. guy started at the desk next to mine, so I kept walking over so that I could see what to expect. I didn’t see anything encouraging. He had to get down on the floor under the desk to run the wires, and materials were spread all over the desk. I moved as many of the items on my desk as possible to reduce the contamination that was about to take place, but the box was opened, and out came the scanner and all of the related materials. I noticed that my neighbor walked around while he was in her cubicle, but I had to stay in mine and stand watch to take note of the damage. At first it was a few spots on the desk, but, of course, he eventually had to use my keyboard to install the programs. That also meant that he sat in my chair, although that was the least of my concerns. I have to clean the arms of my chair every day anyway because I don’t cover them up. He did contaminate the scarf that I use to protect the portion of the chair that I lean back against, but at least that can be washed. As I watched, things proceeded pretty much the way I thought they would, but one of the most frustrating parts was when he brushed against some stacks of papers. Papers don’t fare well when they are sprayed with alcohol. Fortunately, as they are stacked on shelves, only the edges are exposed. It still bothers me, though. They will get sprayed, but I feel better when things are wiped clean.
The I.T. guy finished the installation at my desk only twenty minutes before it was time to leave. As I had to do a practice scan before he left, my right hand had to be contaminated. I had twenty minutes to get my hand sanitized and start the cleanup of my desk. It seemed logical that I would spray my right hand with alcohol and then spray my keyboard and the scanner afterwards. While they were all at the same level of cleanliness, I would wipe off my right hand, then use that hand to wipe down the keyboard and scanner. That way, if I bumped my right hand on them, it would be no worse off. If I had used my clean, left hand, it would have joined in the contamination, and I would have had to clean it also. I’ve had so much practice at this that I managed to go through four spray-down cycles in ten minutes, but I could see that I would not be able to complete four more before five o’clock because I had to lock up sensitive documents and files and otherwise get ready to leave. And my right hand still wasn’t clean. With only ten minutes to go, I had to focus on getting my hand clean. I completed that with six minutes to go. I had already shoved my chair scarf into a plastic bag to take home and wash. Next I had to cover up my keyboard with plastic wrap. At first I had thought that I would leave it exposed, but on Monday morning, I don’t know how early we are going to have more training on how to enter information on the documents and classify them. Consequently, I needed to have as much of the sanitizing process done as possible. I was able to get halfway through the process for the keyboard and scanner, and I will have to resume the cleaning the moment I arrive back at work. Once the most important items are taken care of, I can start on the desktop itself and the other miscellaneous objects that suffered by being smitten with germs.
Many people mourn the loss of simplicity and the other ways that technology has changed society. For this germophobe, being forced to keep up with the times has exacted its toll many times in the form of near-debilitating stress. It’s time to start planning a vacation.