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Wednesday, 03 October 2007 00:00

It’s all over but the texting

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By David Curtis

The 21st Century arrived at the Curtis residence this past Friday.

We have evolved from caveman, cavewoman and cave children into the cellular age. Yes, our foreheads no longer slant and we can now stand erect while we call and text all of our friends and family, who will be now be known as our “contacts.”

Actually we did have cell phones; however, as my daughters would point out to you, they were not “real” cell phones, they were the no frills pay as you go, buy minutes when you need them, cell phones. The 98-pound weaklings of the Charles Atlas cell phone world.

“Daddy, you get charged for every text message you send,” says daughter number one, the Rocket Scientist. “And it doesn’t even have a camera,” chimes in daughter number two, the Brain Surgeon. “We’re tired of getting sand kicked in our face,” they say in harmony.

Now in theory this is an economical means of communication — you use your phone only when you need to and so 150 minutes, which costs around $40, should last around two months, right. Right? Wrong. Cro-Magnon man’s expectation meets the reality of teenage daughters resulting in all theories on phone use and costs are thrown right out the cave door.

After spending most of the summer tracking the monthly cost of adding minutes on the four pay-as-you-go phones, it didn’t take long to realize that it was the phones that needed to go, and that it would be more economical to sign up with a plan from one of the commercial cell phone networks and just pay a monthly bill.

The cell phone company we choose provides a discount for state employees, you can call family members and other people on the same network for free, and on the plan we signed up for – get unlimited texting. (That squealing you hear is from my daughters.) So now we have the little man who wants to know if you can hear him now, and his network, following us around making sure we can stay in touch. (Since they are always there, would it hurt if they helped carry in the groceries or occasionally emptied the dishwasher? Hello, is anybody home?)

When I gave my daughters their new “real” phones they cradled them in their hands and stared at them like it was a living, beating heart — fragile and beautiful, an amazing miracle. Come on I would tell them, it’s just a phone. But to them it wasn’t just a phone — it was a lifeline. A rope thrown to a drowning teenager that safely pulls them back into their circle of peers — it says, “Text me, you’re one of us.”

My youngest daughter, whether she realized it or not, made a very profound statement a day after the phones arrived, she said, “We have unlimited texting? Good, we’ll never have to talk to each other again.” “Rt, go cln yr rm,” was my reply.

Teenagers really don’t talk to each other on their phones anyway; they communicate by texting each other in sort of a teenager shorthand. Thus a generation of even poorer spellers is born. I’m not a good speller, but at least I earned my D’s and F’s the old fashioned way — by not studying.

I have talked with parents who tell me that their teenaged sons or daughters text their friends thousands of times a month. That’s right, not hundreds of times, but thousands of times. One mother told me her son had sent over 6,000 text messages in a month’s time. Holy cramped thumbs Batman — that’s 200 text messages a day!

OK, before you think this is some amazing feat, remember this is a teenage boy doing the texting here. “Wuts up? Nutn. Jst hngn. U? Hngry? No jst 8. Whr? Tco Bl. Txt me whn u git hm. L8er.” I’m sure the next 5,990 text messages are just as articulate and engaging as the first 10. With email, we lost the ability to write letters; I wonder, with text messaging will we lose the ability to hold meaningful conversation? I shr hp not 4 the sak of cvlizashun.

In addition to the camera feature, this phone can also record short video clips. Daughter number two has already recorded my lecture on, “... this phone is not a toy you know and you better not be downloading music and stupid ring tones unless you want to pay for them yourselves and if I so much as hear a peep from school that you are texting in class I will have your phone and you can go back to getting sand kicked in your face ...”

I would like to think that she recorded my rant to remind her how to be a responsible cell phone user, but I’m probably just kidding myself, she’s a teenager. I can hear her talking with her friends at school. “Hey, check out this video I made of my Dad on my new phone, watch his forehead, the more he talks the more slanted it gets.”

(When he is not eagerly awaiting his first cell phone bill, David Curtis teaches middle school in Haywood County. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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