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i am not a texter.

i have a text-able phone but it is pretty exclusively reserved for work matters. when people outside of the office ask me for my number my pat response is "you'd have better luck getting minka kelly's number than mine." and even with work, i use the texting feature namely as a pager, meaning you can send me a text but i would not suggest depriving yourself of any gulps of air waiting for a reply.

a few weeks back i bumped into an old friend. i hadn't seen him in over five years which has been a true point of sadness for me because he is one of my most-favorite ever conversationalist. after exchanging the typical "it's been a long time" pleasantries and just before parting he said we have to go to lunch. i agreed trying to mask my eagerness. then he said i should text him to set it up. prior to this, the only thing i've ever said in response to such a request has been, 'yeah, sorry, but i don't text'. this time though, i opted to make an exception not wanting to soil my chance to spend time with this friend. 

monday came around. in prepping for my week i sent him a text asking about lunch in the days ahead. after hitting send, i stared at the lifeless screen for thirty seconds before setting the phone to the side and turning to my next task. a few minutes later the screen flashed his response. i turned to the phone, read the words and replied, cumbersomely via the digital keyboard. i again watched the screen for half a minute or so. nothing. so again the phone went to the side and i again returned to my work. after, maybe, five minutes he replied to the last question. back to the phone. another exchange. more minutes. more frustrating thumb typing. more pauses. more returns to work and more interruptions from my work. after about ten or so such exchanges we had worked through the details of our meeting. i looked at the clock. more than an hour had elapsed since we began our exchange and i had accomplished essentially nothing because every time i ramped up, he would reply to the last question stalling any momentum my mind had begun to generate. 

now those that know me have a sense for what a loss of more than an hour would do to my mood, but even those folks don't know the full extent of it. first off, this was a morning hour which is quite different than, say, an afternoon hour because at 9am, assuming a proper night of sleep, one is rested and ready for battle. come 3pm much of this energy and vigor will have been used up. thus a 9am hour might, productivity-wise, possess a true capacity of 1.5 or even 1.75 hours, while an afternoon hour of working--and i mean actual working, and not of the farmville variety--might only render .75 or .6 hours worth of value. so to see a raw, uncut morning hour soiled by a conversation which would have taken less than five minutes via email and less than three minutes over the phone had opened a cloudburst on my previoulsy fresh and shiny day. the only good thing to come of this pissing away of a perfectly perfect seventy minutes is it revived my texting ban. i'm tempted to call it unconditional but as long as minka kelly walks the planet, i reserve the right for another, admittedly ill-advised, exception ;-)

as an aside, that night at dinner the topic of texting came up (not by me) and i spun into an irrational rant about what a crappy replacement texting is for an actual conversation. i'm sure the vitriol that drooled to my plate surprised even my crew who are accustomed to the occasional old-guy, digital-immigrant lecture. my tirade proved memorable enough to bleed into the next morning. when i was driving the kids to school, a neighbor flagged me down as i was passing her. from her drivers window she said her daughter was selling girl scout cookies and wondered if i would let my office know. i said i would and we each moved on. as i pulled away anthony said, "boy. i bet you're glad you got to talk to her face dad." when i asked why he thought that he said, "well, because then you didn't have to have that talk over the emails." savvy kid. 

a few weeks after that i had another savvy kid, bella, i had to deal with as she has just now entered the world of text-enabled life (via an iPod touch she can connect to our home's wi-fi). she and i have been delicately skirting around one another about the expectations of this new bit of technology at her disposal. what typically happens is i come on too strong and she bristles at the adamancy of my position but then in time we will both meet with softened positions. the first confession bella made after having the device a few weeks was that she has noticed a significant decrease in how much she had been reading as every incoming message would pull her attention from the page. and just the other morning she commented on how she could rate her friends by responsiveness naming who will respond to any message (when they are awake of course) within seconds, minutes or the hour. she then added how the 'seconds' people are kinda hard to deal with given their unrealistic expectations on others. 

after hearing her touching an important epiphany, i worked hard to come up with a meaningful reason why bella would not want to blindly succumb to this "communication drip". after a bit of thought i proffered to her:
bella, it's like this. imagine you went up to the track to run a mile. you ate well in the morning, got your sweats and shoes on, stretched your legs and headed up to the track. then you started running and after rounding the first corner a friend appeared in your path so you stopped and they wanted to tell you what they had for lunch. you smile, mildly annoyed that they appear to not notice you were in the middle of something, say ok and see ya later and then resume running. after another hundred yards another friend stops you to show you a funny cat picture she found on the internet. you stop. smile. glance at the photo, agree, say bye and resume your jog. after a few hundred more yards, well, you get the picture. this is kinda like what's happening in your brain. if you sit down to read or draw or do homework or just relax, just as you get situated and your mind finds its gait, you get pulled out, and possibly, if not probably, for unimportant reasons. then you return to what you're giving your time to when someone else inelegantly elbows their way in front of you, with no regard for what you might be in the middle of. the net result of weeks, months, and years of this is a brain that can't run a lap because it's never been given the time and attention to do so. that is my fear for you. and bella, this is not to say you should never text. just as we will queue up a show, pop some corn and laze on the couch for a couple of hours, you should at times leave the track, pull your device from the charger and exchange sites and sentiments with your friends. i'm just suggesting that like with homework, sleep and exercise, you have some plan and form of control when and for how long it happens. in short, you need to own it and not let it own you.
at the conclusion of this bella quietly nodded and looked away in her thoughtful manner. and i, trying to heed marty's most excellent-ever piece of advice, stopped talking, which probably wouldn't be a bad idea even now.

but one last thing, to squeeze in the obligatory, defensive 'but i'm not a luddite' clause, i do get and see the boons of this technology, if not near all technology. the morning after my evil texting day, one of the girls at bella's bus stop mentioned how her phone bailed her out of a fix after she forgot her math book at school. she texted a girlfriend asking about the assignment. instead of talking her through the various questions the girlfriend snapped a picture of the assigned page of homework and texted it to the girl in need. this exchange took less than a minute and there is no way it can be described as anything short of pretty dang neat, cool, and impressive. i get that and applaud the thoughtful, appropriate, and effective use of the tech.

i guess in the end i'm just old enough to lack the patience to do something that takes me four times as long for reasons i think are flawed and less efffective than using another avenue which, for more reasons i think are flawed, lots of other people seem to want to use. and calling me old doesn't injure me like some might think it would or should. truth is, i like being old, namely because when i was young, i was a mighty sizable fool. the unfortunate part of this math though is i know twenty years from now, i'm likely to call my current-day self a bit mis-directed in many ways. that said, i'm confident each year's laundry list will be a few bullets shorter than the prior one, namely because i'll listen to my gut more and make fewer exceptions when i know i shouldn't. and yes, that goes even for minka kelly.




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