Work And Play

Posted on Thursday 1st March 2007 at 00:00
An acquaintance of mine has the coolest home office I have ever seen. It is a reasonably sized room, maybe 12 foot by 8, with a pine floor, light coloured walls and wooden office blinds at the windows. Along two adjacent walls are a length of custom built fitted desk units. They've been designed and installed with a clear understanding of their use, and everything is in exactly the right place. Granted, the main computer in use is a Mac, but that almost doesn't matter because everything is so lovely. The desks themselves form a single, unbroken surface along the two sides of the room and are nothing short of massive. I'd guestimate that they are nearly a full metre in depth.

All the cables for all the computers have been run down the back, through specially positioned holes, and are kept totally out of sight, thanks to panels at the back of the foot wells that run from the desk surface right to the floor, seemingly without any gaps and leaving none of the ugly stuff showing. It must be a pain if you ever want to switch anything around, but it is so perfect that I can't imagine ever wanting to. With the aid of a wireless desk set it has been possible to totally obscure all the wires in the room.

That's not to say you can't get to stuff if you really need to. I once spent an afternoon in there working on my laptop, and as you'd expect after a couple of hours the battery ran flat. I looked around for a mains socket to plug the machine into but couldn't see any. Eventually I asked my neighbour if there was anywhere I could plug in, and he pointed at my legs. I was confused at first, until I felt the underside of the desk at which I was sat, whence my fingers grasped a four-way extension lead, screwed upside down to the underside of the desk, in exactly the right position to plug in any portable equipment you might choose to bring in with you.

Not that you really need much, it has to be said. It would take quite some imagination to think of a device that has been forgotten, either on the desk itself or hidden away in a convenient cubby hole. Pretty much every gadget, peripheral and tool ever invented for use with a computer is there and you know what? It is one of my highest life ambitions to have a home office like that.

The problem comes down to a different outlook on life. This acquaintance of mine has every gadget under the sun, but rarely plays with them. The computer is never switched off, but equally never has a computer game on its display. The gadgets, the computers and the office are strictly for work. Understandable perhaps, given that the guy works from home, but I can't imagine a time in my life when I'll be able to do that.

Right now I am supposed to be writing a 2,500 word research project for my degree, which must be handed in no later than 2pm tomorrow. That isn't very long away, and if I want to get any sleep tonight I really should get on with it. But instead I'm writing this.

You see, I love computers. Absolutely love them. I love the technology life style, the always on connectivity, the broadband, the wireless, the general greatness of it all. Hell, I even love Microsoft Word! At least, when I'm writing my blog I love it. Since starting this blog, I decided it was necessary to put a little more thought into spelling and grammar and so I started writing all my posts in Word before copying them into my browser, thus getting use of the spell checker. Now Word has become my most used app. I have it open every single day.

Yet, the second I start having to do some work with it, I hate it. Absolutely hate it. The computer becomes shit, the software is shit, the gadgets are crappy and even my new wireless keyboard is a pile of junk. The problem is that computing is a hobby of mine, and as such I can pick it up and put it down whenever I feel like it. But when I have to do proper work, I'm forced to use the computer and Word etc whether I want to or not. There is no freedom, no waiting for the right mood. I just have to get on with it. It is for this reason that I'll never be able to get that office, or if I do, I'll never be able to appreciate it. Work takes the fun out of everything, no matter how great it is.

This is a problem I need to address. It occurred to me recently that I don't dislike my degree, or even having to study for it. Give me a Wikipedia entry on it and I'll happily kill an afternoon reading as much as I can on the subject. I think what I hate about it and about work in general is not having the choice. I may choose to blog every day, probably more than I've ever studied, but I choose to do that. Anytime I want to stop I just do, and that will never be true of work, no matter how my career pans out.

What can one do about that?

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