Cell Phone Arguments: Let’s Keep This in Context

Morning Tea by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

Although I am decidedly a Tea Chick, occasionally I foray into a coffee shop and indulge in an overpriced concoction of steamed milk, outlandish flavorings, and ground up bitter brown beans.

Last week, I was contentedly sipping one of these —Ccino steamers in a cafe where a woman across the room was having an argument with her boyfriend.

At least, I assume it was her boyfriend, since there was nobody else at the table with her but the cell phone.

But she was most certainly interacting with the thing —  picking it up and furiously texting, tossing it down, glaring at it, staring off into space before she glanced at the phone again, snatching it back and texting again. I am surprised that she didn’t give the poor vibrating inanimate creature a ringing slap across the interface.

This continued for the entire 20 minutes that it took me to drink 465 calories, and when I left, she and her boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend/husband/customer-service-representative-of-some-cell-phone-provider were still at it, shouting at one another in 160-character bytes.

“I h8 u!”

“You ******!”

No, I did not casually stroll from the restaurant via the back corner, stumble, and read over the woman’s shoulder. Although I have never received vitriolic messages on my cell phone (and given that the Norwegian Artist and numerous progeny are the only ones with the number, this would be most, most disturbing), I have had other people’s messages, similar to the above only they were more caustic, shown to me.

And I have marveled at what people will write to one another when they are in a fit of fury.

Would they say the same things, face to face?

And what do they say, face to face, after an argument conducted with itty bitty buttons and their thumbs?

“I’m sorry I called you a female dog. And a person who rents motel rooms by the half-hour. And a person whose parents weren’t married when you were born. Oh, and that I used that word that they used all the time in the Platoon movie or South Park.

Ruby, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

“There. Are we okay now?”

In the old days, back when people inhabited the same spacial dimension when they engaged in exchanging words, the very presence of the other person and the expressions flitting across his or her face sometimes — but not always — served as an inhibitor to going too far and saying too much. Frequently, one or both parties opted to leave the room and cool off.

As life modernized and contenders discovered the telephone, one or the other or both worthy opponents had the option of hanging up.

Today, a variation on the theme exists: One does not have to read the messages. One can delete them. One can turn off the phone.

While this sounds remarkably easy, especially to the generation old enough to remember rotary dialed telephones, I find that many of the younger set cannot ignore that vibrating buzz, and they will drop everything — including the conversation with the person who is sitting across from them at the table — to answer messages as pointless as,

“arghhhhh”

“noway”

“in ur face”

If somebody were unable to dredge up more than this verbal detritus in a spoken conversation, we would comment, “When you wake up, and sober up, and can speak like a human and not an inebriated goat, we’ll continue this argument.”

The Blue Poncho, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

When I mention this option to a phone addict, I get an incredulous dropping of the jaw.

“But it would be rude to ignore someone’s texts!”

“Even if they’re calling you a female canine?”

“Well . . . yeah! You just call them one back.”

I fail to see how this attitude promotes peace and goodwill among men and women.

Years ago, College Girl — who was High School Girl at the time — overheard a couple arguing on the street outside the bank. Not surprisingly, the quarrel had to do with money, and it quickly escalated to the point of being so loud and so intense that the man gave up and strode off toward a corner bakery.

“Where are you going?” the love of his life yelled after him.

“I’m going to eat a piece of cake!” he bellowed.

As a closing line, it lacks the finesse of Rhett Butler’s retort to Scarlet, but it’s so much better than a flip off from a flip phone.

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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10 Responses to Cell Phone Arguments: Let’s Keep This in Context

  1. buttermilk80 says:

    We remember He said that things would go from bad to worse. What we see in the anger level today is nothing to what it’s going to become. How can any Christian not believe we are in the last days?

    I remember some people telling me that they never saw mom and dad fight. In the old days people would have the common sense to take their anger to a private encounter. Now, we see people so caught up in self that they don’t even notice how they are bringing shame to themselves in public.

    It’s a spiritual thing. The world is slowly being encased with an evil we’ve never seen. For those with God’s eyes, it would be a really wise time to do a soul check.

    By His Grace.

    • My mother, the Venerable One, frequently comments, “It’s so different now” — raising kids, working a job, maintaining a relationship. While I respect her wisdom, I also respectfully disagree on a fundamental level: yes, in some ways in it’s different — technology, information overload, too many toys — but on a basic level, we’re still the same.

      There have always been angry people. Dishonest ones. Schemers. Flat out crooks. Check out Psalms — David’s frustration at why the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer is just as timely and accurate today as it was when the words were first penned.

      People have always fought, always had arguments. Societal conventions dictate how much of this can be done out in public, and today’s society is okay with much that a previous generation kept behind closed doors.

      As Christians, we have the tough, tough job of expressing compassion and love without implying acceptance of wrongdoing. This is such a phenomenally difficult task that we keep bumbling at it through our 2,000 year history.

  2. wanderingseniors says:

    You nailed it! I’ve seen this so many times and it always makes me wonder what happens when they cool down. Simple courtesy, respect for others (those of us watching the hate-fest), common sense all seem to have died to a large degree. There are still respectful, wonderful people out there, but, as always, they don’t get the attention that the problem folks get.

    • I continue my valiant fight against modern rudeness by daily saying “Please,” “Thank You,” and “You’re Welcome.” I thank the person who bags my groceries, in addition to the person who checked them out. I do my best to not snipe at the customer service person over the phone, because it’s really not their fault.

      These are the small things that keep society running smoothly, and you and I, my friend, can blaze the trail.

  3. Patty H says:

    I no longer have a cell phone. The kids can’t believe Mom doesn’t have a cell!! I have a home phone and that is enough thank you. The kids are always text, and won’t answere the phone unless they see it is their ol’ Mom.

    • I told Tired of Being Youngest once that someday, she will laugh at the thought of how much time she spent with her little thumbs flying over the keyboard. “It’s inefficient and it looks silly,” I commented. “One of these days your own kids will laugh at people doing it in the movies, the way you laugh at scenes of people walking around with a boom box up next to their ears.”

      She doesn’t believe me.

  4. Candace Rose says:

    Hello, Carolyn Henderson–
    I subscribed while looking for a way to contact you regarding your U-B article about irritating idjits in the movie theater. It’s hard to come up with a film-goers version of road rage, but if we name the offenders, they might be tagged as cinema cretins.
    I always enjoy your columns, and am glad to receive your blog commentary…and with the bonus of the beautiful paintings by the Norwegian artist.
    Happy 2011
    Candace Rose
    Walla Walla

    • Candace: Thank you for subscribing! Thank you, also, for your kind compliment to the Norwegian Artist’s fine paintings.

      Cinema Cretins — I like that, very very much. It has a creepy, crawly sense to it that is most pleasing.

  5. Anya says:

    When we visited San Diego a couple of weeks ago, my 18-year old brother and his cell phone were inseparable. And what struck me (as it always does), is that he was more into texting than talking. The texting tone would ring every two-three minutes, he would quickly (but smoothly, in his cool, relaxed way) respond, and then the mystery person on the other end would be busily responding to him. I asked him why won’t he just call. He shrugged and said that it’s just more convenient this way. Personally I have a different theory: when you get a new text, the same as when you see that there’s a new email or a new comment, you get a little excitement high. You get a similar high when someone calls, but when they call, it’s just one high and then the entire conversation, whereas here, you get that high every time the person responds. You can get addicted very easily.

    By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed “inebriated goat” and “verbal detritus”. Thank you for enriching my vocabulary 🙂 !

  6. I do see an advantage of texting in that you can communicate with someone without having to leave a voice mail that will never be heard or interrupting them in the middle of class. The irritating part of texting is what you describe — real conversations get interrupted anyway.

    I suppose, as far as an adrenaline/dopamine/serotonin high or whatever, texting is cheaper than shopping! I like the cool, relaxed image of your 18-year-old brother — I can see him in my mind.

    I have read “detritus” in various publications and have always enjoyed the word. Thanks to Google pronunciation, I also know how to SAY it, thereby saving me social embarrassment the next time I am lunching at the White House (although I have noticed, if you say things confidently enough, most people will assume that you are pronouncing them correctly, barring words like Kooperation in place of Co-operation. This is especially successful with those difficult Biblical names in the Pentateuch — so whose going to correct you, other than the pastor?)

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