Confessions of a Recovering Luddite

It all came to a head in Portland the day before TequilaCon. I was sitting in a bar with Brandon, waiting for Jessica and Jill to arrive, when suddenly my phone started vibrating. A missed call? But my phone was right there the whole time, and I hadn’t heard it ring. Odd, I thought.
I opened up the phone and immediately groaned, “Shit.”
“What? Was that Jill?” Brandon asked.
“I think so. Someone sent me a text message. Had to be Jill.”
“So is she on her way?”
“No idea. See… I don’t know how to get text messages on my phone.”
I felt like I had just confessed that I didn’t know how to read. Emotions boiled up inside me until I could feel my face getting warm. It was a combination of shame and fear, fueled by anger at a society and educational system that had failed me. People had tried to send me text messages in the past, and each time I would plead with them never to do it again because it took four people and half an hour to try to retrieve the message from my phone.
I called Jill and got her voice mail.
“Hey, Jill – it’s Jenny. I think you might have just text messaged me – if you did, can you call me back and tell me what it said? I… look, I can’t get text messages on my phone, okay? Call me and I’ll tell you how to get here – see you soon!”
I then left an identical message for Jessica, suspecting that she, too, would try to avoid using a phone for its intended purpose.
When they both finally arrived, we grabbed a booth and started to get an early jump on the pre-TequilaCon drinking. But before I even got a sip of my beer, Jill asked, “So what’s up with your non-text messaging phone?”
I pulled it out and shoved it toward Jessica and Jill.
“Go ahead. I dare you to try and figure out how to find Jill’s message. It can’t be done!”
They poked around for a while, trying to get to the message without having to attach my phone to a 1983 modem like in War Games and access AOL 4.0 dial-up, but ultimately settled for just mocking the sheer volume of my cell phone. Brandon called it a telegraph. Jill said it weighed more than her dog. Jessica marveled, “Oooh, look Jill! Jenny’s phone has a calculator built right in!”
They all let out a collective cackle.
jess and jill ridicule my old phone
I felt a tightness in my throat that reminded me of when I was taunted mercilessly by my classmates for wearing my Smurf watch to school in 6th grade, which was two grades too late for it to be cool.
Maybe it was an accident, maybe it was my subconscious trying to push me kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but shortly after I returned home from Portland, I realized that I had left my cell phone charger in the hotel room.
It was just the motivation I needed to force me to make a change. So the next week, I went to the Sprint store to pick out a new phone, and hovered around a couple of sleek looking models for a while before getting up the courage to ask for help.
The Sprint saleswoman walked over and started telling me all about mobile-to-mobile minutes and something about streaming ESPN, when I stopped her and asked, “But… does this send text messages?”
She gave me a puzzled look, as if I had just asked her to explain to me again how if I talk into the one end of this machine, someone on the other end would be able to actually hear my voice. Apparently, it’s pretty much impossible to find a phone these days that doesn’t allow you to text message. How was I to know?
My very first text message went to Jessica:
i got a new phone. r u happy now?
Within minutes, I received my first readable text message in return:
Woo hoo! Welcome to 2006.
I assumed the “2006” reference was Jessica’s subtle jab at my late-blooming discovery of texting, until a minute later I got another message:
Oops – 2007.
And there it was – my initiation. It was so much easier than I had imagined. I started out slowly – sending a quick, “running late. be there in 20 min” note to Natasha, or an “r u in for dinner? 8pm” query to Dee-Dee.
Soon enough, though, I was having full conversations with Seamus on the train as he sat on the upper level and I on the lower.
whatcha listenin’ 2?
mariah. any issues with that?
u poor thing. who’s making u listen 2 that?
now its chaka khan. rhythm controls me.

Sure, these were rudimentary conversations, but conversations nonetheless. I had progressed from the text messaging equivalent of grunts and snorts to composing simple sentences. I had discovered language.
But now that I’ve had this textual awakening, a new problem has arisen. I find that I’m starting to become less discriminating with who and when I text. I’m texting at home, texting on the train, texting at work. As soon as I figure out how, I’m going to text two people at once.
I should have known it was too good to be true. No one bothered to tell me about the risks and responsibilities that go along with being textually active. It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s what all the kids are doing. Did anyone bother to tell me that it would cost me $0.10 every time I sent or received a text message? Of course they didn’t, because they wanted to get me hooked first.
So now I’m just another text addict like the rest of them, typing out broken messages at all hours and staring at my phone, waiting for that red light to pop on, signaling my next fix. People say this is progress. I’m not so sure.
a PDX 043
a PDX 051

22 Responses to “Confessions of a Recovering Luddite”

  1. Hilly Says:

    Texting is my preferred means of communication, sadly. My new phone has email AND the internet…I swear I never want to leave the thing, ever!

  2. adena Says:

    Hmmm….is texting 2 people at once anything like IMing 2 people at once? Because, you can get in some SERIOUS shiznit doing that.
    You know, like talking bad about someone on IM if you happen to be IM’ing them, too. Because, well….you might accidentally send the message to the wrong person….not that I’ve done that, or anything………

  3. Tobi Says:

    text messaging is seriously the MOST addicting thing ever. I never had a cell phone until I moved to Taiwan and I never actually use it to talk on, it’s all about the sms. Of course, getting charged when you receive messages is a little ridiculous, what the hell sort of plan are you on? Or is that just my thinking because we don’t get charged for receiving…

  4. Strode Says:

    I used to message when ICQ first came onto the scene. Now, I rarely ever carry a cell phone unless I am on a trip somewhere. I stopped carrying one five years ago. It was liberating. I am not so important that I need a phone with me 24/7.

  5. kat Says:

    i have unlimited text messaging with my plan. and thank goodness, because i am deathly afraid of actually talking to people on the phone.

  6. sween Says:

    Oh Jenny, I’m still sitting on that Luddite train, watching the world shoot by.
    I have sent one lonely little text message. And got a phone call in return. On my landline. Asking if that was really me. I’ve been too mortified to try again.

  7. jenny Says:

    hilly: i really didn’t understand it at first, but now i see the appeal!
    adena: oooh, i’ve almost done that as well! dangerous…
    tobi: i think i get charged for incoming texts… maybe not? now you’ve got me confused. :)
    strode: here’s the thing: none of us are that important, but i guess we just like to pretend we are.
    kat: ah, you’re one of the phonophobes, are you? i can relate – i’m not a fan of talking on the phone myself. unless it’s during the finale of the bachelor, and then i curse the heavens that i don’t have three-way calling. :)
    sween: i say you keep holding out. i was weak, and caved. be strong for the rest of us, won’t you?

  8. sizzle Says:

    wait until you get a picture phone. that’s a whole new ballgame!
    “textual awakening” – ha ha. awesome.

  9. brandon Says:

    hey, which hotel were you at? i wonder if they’ll give me your old phone. i need parts for my tandy transistor radio kit. all i need is one more vacuum tube and the AM airwaves will be my oyster!

  10. heather anne Says:

    With my ridiculous southern accent, it’s better if I text. People can understand me that way.

  11. Tracy Lynn Says:

    Heh. You said Luddite.

  12. Michelle Says:

    I’da figured you for a blinged out pink phone, or something of that nature. You can work on that. Baby steps.
    And ok, I had to check first just cuz, but it is fairly simple to send msgs to more than one person at a time. Granted, it is the same msg, but how much fun would it be to send “I am thinking sweaty things of you” to every person in your address book?!!
    Need to work on the anonymous thing though.

  13. shari Says:

    I like to receive text messages, but I’m usually in the car when I receive one and I’m philosophically opposed to text messaging while driving. So then I just call back. But until Sween’s comment, I never knew that could be considered a dis of someone’s text. Now, I’m wondering how many txt apologies I owe?!

  14. Dustin Says:

    K gets mad at me when I text her. She always confronts me about it later in the day.
    Her: “Why did you send me 4 texts today? Even if I don’t read them, they still charge me for them. Thats wasted money!”
    Me: “Don’t worry, I found some pop cans at the bus stop, so the cost is totally offset…”
    Ya, those little discussions are usually followed by me making my bed on the couch.

  15. churlita Says:

    I still don’t even have a cell phone. My girls do, and when I borrow theirs, they always have to brief me on how to use it.

  16. Jessica Says:

    So…if this is being “textually active” – does that make me your first?

  17. jenny Says:

    sizzle: already there, sister. but honestly, it takes reeeaallly bad pictures.
    brandon: har dee har har. suppose you want my smurf watch now, too.
    heather anne: you have a southern accent? i so did not picture that! you just gained +5 in charm.
    tracy lynn: i know. i totally just did.
    michelle: i seem like the blinged out type? really? well, i was eyeing up a rhinestone skull applique…
    shari: expect a text message in the near future.
    dustin: i think it would be awesome if you texted your wedding vows to each other! “i dstn tk u kj, 2b my yf.”
    churlita: yeah, when i was in the sprint store there was a girl who couldn’t have been more than 8 getting AN UPGRADED PHONE! when did she get her first one? kindergarten?
    jess: and you didn’t send me flowers or anything. you’re such a cad.

  18. sandra Says:

    They have an unlimited texting plan too…imagine how much you could text if you signed up for that!

  19. teahouseblossom Says:

    I’m proud of you for joining the 21st century!
    My best friend still carries her very first cell phone, which she bought in 1999.

  20. peefer Says:

    So … this friend of mine, he’s never had one of these cell phone thingies before. He says it’s an unecessary luxury, but deep down inside, we all know he’s aching for it big time. Like, he really really wants it bad, wants it fast and now, but there’s this side of him that won’t let himself indulge. I don’t know what to do anymore for him. Please help.

  21. patricia Says:

    I don’t send out too many text messages but they have their purpose. My friend Sam was a text virgin and total hater by the way till about a few months ago. He “claimed” to not have a clue how to retrieve his messages. On his part, it was total lies. But he had to get with the times when a particularly cute boy kept insisting on using text to communicate. It’s all about motivation, I say. I knew he had done a 180 when he signed off an IM conversation with, “Just text me the time for dinner. I’ll be in a meeting but I can pick up text messages.” Ha! Another one sucked in!

  22. lee Says:

    my son texts about 7,000 a month, so we opted for the unlimited TM with sprint for $5.00 a month. otherwise, my bill would be .43 per message, which comes out to (UHHHHHH-MATH) a lot of money.