Texting has an appeal easy to put into words
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Texting gets a bad rap.
You'd think it was the bane of our age: "Incessant Teen Texting Causes Health Concern'' ... "Text Less, Think More" ... "Add Texting to List of Theater Disruptions.''
Even "rock snot" in the Youghiogheny River gets better press than that.
It's long past time somebody stood up for texting. That I am that person is the irony. Only a few years ago, I still saw "text'' only as a noun. I was a texting virgin.
Not all that much has changed with me. I can still go days without putting my thumb to those little letters on my low-end cell phone. Yet I very much encourage everyone else to keep texting each other because that generally means one thing:
They're not talking.
If you don't ride buses or the T much, or don't walk city streets much, maybe you haven't noticed, but the world has gotten a tiny bit quieter. People are texting rather than talking on their phones. It's as if the mute button for which I'd searched in vain these past 10 or 15 years is finally in my hands.
As late as 2005, I publicly endorsed the suggestion of a Morningside man who advocated bringing back phone booths Downtown. Only these would be empty. Those of us enjoying a reasonably quiet walk would be encouraged to shoo yakkers into the booths. Thus we might enjoy a brief respite from that curious calculus of modern life: hearing just half of an inane conversation is somehow twice as annoying as hearing each dolt in turn.
My daughters almost don't believe me when I tell them that, when I was their age, if a man was walking down the street talking to himself, we could be reasonably sure he was crazy.
Now we only suspect it as we surreptitiously search his ear for the hidden phone as his f-bombs fly.
You can still hear these go off, of course. A young woman unleashed a barrage of them into a phone (no doubt to one of her loved ones) just the other afternoon as I passed her on Liberty Avenue. Ah, but who knows how many other passers-by were simply texting "f'' into their phones, leaving me blissfully unaware.
For those countless verbal omissions, I am forever grateful.
This view may not be a popular notion, I realize. The world seems to be dividing into those who will camp outside Best Buy all night for the next incarnation of gadgetry and those who tut-tut at any public use of the same. Last week, Diane Ackerman wrote a piece in The New York Times about how, on her recent morning walk through the woods, she saw a girl ignoring the wildlife around her as she texted.
"The sight is so common that it no longer surprises me,'' Ms. Ackerman wrote, "though strolling in a large park one day I was startled by how many people were walking without looking up, or walking in myopic daze while talking on their 'cells,' as we say in shorthand, as if spoken words were paddling through the body of one saltwater lagoon to another.''
Columns like that are so common (though not all are so well written) that they no longer surprise me. In fact, I've probably written my share. Worry about what we're not seeing because we're immersed in media -- that's a continual concern of the media. I can remember a colleague 30 years ago writing snarkily about some teen walking through the Virginia State Fair wearing a Walkman and thereby missing all the interesting sounds of the midway.
Now that teenager is 47 years old, undoubtedly bemoaning all these spoiled kids today with their hip and their hop coming out of their earpieces.
It's not that I disagree with those, like Ms. Ackerman, who suggest we ditch our gadgets for at least a few minutes daily so we can pay "close attention to some facet of nature.'' I happened to read that line as I was riding the T south over the Panhandle Bridge, and it caused me look up and take in the still glorious sight of the Monongahela River making its usual unhurried meeting with the Ohio on a quiet weekday afternoon.
Somewhere else in the trolley, someone was texting I know not what. The blessed silence was more golden than the sun.
First Published June 17, 2012 12:00 am