Image courtesy of Ryan Snook
The text lacked the import of Morse's "What hath God wrought?" or the directness of Bell's "Mr.Watson - come here - I want to see you." It was nonetheless a first. I texted Rosie, a fellow blogger, a message from my TracFone, the first I've ever owned. I wanted to keep it simple until I got the hang of texting, so I settled on, "What's cookin' Rosie?" Once that was done, I turned the phone off and threw it in my junk drawer. About an hour later, Rosie called me on my landline. She was irritated that I hadn't replied to the message she had sent me. The word "dumb" was never uttered, but I swear I could hear her thinking it. While I've repeatedly explained my reticence to enter the world of instant communication, she's never understood it and thinks I'm a dinosaur.
I've been retired for better than 16 years now. At the time I left NYC, anyone talking to themselves as they walked down the city streets was given a wide berth. Cell phones were not commonly used, so I gave them no thought when we moved west. I did give a lot of thought to the pager that my job required. I hated the thing, so, in a dramatic and overblown gesture, I threw it in the Willamette River once we settled in our new home. At that time, I swore that I'd never again wear or carry a device that would disturb my inner peace. I didn't need to be in constant communications with my family or friends. So, as the cell phone became more popular, I stuck by my guns. I'm by nature a hugger and modern communication seemed cold and impersonal to me. Barring face to face contact, a long letter or phone call are my preferred way of keeping touch, and I couldn't imagine checking a phone every five or ten minutes to see what's happening or who is trying to reach me. However, when I looked around me while shopping or attended a meeting, I knew it was only a matter of time before the walls of Troy began to crumble.
For several years now, Bob and I have carried burner phones when we travel. It began when the banks of phones in airport terminals diminished and it was often difficult to find a phone. We also started traveling to areas where common sense dictated an emergency phone be carried. Fortunately, we never had to use them, but we felt more secure knowing they were at hand and it made travel to suspect areas possible. That didn't change the way I felt about the phones when I was at home. I still viewed the phones as an unnecessary invasion of my quiet, if not my privacy, but I slowly began to rethink the issue.
No single incident changed the way I feel about the phones, but I've come to the conclusion that while having one readily at hand may not be desirable, it is sensible. Our society is becoming more impersonal and text messages will never replace a touch or a thoughtful conversation. I know there are people who enjoy constant communication with one another, but I can't be counted in their number. I know my children love me. I also know a moment by moment replay of my day would be overkill and dreadfully boring. I can't imagine disturbing anyone's peace with that kind of minutia. I feel the same way about conversations with my friends. What is important will be shared as it has always been, what is not will be held close to the vest where it probably belongs. So, our new phones will never replace the way we've communicated in the past. They will be used for emergencies. Rosie was thrilled to receive my first message, but I suspect she knows there won't be many more. She, by the way, was making meatloaf.