I was reading on a site about people who didn't know much about computers & the internet and this reminded me of a certain situation I was in, many years ago.
I was working in an environment that was completely without computers, except one computer in the office. I was among colleagues who knew very little about computers, and we didn't really need computers for our line of work - however, there was an internet connection in the office where the odd email was sent and received.
Something else that might strike you as strange about this workplace, is that we didn't really have a boss: all colleagues worked together like a kind of committee. It's hard to explain but I had to say this because otherwise the responses to this thread might be something along the lines of: "was your boss okay with it? then never mind what the colleagues think of it".
Ok. I was fairly new to this workplace and the joined committee demanded a lot of extra efforts from every member: especially going to do extra seminars to learn more about the branch. Fine, I didn't mind that, I like to learn. So it was mutually agreed that I would go to a seminar of several days, on my own time, during summer vacation; I would partly pay for it myself. This was fine with me, I was really eager.
At that time, I was temporarily without internet connection at home, so I asked in the office whether I could look for accommodations online (i.e. a place to sleep during the seminar, a hotel or youth hostel or bed and breakfast or whatever). They said ok and I went online, on the computer in the office, and started looking for what I needed. Now it was quite funny how some of the colleagues gathered up around me to watch the show: some of them had literally never been on the internet before nor seen anyone surf.
(note: this all took place during our lunch break! we were not wasting time.)
Of course it took a few minutes to gather some addresses and compare the prices, conditions, etc. I don't know what my colleagues had expected; maybe they thought that, upon opening internet explorer, the ideal address would immediately pop up? Okay guys, please, the internet is magical, but not THAT magical. After 10 minutes or so, one of my colleagues rolls his eyes and sarcastically says: "Look how FAST that is going, with that internet!"
I turned around and said: "Well it's certainly faster than having to travel all the way there (it was in a neighbour country) and drive around, looking for lodgings!"
The secretary piped up and said: "yes, but the internet also costs us per minute, you know; and you are keeping the phoneline busy!"
May the deities of Etiquette forgive me, but I could NOT conceal my surprise: my jaw literally dropped and I blurted out: "You have got to be kidding me!"
Upon their aghast looks, I backpedalled a bit and explained that it was maybe a tad out of date and uncomfortable for an organisation, no matter how low-profile on computers, to have a dial-up connection.
I also explained that, even if my internet queries might cost a little, they should not take for granted that I was paying the lodgings for myself, and that a meager ten minutes of dial-up connection was the least they could do to help me find the best buy. I was even planning to make the necessary phonecalls (to the numbers I had found online - yes, international phonecalls) from home.
No harm was done, I worked there for much longer until I decided the commute was too difficult (a whole different story but not etiquette-related and nobody's fault), the seminar was interesting and the lodgings ( bed & breakfast) were satisfying.
But today, like I said, this incident came back to mind, and I wanted to hear:
was it wrong for me to expect the use of the organisations internet connection for ten minutes to find a place to stay in these specific circumstances?
(I don't need to ask whether I was rude with my "You have got to be kidding me". It just slipped out. It was a long time ago and I was still quite young. My brain-to-mouth filter has developed eleborately since)