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!”
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.
“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,
“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.”
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.