I used to hardly ever talk to my mother. Not because I don’t love her, or she me, just because I don’t like being on the telephone, and e-mail seems like it’s pointless unless you’ve got something specific to say and then it feels like it needs to be lengthy enough to justify the effort on the part of both parties. My aversion to talking on the telephone came from her, for two reasons. First, she always made it clear that she had no use for protracted phone conversations. Make the call, say what you have to say, and get off the phone. That was her philosophy. It was never acceptable to call someone “just to say hi” or “just to talk.” Secondly, when I did get on the phone with friends, she would always tell me to get off the phone after about 20 minutes or so, even though I was in another room where my talking wouldn’t disturb her and even though the only people who ever called were my friends, or bill collectors so she never answered the phone anyway. Nevertheless, through these experiences, she taught me to prefer not to be on the telephone for long periods of time.
“Do you text? Just wondered. going to bed now. ‘Night!”
I confirmed that I do and that was the end of the conversation, that night. Since then, however, we’ve exchanged text messages and had full conversations via text every few days.
This morning I received a text from her while I was getting ready for work and we proceeded to have a conversation on text until I got to work when we moved to Instant Messenger. She informed me that she had gotten a new cell phone with a QWERTY keyboard. She said, “I wanted something with a keyboard so I could text without having to hit the keys several times to get the letter I wanted.”
I answered, “Based on the speed and length of your texts, I had a feeling you had a keyboard now.”
“Yep. The [Boss’s family] are big on texting, so I needed it to keep up!”
“I am too,” I answered, “then I don’t have to ‘talk’ to people. How sad is that?”
She answered, “Pretty sad, by my lights. But it’s the way of things nowadays.”
Hmmm. Interesting perspective for her to have. I continued, “I text Michelle a lot, because if I want to make a quick comment about something, it could turn into a 45 minute conversation and I have a thing against doing other things while I’m on the phone so it blows my whole evening. (I know that’s terrible.)” I was making light of things here, I don’t really think it’s that bad. It get’s said what needs to be said without derailing my plan for the day/evening. And when we get together and I can focus my attention on her and our interaction we talk plenty.
“It’s just one more way in which nuance and empathy and other such non-quantifiables are being eliminated from people’s relationships these days. I just think it’s sad.”
“Yeah, but it’s quick. :-D”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of this situation. Here we are, having conversation by means of electronic written technology and she’s telling me that it’s sad that people don’t spend more time on the phone even though she hates being on the phone as much as I do.
Sometimes, her inability to recognize the irony in her words, and yes, even her hypocrisy, just makes me laugh.