I'm sitting on my back porch, enjoying a cool breeze and the flow of creative thought while ignoring the ear-piercing chittering of an obese squirrel telling me the bird feeder is empty, when my phone beeps. Not a landline, mind you, as I refuse to pay for one. I mean, what's the point really? Everyone in my house has a cell phone and I see no reason to pay even $19.95 a month for telemarketers to disturb my supper.
I glance at the phone and read, "I'll be at Danny's."
I set the phone to the side and continue on with my writing. Less than a minute later my phone rings. Well, it doesn't actually ring as much as blares "Peanut butter jelly time" into the silence. I haven't had a normal ringtone in about seven years. To be honest, I'm not even sure if they exist. The person calling, of course, is Zac.
"Did you get my text?"
"Yes. You'll be at Danny's."
"Well, I didn't know if it was okay. You never texted back."
"Were you asking permission? I read a statement, not a question. Look, I'm in the middle of a storyline. You didn't need an immediate response."
Of course, when I text him it’s a different story. He better answer me right away. I’m arrogant enough to feel that way about everyone, though.
"Finally! Where have you been?" I spew into the phone when Char finally answers. "I've tried you, Teri, the boys. What happened?"
"Sorry, I left my phone in the other room."
"What's the point of having a mobile phone if you don't keep it mobile?" At the time it seemed like sound logic to my frustrated brain.
It's the way we've conditioned ourselves in this age of instant gratification and immediate results. Just because it's a mobile phone we expect people to always have it with them and to have nothing better to do than to answer our trivial texts. That's the way I am. I know that Zac always has his phone. Except for the times that I know he's at school or work, I know there's no real reason not to answer. I have friends like this as well. If they don't answer me then I know they've chosen to ignore me and yes, that pisses me off.
Of course, I'm allowed to not respond because, well, as I said before, that's just how arrogant I am.
I could handle ignored for the most part if I didn't see them choosing to post how cute their little fur ball is or what they're having for dinner on Facebook instead of answering my text. What adds to my irritability is that I know most of them are using their phones to tell me how adorable little Johnnie is! I don't care and besides, he’s not all that adorable. Answer my text!
Still, worse than being ignored is suddenly being left in the middle of a conversation. Chad did this to me just the other week during a conversation he started. It was a pretty good dialogue, just checking in seeing how everyone was doing and giving me the scoop on happenings in wintry Virginia. I asked a question and never got an answer. It's been a week and a half and still no word. Did aliens abduct him from the snowy hills? Could a brain aneurism have exploded causing him to forget he had started a conversation? Did his dog jump up in a fit of jealous rage and chew his phone like a rubber bone? Nope, all is well. I know this because two days later he changed his Facebook profile picture. I learn almost everything about my kids due to social networking and they keep forgetting we're friends online until I ask them about an embarrassing moment at a party they attended but I didn't.
How did people ever survive in the 80's? For that matter, how did they manage in the 1800's? Patience has been lost because we're eliminating the need to wait. We have microwave popcorn, instant coffee and instant messaging. We even have direct deposit which allows me to have my paycheck a day before payday! Now this one I like.
The romance of receiving a letter is now ridiculed with the moniker snail mail. I mean really, why invest the time to write out your best Keats lines in fancy script, spraying the envelope with Seductive Mist and sealing it with a drop of pink wax when in a few clicks and five seconds he could know you want to do the bump and grind after the movie?
It starts as soon as you go with technology. I remember when we purchased our first computer. I was impatient when we finally got a computer with access to the World Wide Web. I set up our email, added everyone's email address that I knew and sent off my letters via cyberspace. And then I waited. And waited. Every five minutes I clicked the Check Mail box only to come up empty.
"Why aren't they writing back?"
Char just patted my arm. "Because most of them aren't home, sweetheart. They have to check their email first before they can respond to yours."
And then the emails started coming in, mostly in the form of forwarded jokes. I discovered most of the people on my contact list were either super spiritual or ultra perverted and that most were both. I also discovered that some people just did not have a sense of humor. Take Robin, for instance. I had seen her send a couple of jokes back and forth and had seen people send them to her. However, I quickly got a reply asking me not to send forwards as they weren't appreciated and a waste of time, not even the cute kitten drinking out of the toilet one. Yet, Teresa sent tons of jokes to her that weren't even funny! So, she may have had a sense of humor, just not a good one.
What I've learned is that people don't apply the same courtesies online or via phone that they do in person. Hopefully, your mother taught you better than to walk out in the middle of a conversation. You don't decide to just stand up and walk off for tea without saying excuse me so why do it during an IM? We've lost our ability to be patient while losing our manners at the same time.
There's always time for common courtesy and good manners. You should start today and answer my text. It just may be important – but I wouldn’t bet on it.
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