Friday, January 30, 2009

I Hate Texting ... and You Should, Too (Friday Roundup)

First, some background ... One of my daughter's friends sat beside me at the pool near the end of the summer, moving his thumbs at rapid-fire pace over a phone keypad and seemingly so obsessed with texting that when I snatched it out of his hands, his thumbs kept moving.
Stupid opposable thumbs.
"Hey, what are you doing?" His eyes popped, and his mouth sat wide open.
"I am taking this away from you. Go swim. Go talk to a person. Go communicate with someone."
"That's what I was doing!"
"OK, Mr. Smarty Pants. Who were you communicating with?"
"My cousin."
"What were you and your cousin communicating about?"
"I told her I think we'll have the same math book this year."
"Oh, for heaven's sake. Go swim." And I turned back to my magazine.
"But what about my phone?"
"You'll get it back when your mom comes to pick you up. And if you try to sneak it out of this pool bag, I assure you I'll get it back, and I can hit the pool with it from here."
He looked at my daughter and asked, "Is she serious?"
"I wouldn't test her."
And off he went, thumbs twitching and eyes darting. I'm fairly certain he was suffering DTs. Tough love is a tough thing.

Second, how I really feel ... Texting is a practice that we have strictly forbidden, slapping our oldest child with a $1 fine for every incoming and outgoing text message. "But Amy, that's how kids COMMUNICATE with each other." I don't really want to hear your excuses. No texting on my watch, I say. It's wormy. And I hate it. We have telephones, stamps and envelopes. We even have opportunities for face-to-face conversations. Texting makes teenagers uncomfortably bold, and it ultimately causes their eyes to roll out of their heads and their thumbs to fall off. You'll see.

Now, to the story at hand ...
On Thursday morning, I turned on my cell phone, that device that I sometimes still refer to as a "car phone." That it was in the house, on the kitchen counter, at all was strange—I keep it in the car, WHERE IT BELONGS. Minutes after I turned it on, it made a strange sing-song noise, like an alert. I looked, and a little notepad icon popped up, with "text message (1)" on the screen. I have received no more than five messages during my time as a cell phone user. Outside of those five, I do receive a monthly text from TMobile, thanking me for the bill someone just paid online.

Still, I clicked "view." And this is what it said. "Can you come check me out?" A sick teen-ager, so congested and in a feverish state, had committed, what I see as, the ultimate social crime: she texted. WHILE IN SCHOOL.

She was sick, and I blame her fall from the wagon on a high fever and/or insufferable congestion. I held the phone in my hand, wondering how I could respond. I can't call, I thought, because she is in class. All she needs is a short answer—a "yes" or a "no." The answer will be, of course, "yes," but I don't know how to get to the "y." How about "OK"? Only two letters, and one of them can be a zero, I would guess. If I can figure out how to get "O" and "K" on the screen, then maybe this phone will walk me through the "send" portion of this process. Baby steps, I thought.

If someone had been watching me, I imagine it was much like watching my mother program a VCR, or use a remote. Such things can be, at once, frustrating and sad.

The phone sensed my ignorance and let the "O" fly readily. Wow! This was going to be a cake walk! Now, for the "K." The "K" sits between the "J" and the "L," just like in the alphabet. Cake walk, over. If I sent "OJ" to her, would she know what that meant? Would she know that help was on its way? I didn't want to chance it, so I manipulated keys and arrows until a lowercase "k" popped up. An abusive mix of upper and lowercase letters is not my style, but I had to let it go. I pressed "options," and I was on my way to sending my first-ever text.

Fast forward. I arrive at the school, approach the check-in/check-out window and plead my case. Do I tell this woman that my daughter texted me? Do I admit that she has a phone on campus? Will she be suspended for texting during class? How old AM I? Kids update their stupid Facebook pages in the middle of World History ("I'm in World History," "I hate World History," "I am drinking bottled water in World History"), so maybe a plea for help from a feverish child falls within the realm of "school doesn't hold fast to cell phone usage policies."

All I get is a nod and a click-click-click on the keyboard, and "sign this." I sign, the attendance person intercoms the teacher, my daughter shows up three minutes later, lacking color and walking like Meryl Streep in Silkwood. "I texted you, and all you wrote back was 'OK'." Sniff, sniff.
"'OK' was all you needed to know. I'm here, aren't I?"
"Yes, but you could have said when you would be here, or 'what's wrong', or something."
"Sure, IF I KNEW HOW TO TEXT. 'OK' took me 15 minutes. If you had waited for the long version, you might have fallen over dead from a fever, and I would be in the crazy house."
"So I saw Ryan [editor's note: HER BOYFRIEND] in the hallway and told him I texted you, and he ..."
"Look, I AM HERE. YOU ARE GOING HOME. IT'S OK. Just like I texted you. It's 'OK.'"
She goes to her locker, walks to her car and drives home. I get in my car, and I hear the same ominous sing-song from my phone. What? Another text message? What is this? The end of the world? I click "view." And it reads, "So, are you going to pick up Anna?" The text is from RYAN.

How am I supposed to answer this? "OK" wouldn't answer the question; it wouldn't even make sense. "I did" seemed the shortest route to putting a stop to this nonsense. And why is he checking in on me anyway? I think I'm the adult in this relationship. I drove to the Zaxby's parking lot and pondered my next step. I navigated the keypad and figured out how to eke out the "I," which you may know sits at the end of the three-letter sequence, "GHI." Then there was the matter of the space. How do you insert a space between "I" and "DID"? There's no space bar. Yet I found it. I don't remember what it was, but I found it. Then, the "D." Another "I." The final "D." And it looked like this: I DiD. It wasn't pretty, but I got my point across. Would Ryan take this as a terse response? Did it sound like a short, quick-tempered, you're-annoying-me answer? I certainly didn't intend it to be that way, but by this point, I didn't really care. I pressed "send."

Within seconds, another sing-song. My screen read the following message from Ryan: "Awesome." Or, something more like "aWEsOmE." Blccchh.

No, this is not "awesome." I believe I have pointed out that the overuse of the word "awesome" has diminished the word's meaning to nothing more than a trite adjective that describes a sandwich, a party or maybe a song.

But what truly IS awesome, Mr. Ryan, is that I sent two text messages in one day and didn't suffer a nervous breakdown and that I didn't toss my cell phone out the window of my moving car. I am sure, however, that if this texting business had continued throughout the afternoon, my eyes would certainly have rolled out of my head and my thumbs would have fallen off.

Today is so very Friday. May yours be a delightful and text-free two days.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bush's Letter to Obama (Inauguration Recap, Second Installment)

One week and one day ago, this blogger brought forth on this blog, a new ideal, conceived in cynicism, and dedicated to the proposition that all occasional poems are created equal. Equally bad.

Now I am engaged in a great drought from imagination and creativity, testing whether this post, or any post so conceived and so dedicated, can ever be completed. I am met on a great battlefield of that drought. I have come today to sacrifice a portion of my time as a thank-you to those two or three kind people who have nagged me to no end about getting back in the swing of things. It is altogether fitting and proper that I should do this.

But, in a larger sense, I cannot dedicate — I cannot consecrate — I cannot hallow — this blog. The brave bloggers, living and not so much so, who struggle here in the blogosphere, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what we do here. It is for us the bloggers, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which we have said we would finish. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from those hollow promises we so hoped to fulfill to that cause for which we have absolutely no idea WHY because blogging is such a thankless job and has truly become such a prostitution of all things journalistic — that I highly resolve that this blog will not be written in vain but in service to you faithful reader and your little friend, too — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. No matter who is president or who has majority of the House.

So, as promised, the next installment of Inauguration Recap: The letter GWB left in the desk drawer to Barack Obama, fellow Abraham Lincoln fan. About a week later than I intended.

The f0llowing letter was written by George W. Bush at 3 a.m. January 20, after packing the last of his personal effects into cardboard boxes and raiding the pantry of pork rinds. George H.W. and Barbara Bush, overnight guests for the evening, had retired earlier — much earlier — after Laura had admonished them for their incessant whining about how their last night in the White House would have been more comfortable if only she had prepared a more fitting dinner. "Sure, Domino's and fruit cocktail work in a pinch, but we used to be the President and First Lady, for Pete's sake." So George W. Bush, fed up with the covert hostility and quick tempers, stomped off to the Oval Office and penned these words ...

Dear Barack,

We may not see eye to eye on policy, but you seem like a decent guy — one who would appreciate a little heads-up on a few matters that we didn't cover during your recent tour of the White House. I didn't want to point fingers or embarrass anyone, so I decided to keep these things just between us. (In other words, burn this after reading. I don't want it to end up in my Presidential Library after I'm dead and gone.)

First, you might want to tell Michelle and the girls to be careful when using the hall bathroom in the living quarters. An ambitious use of toilet paper or one too many flushes, and you'll flood the Oval Office. That's why you'll find a metal bucket in the closet to the right of the window, just beside the American flag in the corner. Believe me; you'll need it. And don't blame me. The Clintons were here for eight years, and Al Gore was here A LOT, so I'm just saying. [Editor's Note: Google "al gore toilet," and check out the first listing.]

Second, note the absence of ashtrays in this room. Since 1993, when your Secretary of State and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton banned ashtrays from the White House, this has been a non-smoking residence and office. You've already hinted that smoking may return to the White House, like you're Desi Arnaz, but four (dare I say, eight) years of indoor smoking and the toll it takes on these drapes can never be undone. For your comfort and convenience, I have asked the staff to create a "smoking area" for you. You will find it on the east lawn, near the area where you will be required to walk the First Dog. You can put out your butts while taking those 3 a.m. walks with the labradoodle. Good times.

Third, when the Clintons moved out and Laura and I moved in, Nancy Reagan reminded the entire nation about the respect that a president should have for this home office. She pointed out in her very Nancy way that Reagan entered this space with reverence and a neatly pressed dress shirt. Please, no jeans ... and none of those awful sweat pants like Clinton used to wear. Have some dignity about yourself.

Fourth, and finally, don't be afraid to change your mind about a few things. You're the flippin' president now. Campaign promises got you here; good (even bad) decisions can keep you here. It's not like they'll fire you. So, rethink a few of your plans, your views, your promises. You know the ones.

Sorry to cut this thing short, but the staff is in here, pulling things out of my (your) desk drawers, dusting tables, fluffing pillows and dealing me misery, like I'm not their president for another nine hours. Geez.

Peace out ...

George W. Bush