Last night, I was doing my writing and goofing around on the Facebook when I got a series of texts from my parents.
Here’s something important that you may not know about me: I always answer my phone. I got my first cell phone in 2004 upon arrivial at my first duty station in Hawaii. They made it abundantly clear that I needed to be reachable 24-7, for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which being that they needed 100% accountability in case of emergencies. It was also good for formation changes, schedule changes, and informing me that I needed to be at work at 6am with my ID card and a full bladder. There were even times when my phone was a conduit for letting me know that I was late for a gig I didn’t remember I was on. When it didn’t work, like the time it decided that instead of making an audible noise when the alarm went off it was just going to flash and vibrate (causing me to miss a gig and end up 2 hours late for work, freaking out everyone because they couldn’t reach me and couldn’t find me since I wasn’t staying in the barracks that week…), I ended up in serious trouble. A time before that, I left my phone at a friend’s house and the 1SG showed up at the barracks looking for me because my family couldn’t reach me (my Grandpa was in his last week). You could say that I have paranoia issues about constant communication.
I’m a bit more lax about my phone now that I’m out, but I never put it on silent except when I’m in class. If my phone goes off in class, I will always check it, even if I get a dirty look from the professor. It could be Buddy with an emergency or it could be nothing. I’d rather check than sit there wondering if he’s dead somewhere, though I’m sure if he was, they wouldn’t be trying to reach me via text.
When my phone goes off at the non-sociable hours (between 9 pm and 9 am), I immediately think that something bad has happened, especially when it is from one of my parents (they were the ones who taught me about the “sociable hours” when I was a phone-hogging preteen, after all). So you might imagine how irritated I became when I saw that it was just pictures of the snow that had started falling where they live. Now, it’s not like they woke me up. I am quite a night owl, you know. I’m sure they didn’t expect me to be up that late or answering my phone, either.
The problem I see here is that technology has scooted along so quickly that etiquette has not had time to be established. The late text faux-pas is not an isolated or uncommon incident (my college friends do it as well, and I’ve been known to send a late text more than once). Whenever I have sent a late text, it hasn’t occurred to me that a person might be asleep until after I pressed send. My motivation has been purely that I need to communicate my thought now before I forget it. It’s simple inconsideration, quickly forgiven.
There are lots of other thorny cell phone etiquette questions, though. Is it okay to answer a text while talking to someone else? What about texting during dinner? Can I scroll through the Facebook during gaps in the conversation to come up with conversation topics? Can I break out Sudoku at a party when I get bored? Is it more or less inappropriate to break out a book?
Thorny subject, indeed. I’m not mad at my parents for texting me so late. I was slightly bemused by hearing from both of them, as it is normally my mom who is the most communicative. And isn’t it always nice to see that someone is suffering through crappy weather when your weather is finally so beautiful? Of course, if they insist on sending me snow pics, I’ll just have to start sending them pics of the beautiful flowers I planted and the perfect sunshine and blue skies, etc, until they realize that the only way to get away from crappy Midwest weather is to move away from the Midwest to some other region that has eccentric weather patterns.
Mom: Since I know you’re reading this, this is not a criticism of you or Dad. It is merely an observation of a larger social problem, the discourse of which arose with your late communications. Please don’t stop texting me. I love hearing from you.