For the young, the virtual exchange of sweet nothings is normal. My students at Metropolitan Community College–Penn Valley routinely conduct love affairs by texting from under their desks during class, as they walk along the hallway to the computer lab, during recitals with the Jazz Combo in the Little Theater and as they wander through the Carter Art Center contemplating paintings. Their fingers race along the keyboard with a gracefulness they don’t often display when they sit down to write a paper.
But why should the new technologies be the domain of the young? In fact, texting–like lovemaking–should be reserved for those members of the population mature enough to handle the responsibility without abusing it or those around them.
My friend Pops, for example, has a new girlfriend who actively campaigns for communication by text. He smiles privately when his phone jingles with the news that he has a fresh message. Painstakingly, with fat sausage fingers, he types out a response to his tiny love letter. Not having mastered the art of thumb typing, he curses when he hits the wrong button and sends the missive out half-done. He strokes his white beard and sips from his martini glass as he considers how to phrase the most passionate message in one sentence. He has not yet discovered the shorthand that makes it okay to spell “you” with only one letter.
This riles my own 61-year-old sweetheart, Stanley, because not two weeks before Pops had been haranguing the folks who are unable or unwilling to hold a thoughtfully developed conversation, depending instead on texting.
Despite his slow progress, Pops tries to convince Stanley that he too should take up this new hobby. Stan whips out his phone, flips it open and shows Pops the list of messages from his daughter. He is bluffing though. Whenever his daughter texts him, he simply calls her back. She sends pictures of the new baby and the old dog to my phone. Stan’s jealous about this breach in text etiquette and wonders out loud why he never gets pictures.
On the other hand, my brother-in-law, John’s thumbs dance across the miniscule keyboard as he sets up a date for a poker game or sends a picture of the ducks he bagged on opening day.
To be fair, my bro is retired, so he has lots of time to practice his skill. While he is a texting virtuoso, he does have to slap on his readers so he can actually see his messages. He pops an aspirin daily to decrease the pain of his arthritic thumbs. He carries his phone with him from room to room, asking absently of no one, “Why did I come in here?” until a message chimes through like a memory.
Which reminds me. Soon mental and physical dexterity will no longer be a disadvantage to us baby boomers. Google and their super fast technology arrive in 2012! Then our access to communication and information will be limited only by the imaginations of our entrepreneurs. Then students in my town of KCK and on my campus on the other side of the river (!) will be able to access, process and understand what the more seasoned among us already know: it is possible to teach old guys new tricks; youth (and technology) are wasted on the young; love can conquer all–as long as you have unlimited texting.