By Frank Dobrovnik
The Sault Star

Losing his “personal digital assistant” would be something like losing the actual digits on David Orazietti’s right hand.
“It’s a vital part of my job now,” says the Sault Ste. Marie MPP, who was caught on his BlackBerry heading to the airport Saturday morning.
Orazietti got his first BlackBerry a couple of months after the 2003 provincial election, and is on his second now.
He and other nervous users were watching with interest last week as Waterloo-based Research in Motion continued its patent battle with a small American firm, legal action that threatened to shut down the service. The handheld device gives users both phone capability and instant, wireless access to e-mail, in real time.
They can also surf the Net.
“I’m talking to you on one right now,” said Bob Goulais, who threw his cell phone away nearly a year ago.
For the spokesperson for the Union of Ontario Indians, who receives 80 to 100 e-mails a day, it’s proven both a blessing and a curse. Goulais is working more efficiently now that he basically carts his office around with him wherever he is, whatever time of day it is. On the other hand, he never leaves the office, as it were.
“It’s certainly made me work harder. It’s not nine-to-five anymore,” said Goulais. “I’m constantly checking my e-mail, no matter where I am.”
Orazietti agrees that as technology has made him more accessible, “it seems to escalate the volume of information” he has to deal with. “It becomes consuming.”
There’s a reason people call it the “CrackBerry.” “People have said to me, Put the CrackBerry away,’” Orazietti laughs.
Reg St. Amour, who has had his for just over a year, has learned to shut it off during business meetings, “otherwise it’s too distracting.” It’s also off-limits on the weekend, said St. Amour, an independent consultant in Sault Ste. Marie. “It doesn’t mean I don’t work on the weekend. It’s like your laptop it’s a tool. You can let it manage you or you can manage it.”
Etiquette at business meetings is to turn the ringer off, said John Wisternoff, vice-president of lottery marketing for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. That’s not to say Wisternoff doesn’t check every two minutes it if it’s vibrating.
“There just comes a point when you can’t ignore e-mail,” he said.
Wisternoff, who has had his BlackBerry for about three years, said it’s changed the way he conducts business. “Basically, it’s a permanent, portable link to e-mail. You’re connected to your office . . . when you need to be connected.”
There are other advantages to thumb-wrestling with a BlackBerry all day long, he said.
“I wouldn’t say I’m addicted (but) I haven’t lost a thumb fight in three years.”