My Husband, His BlackBerry and .... Me
When my husband was a journalist, our home was invaded by late night calls from copy editors working on his stories. Sometimes emergency calls interrupted our lives as well. Those were adrenalin inducing when planes crashed or the earthquake rocked San Francisco. Those calls could be disruptive, scary, or sad.
Just as we never knew when calls would come for him, I never knew when to expect him home. He worked the weekend shift, the overnight shift, and the evening shift when he became an editor. His deadlines varied depending on job title and shift. My daughters and I ate a lot of meals alone, and as the kids morphed into teens, our dinner conversation morphed into girl-only talk.
Four years ago, as the journalism world started to decay, he left his job of 18 years, and joined the Media Relations team at a large metropolitan airport. Heís always loved airplanes and airports and he knew the industry from his journalism days. His home office is adorned with airplane paraphernalia, including a plane he built in kindergarten that hangs from the ceiling.
With the new job came regularity, and, I thought, predictability. Suddenly, he was home for dinner every night.
While it took some time getting used to having a male at our all-female dining table, Iíve never gotten used to his new best friend Ė his BlackBerry. Despite my husbandís physical presence in the house, sometimes Iím not sure heís really there. He pays attention to his BlackBerry the way he wooed me when we met 22 years ago.
His BlackBerry interrupts our meals, TV time, intimate conversations, and the time we gaze into each otherís eyes. He reads it before he goes to sleep at night and before he gets out of bed in the morning. He stops conversations midway through sentences when the thing rings, chimes, or vibrates. Each tone alerts him to something different. He reads emails constantly and takes calls regularly. He laughs with his colleagues on the phone at their private inter-office jokes Iím not in on and donít understand.
Iím jealous of my husbandís BlackBerry.
His first Blackberry wasnít even pretty. It was an antiquated model. It was just obtrusive with a life of its own. It beeped and blinked in the middle of the night and even after I buried it under dirty clothes, I could still hear and see it.
Then he got a newer, sleeker model, which he can whip out of its pouch in a smooth single motion. He looks so cool when he does it. He flips the BlackBerry up, rolls the little ball on the phone with his finger and when the screen scrolls up, my husband is gone.
He reads it when heís at dinner in a restaurant with friends or family, and even when he tries to be surreptitious, he fails. He reads it when I talk to him about our daughtersí schoolwork or our plans for the weekend. I now know how to stop talking mid-word when the thing rings. But I often canít remember what I was saying when heís ready to resume the conversation.
Itís not like heís having an affair with the phone really. He needs to pay attention to every email and call that comes through. Some are about the weather at the airport, some about planes being rerouted because of passenger illness, plane malfunctions, or weather concerns elsewhere. Calls come when the media want to film something at the airport and he has to arrange for parking and someone to accompany a reporter. Airports donít shut down. Their doors donít close at 5pm, just like the newspaper he used to work for didnít stop reporting stories after deadline.
I was frustrated with his unpredictable schedule as a journalist, but I got used to it. I became self-sufficient and self-reliant when he was at the paper. I operated on the assumption he wouldnít be home. I learned to do away with expectations and not to depend on him. But when he was home, he was there.
Now, sometimes I feel like heís one of those cardboard cutout figures, like a Michael Jackson or Obama I can take my picture with. Heís present, but not really. My expectations have returned, but now I donít know when heís tuned in to me or when heís really focused on his BlackBerry. Iím not sure which is harder Ė missing him because he was never home or missing him when he is home.