Funny You Should Say That! M4C@*$? Gr8t! (Sent by TXT)
In the Digital Age, thumbs do all the talking.
By John Cadley
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the first class on Texting As A Second Language. My name is Billy Babcock and I’ll be your instructor. You’ve probably noticed I’m a lot younger than you. You all appear to be in your 40s and 50s and, in case you’re wondering, I’m 7½. If you think that’s a little young to be teaching an adult education course, please consider my qualifications. Since the age of 4, I’ve texted one million four hundred and eighty-seven thousand times, consistently exceeding the limits on my plan and costing my parents $450,000 in overcharges. Using the T9Word system, I can compose a 140-character text message in less than a minute and send it to my entire address book of 1,217 contacts, thus achieving in 90 seconds what it takes the U.S. Postal Service seven days to accomplish. I can even play a video game with both hands on the controller and still text with my toes. Any questions? Good, let’s begin.
I understand that many of you are taking this class to keep up with your children, because you’re afraid your native language is becoming their second language and you don’t want to lose touch with them entirely. I know you’re bemoaning the degradation of the spoken word and the loss of interpersonal communications, but look at it from their point of view: Why take the time and energy to speak to somebody face to face and say, “Meet for coffee at Starbucks? Looking forward to it. Talk to you later. Have a good one,” when you can get whip out your cell phone, type “M4C@*$? LFTI. TLK2UL8R. HAG1,” hit “send,” and be done with it?
It’s even more convenient for conversations you don’t want to have at all. Like if you’re breaking up with somebody. You can waste your breath on all the blah-blah-blah about how “It isn’t you, it’s me,” and “I just need some space,” and “I’m not ready to make a commitment.” Or you can just text ::poof:: and say, “I’m gone.”
I see a hand raised. How do I know about breaking up and commitment when I’m only 7½? It’s the Digital Age, sir. Seven and a half is the new 40.
Keep Those Thumbs in Shape
I always like to start my classes with some thumb exercises. Real, professional texting is done using the thumbs at speeds faster than thumbs were designed to move, so we need a little conditioning to avoid serious injury. You’d be amazed at the number of things you can’t do without your thumbs. Like hitchhiking, for instance. And let’s remind ourselves that we should never text while driving. Nobody likes to receive a message from you that says, J2LYK abt to get in MVA BB4N (“Just to let you know, about to get in motor vehicle accident, bye-bye for now”).
As you can see, all your cell phones are hooked up to the projector so I can see how you’re doing on-screen. Mr. Mulloy, why don’t you go first. Type a simple message like “How are you” using the ABC system. OK, as we can see, Mr. Mulloy has typed lo*cvbsptlqrwc@*. Was there a problem, Mr. Mulloy? What’s that? You have fat thumbs and you can’t hit one key at a time? Let’s try your index finger. Okay, now Mr. Mulloy has typed Hmmow. No, Mr. Mulloy, you have to pause briefly between each letter and wait for the cursor to move. Try again.
And while Mr. Mulloy is doing that, let’s review some other points. As a rule, texting is best done when you’re supposed to be doing something else, like your job. Most companies have blocked Internet access to YouTube, Facebook and all the other Web sites that used to provide such welcome sabbaticals from work. But you can always text – at your desk, in a meeting, during an interminable PowerPoint presentation ... even in the bathroom. In fact, research shows as many as 79 percent of texters do so in a bathroom stall. But be careful. This is the same percentage that has to replace their cell phones because they dropped them in the toilet.
How are we doing, Mr. Mulloy? Let’s see. How are you? Great! Now send it to one of your children and see if she replies. She has? Let’s see it up on the screen: Gimme $50. No, Mr. Mulloy, there is no text shorthand for Get a job, you ungrateful little wretch. Just type lol and she’ll know what you mean.
John Cadley is an advertising copy-writer in Syracuse, New York. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.