Doing the Laptop Drive of Shame

If you bring your work computer home with any regularity -- or especially any irregularity -- chances are good that you’ve done the Laptop Drive of Shame.

Here's me shouting to no one in particular the other morning: "Hey, look, Brad's gotta do the Laptop Drive of Shame." Gales of laughter ensue.

Brad Reed, one of Network World’s crackerjack staff reporters, was standing in the doorway of my office confessing that he had arrived at work without his laptop. Had he arrived without, oh, say his pants, we might have enjoyed a similar laugh at his expense, but we would also have been able to fashion a workaround, perhaps a drape over his cubicle or a couple of sweaters lashed around his midsection. But arriving without his laptop meant only one option for Brad: The Laptop Drive of Shame.

(There’s also the Laptop Walk of Shame, which is of far less consequence in that all it entails is another trip out to the parking lot to grab the machine you left in your car.)

A lack of supporting data will not deter me from making this next assertion: The Laptop Drive of Shame is becoming a much more common occurrence, and by extension, a much more costly one. Mobility and broadband advances have made working from home a snap. As a result, more people are splitting their work week -- or at least their workload -- between office and home.

More splitting means more opportunities for laptop forgetfulness, more actual forgetfulness, more "Doh!" moments of stomach-churning realization, more needless driving . . . and, yes, more shame. . . . At $4-plus a gallon.

Three years ago, I almost never worked from home and almost never brought my laptop anywhere but to the airport. That was before the birth of Buzzblog. Now, my laptop makes the round-trip commute with all the regularity of my pants.

Being a creature of habit, it is this regularity, I believe, that has so far spared me a Laptop Drive of Shame. (I have, however, done the Grocery Store Drive of Shame. Took my 6-year-old triplets to Stop & Shop. No, did not leave one there. Left the groceries. Didn’t realize until I was back home and peering into an empty mini-van that I had failed to unload the cart after loading in the kids.)Which brings us back to Brad Reed, who splits his work days between office and home: Brad lives in Jamaica Plain, a Boston neighborhood. Network World is located in Southborough, Mass., some 30 miles to the west. So, on that fateful morning, Brad was looking at a good 60-mile jaunt to go fetch his forgotten laptop. He drives a Ford Taurus, which if we credit with a generous 20 MPG would make the trip a $12 life lesson.

As he stood in my doorway, I made an executive decision: "Why don’t you work from home today, Brad." Hey, 12 bucks is 12 bucks . . . and, truth be told, he had already decided he didn’t need my permission to save the money and time.

It’s estimated that some 30 million Americans telecommute at least one day a month. If they average even so few as two Laptop Drives of Shame per year, live anywhere near as far from their offices as Brad Reed, and also drive gas-guzzling American-made cars, well, let’s do the math: That’s $720 million a year going straight into the pockets of the oil barons. . . .  How shameful.

If you’ve read this far I know what you’re thinking: "How can I avoid doing the Laptop Drive of Shame?" (Or in some cases, do it less often.)

Here’s how: When you and your machine arrive home, park your car keys squarely on top of your laptop case. Now you’re not going anywhere without both of them. . . . You’re welcome.

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