She sent me a text today. I remember when she used to call me and we’d speak with each other. But, life got busy and since I was working with customers in the music store, she never knew if it was convenient for me to talk, so the phone calls became problematic. Now she has a smart phone, one that actually has a “qwerty” keyboard on it. She learned to type many years ago, so she has taken to the texting just fine. I have decided that I don’t detest it as I once did, so I grudgingly crossed the threshold of the twenty-first century with her. Or, so I thought.
She sent me a text today, and I answered it. You see, I know how to type, too. It’s just that I hit the wrong spot on the screen more often than not. I don’t like auto-correct programs. They take my errors and make them into embarrassingly wrong (but valid) words. However, when I entered into the twenty-first century, I also acquired a phone that talks to me, and listens too. You know the ones. You ask the little rectangular black box how many miles it is to home and the computer-generated female voice replies, “I’m sorry, Paul. I don’t know where you live.” Hopefully, she will learn. I have found though, that if I click the little microphone icon when I am ready to answer a text message, I can just say the words, along with the names of the punctuation marks to be included (“period”, “comma”, etc.), and the little stenographer in the black box responds quite nicely.
So, She sent me a text today, and I answered it, with a little help. But, as I punched “send” on my phone (the little lady in the box hasn’t learned to do that for me yet), I realized something that took me by surprise. I am still talking on the phone, just like I used to. Well…almost. I don’t text; I send delayed phone messages. So, why am I not actually talking to the Lovely Lady, instead of pretending to be a part of the culture of hip communicators that surround me?
On a closely related topic, I was first amused, then frustrated this afternoon as I witnessed this “communication” in action again. The lady came in asking for guitar strings for her son. She knew the brand of strings and the type of guitar…well, sort of. Her son had given her the brand name and a descriptive word for the guitar–“standard”. I pointed her to the exact strings, but the descriptive word on the package was “acoustic”. She wasn’t sure the two meant the same thing, so she texted her son. “It’s the only way he’ll talk to me,” she said plaintively. I nodded and told her that I’d wait. Her phone wasn’t a smart one. She had to click on the numbers to select the letters of the words. It took nearly fifteen minutes for her to ask her son what he wanted and to get a straight answer from him. One quarter of an hour. A phone call would have taken less than one minute. “Hi, son. Is acoustic the same as standard? Oh, they have those in phosphor bronze, too. Do you prefer that, or the 80/20 bronze? Okay; see you in a few minutes.” There might even have been time for an extra, “I love you,” left over.
Do I sound bitter? I’m really not. I understand that sometimes you just can’t talk on the telephone. But, he was sitting at home with nothing to do but push buttons on his phone. I have no problem with using a tool…and make no mistake, the phone is merely a tool…to achieve the purpose for which you acquired it, but it must be in a manner that accomplishes the job efficiently. I’m not a fan of letting the tool dictate how–and when–I use it.
Do I sound old? I will freely admit that the accusation is accurate. Why just today, I forgot why I walked across the room at the store and had to go back to my desk, where I started from, to get a clue. And this very afternoon, I unplugged my coffee maker to use the outlet for another device and then decided that the coffee maker had died when my coffee was cold the next time I went for a cup. I even asked a friend to find me a good replacement for the defunct appliance. I am, indubitably, old. But, not so old that I have forgotten that when the things I purchased to help me do a job actually keep me from doing it well, it is time to re-examine my use of those things.
So…how about it? Do you have anything that has taken over your life? Besides the smart phone. Television? A car? The computer? Perhaps, it’s not a thing, but an activity. Online gaming, shopping, even volunteering for a good cause, or exercising…all of these can rob from you in ways that you never anticipated. Could it be that it is time for us to take back control of our lives from the stuff? Maybe, we need to take back the reins from the urgent things we once gave in to and make the important things in our life a priority again.
I wouldn’t deign to propose what your priorities should be, but I could suggest a start. People are important. They’re worth laying down your phone for, or turning off the television for, or even closing your Facebook page for. But before that, a little time for God might help to set the other priorities in order. You see, if we start with the really important things, the others will fall into place more easily. I remember the hokey little song we used to sing in Sunday School, it seems eons ago: “Jesus, and Others, and You; What a wonderful way to spell JOY.” The song seems a bit silly now, but the formula still works. Important things first…and the stuff we acquire along the way is only there to help us to do the important things better.
I’ll keep talking to my little automated assistant when I need to. But I’m always looking for ways to use time more efficiently. My guess is that, if I’m doing it right, shortly I should have more time for doing really valuable things, like spending time with friends and helping strangers in need.
Maybe the little voice in the box could help with those too. Then again, probably not. She doesn’t seem to be much of a quick study.
I’m probably on my own there…
“One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.”
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
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© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.