“Think of all the trouble it saves,” the Trivium explained. “If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won’t have the time. For there’s always something to do to keep you from what you should be doing, and if it weren’t for that dreadful magic staff, you'd never know how much time you were wasting.”

“Now do come and stay with me. We’ll have so much fun together. There are things to fill and things to empty, things to take away and things to bring back, things to pick up and things to put down, and besides all that we have pencils to sharpen, holes to dig, nails to straighten, stamps to lick, and ever so much more. Why, if you stay here, you’ll never have to think again…”

— Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

Passive Aggressive Spreadsheets

Powerpoint might be the office time-wasting champion, but Excel is a close second

To fully appreciate the inanity of this story, you must first understand the dramatis personæ. Paul is, well, Paul. If you’ve read any of my other stories about him, you know that he is a supercilious laggard. About six months ago, he dropped his cell phone — a clamshell — which broke in two. He was able to get it working, but just: the speaker was smashed, so he had to use a hands-free earphone; the screen was cracked, so you could not see if messages had been received; and finally the ringer and vibrator no longer worked, so the only way you could tell a call was incoming was to be looking directly at the phone. In essence, it became a dial-out phone.

Jason, on the other hand, hates cell phones. He prefers that people use e-mail to get hold of him (like I do). He recently bought a phone, but didn’t tell anyone the number because it was pay-per-use, and he didn’t want to get swamped with trivial messages from the drama queen. He was infuriated with Paul’s dithering over buying a cell phone because it made it impossible to coördinate visits.

From: Paul
To: Jason
Cc: Rob

Hi Jason. You’re right — procrastinating doesn’t help one to get a phone set up in working order. With a bit of focused effort, and the necessary funds, one can make their cellphone become quite a useful tool for keeping in touch with others whom one cares about, by enabling oneself to contact others and vice versa. Attached are some handy Phone Comparison Charts which demonstrate this.

Chart comparing Paul’s phones to Jason’s phones

Pie chart showing how ‘convenient’ various phones are

Thanks for the offer regarding the AT&T plan and potentially letting me know your phone number. However, I’m reluctant to change from my current cellphone service provider because my parents, grandma, 2 of my 3 bosses, and various others are on Verizon, and moreover because I can get an upgraded phone (up to $100, plus a $50 rebate, yadda-yadda, or something like that) through them.

When I visited the store yesterday (with Rob observing), I found a knowledgeable and patient salesperson who helped me narrow the dozens of possible choices of phone down to 9 which don’t require a change in plan. Then she helped me narrow it down to 3 of those which have better feature sets, but I couldn’t commit yet because I needed to check online too. Today I’m checking for online offers, and probably today or tomorrow I’ll either order a phone online or get one at the store.

I’ll let everyone know when I’ve got a new phone all set up and working, which you can then feel free to call me on (or leave a voicemail if I’m unable to answer).

The aforementioned visit to the store consisted of twenty minutes of waiting for assistance, then listening to the salesperson describe in painful detail the fifteen free phone options, then waiting an additional thirty minutes as Paul hand-copied each and every bulleted item of every feature list from the displays. Eventually he whittled the choices down to three. Not one, three. He said he needed to “think about it” because it is “an important decision.” After annoying the salesperson and me, he wastes the next day with a stupid Excel mockup. I was, to put it gently, furious:

From: Rob
To: Paul
Cc: Jason

You know, if you people spent less time making pie charts and more time MAKING FUCKING DECISIONS we wouldn’t be in this mess.

…which spawned the following Clintonesque rejoinder:

From: Paul
To: Rob
Cc: Jason

While I readily agree that I procrastinate and am indecisive more than occasionally, and it’s fair to mention that making pie charts competes for my time with other activities (including “making fucking decisions”), I do think that for your statement to be relevant you would need to have a point of some kind about how that affects you (and presumably Jason), not just myself, since you’re saying “we.”

And people wonder what in my life gives me ulcers.