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Its a Text Thing

by Sian 

Posted: 02 August 2003
Word Count: 1260
Summary: I had a conversation with my housemates last night about text messaging on mobile phones, and it prompted me to come out with this.

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I hate text messaging. It destroys lives. Bit of a strong statement? I will state my case and then you will see.
Iím in a pub, let us say the Dublin Castle in Camden. Iíve gone there for a night out, to see some good live music, and not get kicked out onto the streets at 11 oíclock sharp. And I get talking to someone who catches my eye, and we get on really well. Say this guy tells me that he is a mature student who is into amateur dramatics. Iím impressed, I tell him so. I tell him that I work in an office and itís not nearly as glamorous as what he does. At the time I am coherent, and even intelligent. In the flesh I am a bubbly, confident attractive person. This is going well. We exchange numbers and arrange to meet up in a couple of days. Easy? You would think so.
Enter pre-date text hell. It is always awkward following up random meetings. In the olden days (pre-text that is), you had to call the person on the phone, have a real live conversation, and arrange to meet via the ancient art of speaking to someone. I find the ordeal of calling someone on the phone taxing, but also more exhilarating than a mere text message. You can pick up so much more information about the person, the textures of their voice, their accent, or how nervous they are. You can determine what part of the world they are from; you can get a good idea of how educated they are; you can even tell if they are smiling or not. And if, like me, you are deluded and consider yourself psychically-tuned into the voice at the end of the line, you can determine what sort of underwear they are wearing.
What can you get from a text message? Up to five hundred little characters on a tiny screen, on a grown-up walkie-talkie. No emotion, no pre-phoning terror, not gut-wrenching nerves while you attempt for the twentieth time to call someone before hanging up. No stammering, and coming out with pointless stupid phrases, no clenching of the throat muscles so you end up sounding like a chipmunk. Nothing but premeditated ďjollyĒ little messages, no doubt riddled with spelling mistakes.
However, the etiquette of texting and phoning are similar, especially when it comes to the appropriate amount of time you have to wait before contacting the person. Ideally, the golden rule is that anytime after three days is acceptable. If someone contacts you before this time, they are quite clearly needy, desperate, or insane. So I wait three days because I am none of the above, and I decide to text this guy. Because despite my rant against texting, and as much as I love the joys of first time phone conversations, I couldnít be bothered to endure it. Oh hypocritical moi. So I sit down and type out what I consider to be a normal text message.

Howdy how it going remember me you still up for pint S.

Ouch. I decide against the total-lack-of-grammar approach. Even though, I felt, it gives the impression that Iím far too busy to take time out from my hectic schedule to write something with a bit more structure. This message is meant to say I'm rushed!. I am, after all, a City-Lady and am obviously out all night every night. I am the height of cool. I am cooler than cool. And by the look of this text message I am grammatically challenged. This will not do. I try again...

Hello there matey! How are you?
Was fantastic to meet you the other night!
Written any plays recently ;)
I was thinking of flexing
the old writing muscles myself!
Would love to meet up for a drink or several
if youíre still interested! call me XXX

Oh dear. No. Absolutely not. In fact I hate myself for writing this. This message screams "desperate, needy, and unhinged". Never mind the three day rule! It seems to read with an airy, slightly breathless, and somewhat posh affectation. Not remotely like my loud voice and characteristically broad Lancashire accent. So, rather than Joanna Lumley, I opt for Vera Duckworth.

Ey up chuck, by Ďeck theeís a corker.
Fancy a pint Ďo Thwaites down típub?
Iíll be theer with thíferret down me kecks
in tíRat Ďn Parrot at 7. See thee later cock.

Sensibly I delete this one, suck on an Uncle Joes Mint Ball, and try again. After a very long time, the number of text messages Iíd composed had reached into double figures. So I throw in the towel. He can text me. I start to wait. And wait. And fidget a bit, while Iím waiting some more. The mobile phone, that posh walkie-talkie has turned very rapidly into a WMD (Weapon of Mental Destruction).
I turn the phone off and nip to the shop; on the basis that should he call, it looks as though my life is so rich and full that I donít have the time to answer the phone. I return after about 10 minutes, turn the phone on and casually check for the 1
Received symbol, but its not there. I try to forget about the existence of my phone, but my head has gone full throttle into radar-mode. I run out of the house, and jog to the park. But I know that the phone is sitting there all alone, and is categorically not receiving any messages. I canít bear it, so I jog back. And I have missed a message! Hallelujah, sing Hosanna! I can revert back to my normal laid back self. Feeling a little smug because he has got in touch with me first, I check to see what he has to say for himself. All is well in the world until I discover that the message is a computerised text alert asking me if I want to receive regular football results. Screaming, I hurl the phone at the wall, run upstairs, throw myself onto my bed and weep uncontrollably. I spend an hour of lying in a morose state, staring at the wall and listening to Tori Amos. I question my existence, I vow never to look at men again, I promise to get rid of the phone, and to denounce text messages forever. Then I get angry. Who does this man think he is? Iím one hell of a catch Dag-Nam-It! He canít afford to live without me! During my second wind, I get my phone, which now has a broken casing, and quickly, without thinking, send him the following:

Oi! are you going to ask me out for a drink or what?

I sit down, triumphant, relieved and emotionally exhausted, but content in the knowledge that the whole process is going to be easy from now on. I am going to meet this man again, and he would see my sweet, kind, witty, clever side. I look in Sent Itemsto re-live my moment of glory, and realise, to my utter horror, that the predictive texting function was not switched on, and what I had actually sent was:

Mg1 apd wmt gmgmg tm apj ed mtt dmp a dppgmj mp wgat1

Needless to say he did not reply. I automatically text my best mate asking her to come round, we get a couple of bottles of wine, loads of chocolate, and we spent a nice evening in front of the TV, moaning about men, and text messages.

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Comments by other Members

stephanieE at 19:09 on 03 August 2003  Report this post
Great - love it! Yup, been there, and had that thought too. You've put this very well, so thanks for sharing it with us...

viky7258 at 21:49 on 03 August 2003  Report this post
I think we've all been there, it's so much easier to text someone, and I think thats what helps with making a story work - something that connects you with the reader, similar experiences etc.

I like the last text sent made me smile.

Sian at 20:51 on 04 August 2003  Report this post
Thanks thats really nice of you to say! Scary thing is, its autobiographical and emphasises just how neurotic I am. I suffer for my art...

As soon as you start living the lifestyle of a 'chic-lit' character, I think you realise its time to leave the country.

RE: last text message, is as correct as I could get it, its suprisingly difficult to spell words so wrong!

Sian x

DJ at 23:14 on 10 August 2003  Report this post
Sian, this is a delightful piece - very Marian Keyes in style - well done!

Fearless at 20:52 on 27 August 2003  Report this post
I liked it!


Dan W at 18:13 on 14 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Sian,

Great idea and one similar to one I've been toying with myself. I agree with you that texts and emails are destructive, though I use both regular!!

Thanks for a refreshing piece of work


Mellers at 18:39 on 29 May 2006  Report this post
But I know that the phone is sitting there all alone, and is categorically not receiving any messages.


Very well put - my stomach's getting tight just at the thought!


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