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The Coffee Run: Smartphone Etiquette

November 17, 2010

Believe it or not, something strongly resembling our modern concept of “business' was conducted before the advent of the smartphone. In fact, as early as the late 1600s, the British East India Company had monopolized the indigo dye and silk trades across the entire Eastern hemisphere without mobile access to Excel spreadsheets.

Nowadays, the idea of dressing yourself in the morning without consulting an app seems patently ridiculous. Like it or not, you’re worthless without your technology. If your employers could legally hire an HTC Evo or iPhone 4 instead of you, they probably would. But until our phones can drive our cars to work, drink our coffee and socialize inappropriately with interns on our behalf, we must learn to operate harmoniously together.

Like any other business partner, your smartphone must be used politely in all contexts. I’ve found that one particularly tricky theater is the men’s bathroom.

As most men are aware, it is psychologically empowering to answer nature’s call and shop for car parts simultaneously. After all, the ability to multitask is what separates us from the baboons. But depending on your viewing angle,there’s a risk your neighbor might conclude that you’re snapping action shots of his junk – behavior that is typically frowned upon in the workplace. (If you’re not sure,ask your supervisor.) Alternatively, he could infer that you’re photographing yourself – a less combustible but equally unsettling scenario.

There are multiple ways for men to address this problem.

(1) You can refrain entirely from using your smartphone in the bathroom. Admittedly, that seems a bit reactionary.

(2) You can limit your smartphone use to the sink area of the restroom, but the risk of water damage is a strong deterrent.

(3) You can affix a custom message to the back of your phone’s protective case to let fellow bathroomgoers know your intentions are benevolent.

With a little bit of common sense, superhuman restraint, two hours of back-and-forth with IT to sync business e-mails and the purchase of another charging cord, smartphones can theoretically increase your productivity as an intern – all in exchange for a very minimal risk of being terminated for sexual harassment.

Coffee Run AlexSo go ahead. Welcome yourself to the 21st century.

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