The other day I heard the familiar jingle of my cell phone telling me I had just spent 20 cents.
I hate that noise, but I have friends and family who've sprung for "unlimited texting," and they do love to text.
I read the text, I pay. My problem is $10 a month is too much to text unlimitedly. Texting uses technology that costs the cell company nothing, so it's a rip-off.
When someone decides thumbing 140 letters is easier than punching 10 numbers, it costs more on a per-word basis than the Postal Service.
Chalk it up to one more aspect of being overloaded with tweets, texts, messages, calls, IMs and blogs. Amazingly, despite all this new communication technology, the one thing we aren't doing is communicating better.
A while back, the New York Times ran a correction for an error several months before. It said the delay was because "an e-mail notifying us of the error went astray."
I love it: "Went astray." More likely, it was "drowned in the deluge."
I'm drowning. I have three e-mail accounts. Facebook offers three separate ways to communicate (wall message, regular message and instant message). I have three separate phone numbers, including the cell on which I receive texts.
There's the mail that the mailperson brings. Finally, there is the rare event when someone actually talks to me.
Most of these methods aren't worth a rat's patoot.
Consider e-mail. Mine is so full of million-dollar refund and anatomy enhancement offers that it demands to be ignored.
The spontaneity and informality of e-mail are dangerous. Humor or sarcasm, so clearly signaled by a raised eyebrow or altered voice, take genius to convey in print. Even when they try, few people write well enough to avoid offending. This is why Mark Twain is famous and you are not.
E-mail conversations take forever. Try telling someone "Hi" and wait a day for them to say "hi" back. I once edited an online newsletter via e-mail and went nuts.
Instant messaging is faster, but unless you know the person to whom you are messaging, you miss a lot. Voice tone carries so much. People on the other end tend to wander off and just quit answering, too. Are they being rude, or did their house explode?
Texting is a drug. Teens do it constantly, but adults are not immune. I heard of one guy who texted while interviewing for a job at a major local corporation and, no, he didn't get hired.
Cell phones use digital technology that flattens out your voice, making intonation hard to hear. Bad connections and static make conversations a trying affair.
Cell phones never leave us alone. The middle of a thrift store is no place to discuss a family disaster, and yet one time there I was.
Remember when news of disasters waited until you got home? Funny thing: They were still disasters.
I won't discuss writing letters on paper. Nobody but me writes letters on paper. With a fountain pen.
Which is too bad. Paper letters force people to think, to ponder, to plan. You could write one and then toss it if, upon thought, what you said was ugly. There was a sense of ceremony. Letters were a joy to receive and treasure.
But every time I write about writing letters I'm chided by phone, text and e-mail for being an old fuddy duddy. Let us speak of letters no further.
As to my friend who texted me earlier? Mostly for the irony of it, I sent him a message on Facebook saying "Let's talk!"