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Text-messaging; low-carb, high-tech dating; and Gandhi

Call-waiting hasn’t always existed.
No, it’s true. This isn’t like those other columns where I made everything up.
A girl used to hunch over the phone like a euphoric dieter over a low-carb burger. She had tried everything except a balanced diet and exercise, and this new discovery in weight loss was like finding out that smoking while eating bacon cures lung cancer.
As soon as the crispy lettuce leaf assumed the position once reserved for a sesame seed bun, the girl waiting for the phone to ring (remember her from the beginning of this analogy?) swatted the handset right off the cradle.
Wait, that’s not true.
Okay, when the burger wrapped in foil wrapped in lettuce finally slid into her waiting hands, the girl suddenly became aloof. It was as if Gandhi had overcome injustice only to find that he had lost his appetite. Oddly, the second ring would register as a hypnotist’s snapping fingers, waking her to obsession and a lunge for the burger/handset.
I’m done with the burger analogy now. I promise.
This aloofnosis-with-sudden-onset became an epidemic after an antiperspirant commercial became part of our dating ethos.
‘Never let them see you sweat, and never EVER answer the phone on the first ring.’
The third ring is now standard lest someone suspect the answerer is taking lessons in phone etiquette from under-arm deodorants.
Call-waiting was invented (never click over on the first beep), allowing teenagers to tie up the phone by talking on it instead of just starring at it. Then Al Gore began advancing technology too quickly for television commercials to explain what we should be doing with it.
Take, for example, the Internet. Yes, I’m predictable.
The Internet 1990s were sort of like the real world 1960s. Free love was everywhere. But the, um, stupid nameless decade we’re in right now came around and the party was over. Ambrosia the marine biology student turned out to be Mickey the welder, and I never got to swim with the dolphins.
Okay, this is _a little_ like those other columns.
Those of us looking for a relationship are like a bunch of soldiers who married somebody they didn’t know before going to war. Instead of letters, we are exchanging e-mails, and we aren’t married, and we aren’t at war.
Those letters sounded something like ‘The Germans threw up flashlights and opened up on us with machine gun fire. Quite a few men were wounded and killed. Sometimes it seems that the only beauty remaining in the desolation of this world is my memory of you.’
These e-mails sound like ‘I went to Staples today and picked up some office supplies. Then I got back to work, and you know what I read on Yahoo News? It said that the No. 1 way to get fired was using e-mail for personal messages. I just got a paper cut. More later.’
Another discrepancy. Letters exchanged during war warrant immediate kissing when lip locations result in geographic possibility. This is not the case with e-mail. Usual dating protocols may still be in place after any volume of e-mail, and, if the girl pulls back in wide-eyed apprehension, she might say, ‘Hold on. I’ll text message you’ to explain the situation.
And that brings to mind cell phones and Caller ID.
Once the call button has been pressed, she will know. It doesn’t matter if the caller hangs up. Now it is necessary to leave a message ‘ a most awkward ritual during the getting-to-know-you phase.
The ramifications of this are endless.
Take, for example, the poorly written phone number.
Is that an eight or a two or a three?
(I’ve seen the fabled eight-two-three. It’s a numeric abomination.)
After the eight and two feign optimism that the number isn’t a fake and you’ll be connected with your dream waitress in just moments, the three is answered by the unfairly advantageous anonymous electronic voice mail preprogrammed to answer on the third ring.
‘Please leave a message,’ says an I-want-my-MTV voice.
Leave a message for whom? Ambrosia the marine biology student or Mickey the welder?

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