Monday, May 24, 2010

Two Days without a Cell Phone and the Thoughts that Ensued

After graduating from college last Saturday, I packed up some things and decided to head to my hometown the next day for a ladder week between the end of my college career and the beginning of my professional one. I had some plans for this week, like hanging out with my family and catching up with some people I might not get to see quite as often now that we’re getting jobs and spreading out all over the place. I was looking forward to it.

Then I got home on Sunday, tried to restart my Blackberry, and it broke. (I found out when i went to get it fixed--which took about three hours for some reason--that the software had crashed. I have a cell phone that has software. I feel like it can’t be long until I can take a vacation to that planet the Ewoks live on.) This was immediately following dinner with my parents, when I was ready to make plans that would allow me to leave my childhood home and spend some time with some friends. I didn’t know what the fuck to do, because I had no idea how to get ahold of anybody without my cell phone. I was completely lost.

Now, I know I could have called some people on my family’s landline at our house, but this would’ve only been possible if I wasn’t a complete slave to cell phones. I know probably four or five people’s numbers off the top of my head, and those people either weren’t home or I no longer speak to them (it’s funny, the shit you remember, until it’s not). When I want to call somebody, I just look them up in my cell phone’s contacts. When the phone is broke, you’re fucked. And, even if I did have access to the phone number of every person I know in my mind, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t call a lot of them anyway, because it’s much easier to make plans via text message. You have more time to think of what to do; they have more time to decide if that’s something they’d really like to do; they have more time to gather other options before responding. Basically, text messaging completely eliminates all the awkward pauses we were doomed to plod through when we were young and trying to make conversation with people of the opposite sex despite not knowing a fucking thing about what they cared about or were even interested in beyond cheerleading, the color pink and wearing thongs much earlier than any daughter of mine ever will goddamnit.

So, my night consisted of drinking with my Mom and starting the third season of Mad Men, which is a perfectly fine night for me on most occasions. I just didn’t want to do it that night in particular, because I’m working a job in a place where I know pretty much nobody, will be living by myself for as far as I can tell and have visited the bar closest to my prospective apartment and have been very frightened by it. So, this means I will probably be drinking and watching seasons of television shows pretty much every night (minus my Mom) after work as my main source of recreation. I wanted to save Mad Men for my time of self-imposed solitude and go out and have a whole different kind of fun instead. Among other people.

The one thing I kept thinking while I sat there with my mom was, How did my parents do it? How did they have prosperous social lives? How did my Dad ever even create me without using text and/or instant messaging to initially woo my Mom? Did this crazy mustached-wearing-motorcycle-riding-hairy-chested-man actually walk up to her in a public place and start talking to her WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING HER? What a fucking man! No wonder he had four of us in less than five years. His shooting percentage must be as high as Steve Nash’s free throw percentage!

So, I consulted my Mom. She told me about her and my Dad’s courtship. It wasn’t unlike how you see it transpire in the movies. He didn’t meet her on Facebook or anything creepy like that...He just talked to her and asked her out to her face, without the aid of (at least my Mom says) alcohol or drugs to inspire social lubrication. The first thing she pointed out was that guys used to keep every girl’s phone number they ever got in the mythological “Black Book.” I immediately regretted not having one of these. It seems so much cooler than storing phone numbers in a cell phone, kind of like how driving a Mercedes Benz Coupe is cooler than driving a Caravan, except in this case the cooler thing is actually more practical. If I’d had a black book, the software never would’ve crashed. I could’ve just pulled it out of the pocket of my acid wash jeans and started to ring up anybody I wanted to. (Guys included, because my black book would be a social rolodex, or I would’ve memorized the guys numbers. Because let’s be honest, there weren’t that many girls that I could’ve been calling anyway.) I wouldn’t have been as prone to lose all of my numbers, because I wouldn’t drop my black book into the toilet while drunk at a party because I was trying to multi-task and type a message into it while my other hand was trying desperately to find my tiny member. I could drop my black book on the ground every single day of the year and it wouldn’t break. Also, I’d never have to recharge my black book, because black books do not die. (I still haven’t found a solution to the “my friend threw me in the pool while I had my black book in my pocket” problem, but feel as though I wouldn’t need to have my black book around me while I was near a swimming pool, because I’d like to think I’d already called every female I was acquainted with and told them to show up at said pool.

Then I started to think more about text messaging and the other advances made in technology in the past few years. I was thinking about these things because I didn’t have a cell phone to fuck around with to keep my mind from wandering to thoughts that could actually be meaningful and important. I’ve become convinced that if I’d never had a cell phone, I would’ve probably discovered a new element like Tony Stark in Iron Man 2.

The aspect of text messaging I found myself considering with the most depth (or as much depth as my mind would allow after three episodes of Mad Men, which equals about four or five glasses of bourbon...if you’ve seen the show you’ll understand. It’s like how you want to start playing basketball when you watch March Madness.) was how it affects romantic relationships. Text messaging has changed the way they start, progress and even--sometimes--end. I know this to be true generally because of my own experience.

Since I got my first cell phone that could send and receive text messages (I used to dominate that snake game), the way I talk to women has changed drastically. I pretty much completely halted speaking verbally with girls on the phone, unless I was dating someone and I “had” to. Once text messaging came into play, talking on the phone seemed pretty fucking stupid. (Keep in mind that I’m a journalist, and probably about 1/3 of my job consists of talking to people on the telephone. It’s not like I’m not capable of doing it.) I mean, why would you spend an hour of your day talking to a significant other on the phone? If you thought it was hard to come up with enough stuff to talk about when you were younger, try doing it whenever you’re in constant contact via text message with that person for the entire day. When you’re doing that, you don’t need to talk to the person on the phone at the end of the day.

Now, I know what some of you are probably thinking, and that’s that you just want to hear your loved one’s voice. That’s fine. Go ahead and make the call if you really want to hear them. I’m all about that, and I’ve gone through times when I’ve wanted the exact same thing. I endorse it. Some people have pretty voices that are enjoyable to listen to. Ask them to sing you a song. In fact, there are a few people I’d like to call just to hear their voice right now. But since text messaging, there’s really not such an obligation to be on the phone with the person you’re dating on a daily basis. What I have a hard time figuring out is whether or not this is good or bad for a relationship. With a steady stream of text messaging, you’re in constant contact throughout the day with your better half. You know everything that’s going on with them, and you can be completely plugged into their life all while you’re doing other things and going on with your life. In today’s society where efficiency is so highly valued, I think many people would argue that this is great.

But what if it isn’t?

You have to consider the fact that while you’re talking to this person through text you’re concentrating on other things and not completely dedicating yourself to what they have to say. This could start a horrible trend, where people aren’t as dedicated to the ones they love (or whatever) as they should be to have a healthy and long-lasting relationship.

And maybe text messaging has made it too easy. It’s very possible it has nothing to do with it, but maybe text messaging has contributed to the fact that I’m much better at talking to someone in the initial stages through text than in person. Maybe my addiction to text messaging has had something to do with me never in my life walking into a bar and trying to talk to a woman out of the blue. Maybe my unwillingness--or at least my inability to see the necessity in it--to talk at length on the phone on a daily basis with someone I’m romantically involved with might have a little bit to do with me never having come even remotely close to having a successful long term relationship.

But who am I to say anything? If I know it’s so bad and think it’s damaging my social skills--especially with women--why haven’t I stopped?

I’ll tell you why. I haven’t stopped because it’s easy, and because most of the girls I’ve talked to are content to text message all day and forego the long and drawn-out phone call. I guess because of this I’ve never been able to gauge which ones I can hold a real and enjoyable conversation with everyday. The written word is killing my game (something I never imagined I would say), and I’m not going to do anything to change it, until I begin to date again. I’m not going to get a black book, either, because if I walked into a bar and talked to a girl and asked for her number and she agreed to give it to me, I sure as fuck would get a weird look if I pulled out a notebook and began to write it in a book. Being practical doesn’t get you laid, you know.

But I will try to concentrate more on what I’m doing, whether it’s reading a book, talking to a girl or watching whiskey while I drink Mad Men. Especially if I’m talking to a girl. They like attention, I’m told. But who can be sure? Certainly not me. Like I said, I’ve never had much success as far as relationships go.