Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On the Joys of Texting

I never thought I would be a convert to texting. Just a couple of months ago I scorned it, not so much as a form of communication, but because of the way it seems to take over some people’s lives. Since when did it become permissable to be in someone else’s physical company and be so absorbed talking to an invisible presence on the other side of cyber space? Since when did my generation become such fuddy-duddies? Remember how our parents rolled their eyes at our transistor radios, at our endless phone conversations?

And then my cell phone stopped working. I decided to replace it with a phone with a keyboard—not a very smart phone, but just one with a little extra functionality. It would be good for making arrangements, I figured. So I paid the extra bucks for a texting plan.

One evening not long after I succumbed, I was in New York on business and decided to eat out in a restaurant I had visited before. It was a one menu, steak-frites French bistro on Lexington frequented mostly by twosomes and threesomes. I noted a lone woman across for me, her face buried in a book. I felt sorry for her. I’d had a demanding day and was content to sit with my glass of house red, waiting for my dinner and eavesdropping on the couple next to me. Then I had the urge to share my experience in an un obtrusive way. Remembering that a colleague/friend had recommended this place to me, I decided to text her, and we had the following conversation.

--I’m sitting in the steak-frites place by myself and thought of you. Tiring day at x, and oh the noise level. Now enjoying my much needed glass of wine. Dinner is served. So goodbye.

--Oh! So glad you are there! Wish I were there, too. Bon appetit!

--I ate a few extra fries and mustard coated steak on your behalf. May consider dessert…

--Yum-I can almost taste. Dreaming of profiteroles.

--Tx for the inspiration. Profiteroles it was. Pure contentment. Stresses of the day all gone! Back to the room for “What not to Wear.”

--That is a perfect evening after a loud day. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Hardly deep, yet I felt unusually satisfied with the exchange. I felt less alone.

My texting audience is still minimal and consists mainly of a tiny handful of younger friends and friends with grown children whose only mode of speaking to their parents is the text message. I still use it mainly to make or confirm plans, to announce arrival times. But it’s also good for a rant.

While traveling this last week, I had an annoying flight delay of three hours in DC. I texted another friend, who was also away from home.

--Stuck in airport til 10pm. F**k. If u r free at any point, pls phone & entertain me!

Note that I have begun to use some texting shorthand, despite a full keyboard. The message resulted in a voice mail to me due to my being in a temporary dead zone, but I was able to return the call and have a nice chat to fill the time. Later, when my flight was cancelled, I felt an even stronger need to rage to the same friend (who also began texting about the same time as me, despite a phone without a full keyboard.)

--Adventures in flying. While knocking back 2nd scotch, flight cancelled unbeknownst to me. Spent hellish hour rebooking. On plane.

I got some sympathy, too. Short but sweet.


Today’s messages consisted of advising a family member from London about places to visit on Cape Cod in the rain. Texting on the international number is cheaper than phoning.

Why not phone or email, my non-texting friends would ask? Typing on a tiny keypad seems so inefficient and unnecessary, almost primitive. Is this progress? And that would have been my reaction a few weeks ago. But if you don’t have a smartphone or Blackberry, you don’t have access to your email at all times. Compared to phoning, texting puts less pressure on the person to provide a lengthy response or to give an excuse if it’s not a good time to talk or they just don’t feel like talking. You can look at a text at your leisure, compose your pithy reply. Best of all, you have a written record of what you said, what they said, even if it’s not great literature.

I’ve come to enjoy the the phone’s tuneful announcement that a message awaits me. Although my husband teased me this evening about knocking out a text as we were sitting on the sofa together, I promise that I will not become a set of thumbs walking down the street, oblivious to my environment and the live person strolling next to me. I will not become a slave to the technology, just because it’s there. I promise! But maybe I can persuade my husband to add a text plan to his cell service so we can send each other little notes..

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