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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

They Call Me Captain Kirk

I had a fascinating and edifying conversation with my teenage son recently. He’s homeschooled. None of his friends are.

He had been tentatively hired to play and sing at a public function. I would ask him, from time to time, about the particulars of the job. He’d shrug and say he was waiting for information. When there was less than a day left before the scheduled date, I got a little peeved when I got the same answer — waiting to be told what to do; who to see; when to go. I received a little education while sorting it out with him.

The person in charge was ostensibly an adult but is more like a teenager running in place on the calendar. I asked him how he was communicating with her.

-I left a lot of messages on her Facebook wall.
-Facebook! Facebook? Why don’t you email her?
-No one has an email address, dad.
-Well, they might, but they wouldn’t look in their inbox and answer you. There’s a part of Facebook that takes the place of email, though.
-Well, why don’t you leave one there for her?
-I left a half-dozen there. There’s no way to tell if anyone is looking at that.
-Why don’t you call her on the phone?
-She’s like my friends. She doesn’t know how to answer a phone.
-What do you mean? They all have $500 phones.
-They don’t know how to answer them.
-How can that be?
-They all are iPhone type slabs and they have to lock them so they don’t butt-dial 911 and their mother twenty-five times a day. They can’t unlock them fast enough to answer them.
-Well, why don’t you leave them a voicemail and tell them to call you back?
-Dad, they have no idea how to use voicemail. All their mailboxes are full and have never been listened to.
-You’re making that up.
-I’m not.
-Let’s find the phone number for the girl…er, woman that you need to talk to and call it.
    …the voice mailbox you’re trying to reach is full. Disconnecting.
-No one answers the phone?
-Dad, they text everything.
-But you’ve left “text” messages everywhere for your contact person.
-Texting isn’t for information, really.
-What does that mean?
-Dad, no one says much of anything when they text. It’s like a really elaborate handshake that goes on for a while.
-How so?
-A friend texts “hi.” You’re supposed to say “hi” back, but it’s bad manners to say more than hi, so that they can ask you how you are in little words without vowels in the next text, and keep the thing going for as long as possible. That’s why they don’t answer the phone, too, you can’t break the string of texting. Nothing really ever gets said.
-Well if all they do is text, why do they need iPhones? What can they do with them?
-Well, you could Google something, I guess, or watch a video, but they don’t.
-Why not?
-Watching even half a 240p video will put them over their data limit, so they won’t do it.
-Well they must do something with the screen.
-The girls all use it to look at Facebook, where they leave little text messages and ducklips phone photos for each other to look at while they text each other directly. 
-Someone must be using the phone to talk on the phone.
-No, if you want to talk on the phone you use Skype.
-Now we’re getting somewhere.
-My friends all get laptops given to them at school, and use them to Skype one another.
-They Skype in school?
-No, the boys play flash video games during class in school, and the girls…
-No, don’t tell me — they look at Facebook all day.
-Now you’re getting it dad.
-They must use them for something to do with school.
-Well, they’re Apples, dad. They’re pretty much useless.
-Well, don’t they use them to read books or Wikipedia or something?
-No one in school reads the books, dad.
-Come on.
-Well, a couple of kids read all the books that get assigned. The kid that was homeschooled until last year does, I think.
-You’d flunk if you didn’t read any books.
-There’s a website they use their laptops for that tells you what a book says without reading it. I don’t know the name of it.
-Cliff Notes?
-I think that’s it.
-The teachers would catch them.
-I think the teachers know but don’t care because it’s no skin off their nose.
-So the kids just plagiarize Wikipedia for their work?
-I think the teachers have a thing about Wikipedia so they’ve found some other place to copy and paste from.
-Doesn’t the school block that sort of thing?
-Are you serious, dad?
-Yes, I guess.
– I guess they try that sort of thing here and there but it’s a joke. They tried blocking something at YouTube once, and the kids just erased the backslash on the URL and it went right through. The technical ability of the school is strictly Wayne Newton-fan level.
-What do your friends think about you?
-They call me Captain Kirk because my phone folds in the middle and I talk into it.

38 Responses

  1. One of those friends will get elected president six or eight elections from now, and those of us still alive will look back longingly on the Obama era.

  2. I had thought that the implosion of the earth set for December 21, 2012 was a scam. Now I think they should move it up.

  3. Gerard, I think the implosion has been happening for several decades already, and it's just that the acceleration is becoming more obvious as we pitch into the abyss.

  4. Is your latter-day education sitting with you any better than the education of your youth? All lessons are painful in the learning…

  5. Yep pretty much what I've seen young people doing. There for a while I dated a MUCH younger young lady. Nice fantasy I guess but what a pain…but I digress she would rather text than talk, she also got me started on Facebook. I was only slightly ahead of my peers.
    All that having been said I realized today I no longer live in a Microsoft world. All my surfing and email is done on this wonderful Android phone. Even without the overage charges it is my most expensive bill by far. I do go over my 4 gig limit late in week two. Right now they try to convince us that 4 gigs are a reasonable monthly amount, I suspect that as more people get these advanced phones it will go up.
    When it comes down to it most people don't have much to say which makes coming here all the more enjoyable. Let us know how the music goes. Regards Leon…now of to vanderluen's site

  6. That last line made me laugh too.

    Oh, and Leon, I've been hanging out with younger women here on the island (my wife knows, so blackmail is out). You're right, all they do is text. They text other people while you're trying to talk to them.

  7. Ya gotts ta be proud of that boy. Though he shoulda thought about tracking down this woman and actually talking to her face to face.

  8. "-Dad, no one says much of anything when they text. It's like a really elaborate handshake that goes on for a while."

    Sharp and noticing, that is.

    I always make a point when texting to spell everything out and use proper grammar, even when it's a pain in the rear and typing "c u at 4" really makes more practical sense. It's my tiny little freak flag.

  9. Just when I thought I might be able to keep the field, now I see I'm just kicking the ball with my toe before the mitt grounds.

    I learned more from your son @ social media/communication in this post than I have in fives and a half years of blogging.

  10. All my kids are homeschooled, too, and none of them are allowed to have dedicated phones until about 17-18 (at least, that's how it's gone for the first three) so I hadn't really noticed this. If all this is true, we're doomed.

  11. They all are iPhone type slabs and they have to lock them so they don't butt-dial 911 and their mother twenty-five times a day. They can't unlock them fast enough to answer them.

    Funny, mine has a simple half-a-second swipe to unlock.

  12. Sigivald, that speaks volumes about these children's eye-hand coordination, even after years of videogames.

    My phone folds in half, too, and I talk into it. I guess I'm Mr. Spock.

  13. There must be geographic and individual variations. (Allowing that I'm 23 and my friends vary in age from 18 to 32, and perhaps your son is younger) For example, the people I know don't answer their phones either, but it's not because they don't know how, it's because they don't want to. Text messaging essentially replaced phone calls and is far more than "an elaborate handshake". My social groups communicate almost exclusively by text and we communicate plenty of information therein. I have noticed that it seems to be rude to call without texting first, much like it being rude to show up at someone's house without calling first. Phone calls are an intrusion on your "regularly scheduled life" whereas texts are merely peripheral. Yes, we're texting someone else while we're talking to you, but we're listening to you too. I put this down to ADD. I don't think it's a disorder, I think it's EVOLUTION, an increased capacity for multi-tasking. Anyway, why do y'all seem to think we're all dommed because of texting? Honest question, not being "smart".

  14. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Anyway, why do y'all seem to think we're all doomed because of texting?

    Assumes facts not in evidence, your honor. I reported. You decide.

    Me? The idea that phone calls are only for people you already know intimately and are always to be pre-arranged beforehand is a devolution, not the other kind. If the purpose of a hand-held communication device is to constantly avoid communication, especially on a backwards sliding scale where the most urgent and important is the least likely to be answered, then I see no reason why everyone should be mailing money to Steve Jobs' festering corpse to do so expensively, erratically, and inelegantly.

  15. I'm a young 55 year old and I have never answered the phone just because it was ringing, only if the phone call was on average likely to be more enjoyable/efficient than what I am currently doing.

    It's fair enough to answer the phone if you are being paid to do so, like your a doctor on call for the hospital but your free time is not your own if you are constantly running about answering the phone only to find it's someone seeking donations or trying to sell you something.

    I'd happily go back 200 years so long range communication involved a horse, a ship or a fire (smoke signals).


  16. Yes, we're texting someone else while we're talking to you, but we're listening to you too. I put this down to ADD. I don't think it's a disorder, I think it's EVOLUTION, an increased capacity for multi-tasking. Anyway, why do y'all seem to think we're all dommed because of texting? Honest question, not being "smart".

    That is just way too funny.

    And honest without knowing it.

    We are not dommed but you gang surely is.

  17. As to whether phone calls are an intrusion, I have to somewhat agree. I am on call 24 hours a day and am required to carry a phone. Therefore among my co-workers and social circle it is generally considered rude to call out of the blue without texting. When I am at home I am SLEEPING, as I have 12 hours off and then will be at work for the next two days from whenever work calls me. Like the earlier commenter said, a text is peripheral. It conveys information without requiring a conversation. And honestly, unless there is a matter to discuss, most phone conversations are just as much as a social handshake. Of course, most people I know don't go for the whole ritual at length as described above. Thank God.


  18. I'm shocked, shocked to find out how many rude and inconsiderate people there are in this world! I mean, really; calling someone on the phone after only texting them?

    A polite person never texts anyone without first putting an ad on Craigslist announcing that they're going to text you before they call you. And of course, you've got to put up fliers on all the phone poles in town with little pull-tab reminders announcing that you're about to put up a Craigslist announcement that you're going to text someone before calling them. And of course, any person with any sense of gentility or class would go to GoDaddy and reserve a URL and upload WordPress to a server and write some essays with the name of the person you're thinking about calling used as a keyword in the text here and there, and then wait for the Googlebot to crawl it, and then leave it there for as many years as necessary for it to climb the search rankings under the person's name, so that when the person finally can't find anyone to text to while they're driving to the Apple store they might google their own name and see that you're getting ready to put out fliers announcing your intention to take out a Craigslist ad to inform the populace that you're going to text a person before you phone them. Only then can you sure they'll be suitably prepared for something as formal as hearing their Crazy Frog ringtone.

    I mean, come on; it's only good manners.

  19. If you don't want to take calls, you can always put your phone in silent mode, or shunt the call to voice mail. It's silly to expect a text before a call.

    However, the real problem here isn't that kids text a lot. The problem is that what is demonstrated in the conversation in the original post is that, despite communication devices that make stuff that was mere science-fiction a few decades ago seem primitive, the people the son is describing have virtually no capacity for intelligent communication, and in the school setting, the high-tech devices serve strictly as education blockers.

    That's why we're doomed.

  20. I'm on board with the folks here who actually use texting to exchange info, and consider phone calls an intrusion. You can leave me a voicemail, which google will transcribe to text. I use the phone at work when its an expedient way to reconcile different viewpoints and get in sync when there are several open questions on both sides. In personal communication, most often its simple when/where/what or yes/no questions that don't need an absolutely immediate answer, but somewhat prompt. I don't like phone calls to 'BS' or 'catch up', text me and well meet up for dinner or a beer in person. And the whole facebook ecosystem irks me, but I use it because it makes sense. Its similar to those stupid chain letter emails that (used to?) be so popular, you can throw a link, photo, and comment out there for (in my case) close friends and family to see that I'm still breathing, and opens the door for a short exchange. In some ways having your circle of friends on facebook is like sitting in a crowded living room during a family gathering. You can slip in and out of conversations because they are within earshot, but don't compel your participation. You don't get that with email, phone calls, or texts.

  21. Text messages are about as impersonal as a missive can be (all the warmth of a thrown knife). My observations is that they are used by the people described in the essay precisely BECAUSE they are impersonal. Facebook is nearly as bad. People aren't communicating with friends in meaningful ways via these media, they're AVOIDING personal communication. 90% of face to face communication cannot be translated to text. It includes facial expression, body language, and voice tone. Phone calls at least include voice tone.

    Someone who only used texts or similar media to communicate with me, or told me to look on their facebook page to catch up on what's up with them would (eventually) notice that they haven't heard from me in months. Friends WANT to spend time with you, see your face, hear your voice. People who actively avoid that aren't your friends.

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