Feb. 8 2012 11:37 AM

Don't try to tell me nobody talks to nobody anymore

Edwin Decker

It was a long, excruciating line at the bank today. Gawd, I hate those. When the man in front of me was finally called forward—after 20 irritable, fidgety minutes—my brain burst into song: “I'm next, I'm next, la-la-la, I am so freaking next!”

But next wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The guy was taking forever, distracting the young, female teller with irrelevant, non-banking-type questions such as, “Do you think it will rain today?” and “Did you see that sunset Friday?” and, for some bizarre reason, “Don't you hate texting?” all of which caused me to imagine the thousands of ways I could murder the back of his neck.

However, before I was able to retrieve the ice pick from the folds of my trench coat, his transaction concluded.

“It's my turn, it's my turn; la-la-la, it's sooo my goddamn turn,” I brain-sang, skipping toward the window the way a teenager skips toward his Playboy collection. But the man did not leave the window. Instead, he continued chatting, either oblivious that I was standing directly behind him or not caring. Either way, I was enraged. Not only at the guy, but at the Gods of Waiting in Line, as well, because I know that when I'm completing a transaction—whether at the bank or supermarket or wherever—I'm a Zen master, an expert of economy of motion and transaction dynamics. Like a monk, I focus only on the task at hand, with my credit card at the ready—my license, my cash, my rewards card—whatever it takes to make the process go smoothly, for fear that the people behind me might have to suffer some sort of checkout failure on my part and descend with blades upon the back of my neck.

I was angry because my karma on this matter is unsullied, yet still I was forced to endure this brazen breach of checkout ethics. And, as he continued talking, my fury grew and grew, increasing the size of my shadow—hatred incarnate—growing, swelling, spreading across the floor and climbing up the wall until the hunched and lurking silhouette of my contempt was towering over him and poised to strike.

“I really hate texting,” he told her. “I see everyone with their heads in their phones, and it makes me so mad because they're missing the real world and real relationships. It's just gotten to the point that nobody talks to nobody anymore.”

And that was when the shadow of my hatred lunged for the kill, thrusting the ice pick into the back of his neck repeatedly and screaming, “Nobody talks to nobody anymore?” (Stab, stab, slice). “Have you lost your mind!?” (Stab, gouge, gore). “People talk too goddamn much is the problem! They're all, ‘Yap-yap-yap-yap' till the tinnitus makes us blind, which is fine—it's your prerogative to blabber—so long as you don't do it on my time, or the time of some poor, sorry teller whom you have bludgeoned with all your talk about not-talking!”

Nobody talks anymore, my ass! Thanks to these kinds of ever-yappers, I can't even answer my phone because someone like him might be on the other end. I'm like Rachel in the movie The Ring. Whenever the phone rings, my heart stops for fear the caller might be a little girl with wet, black hair who will want to talk about band camp for an hour. This is why I am so grateful for all the communication technology we have today, what with the texting and the voicemail and the instant messaging, because we have more control over our connectivity than ever before.

I'll never forget when the Technology Gods first bestowed unto us the answering machine. Lo, were the days terrible and dark before the god-machines came along. Because, back then, if you missed a call, there was no way of knowing who it was or how important the message, which pretty much compelled you to pick up the phone every time it rang, leaving you susceptible to, to, her!

Of course, the freedom afforded by the godboxes (which ultimately became voicemail) was limited. But then the Technology Deities gave us the gift of texting, and we looked upon texting and called it good. Because now, when I get a voicemail from one of these yip-yapper types (you know who you are), I can just text a response— something like, “Hey, I'm in a meeting—what's up?” or “Got your message; yeah, we're still on for cow-tipping tomorrow.”

Look, we are not losing our real, true relationships. That's absurd. We are social creatures to the core and will always need real, true human contact. I mean, the whole reason that we have texting, tweeting, Facebooking, emailing—accessible with little computers that we carry around in our pockets in case we should separate from our big computers—is not because we're trying to replace our real, true, actual relationships; we're just adding more ways to connect with them—and to disconnect—according to our preferences.

I've heard it said that men don't pay prostitutes for sex; rather, they pay them to leave afterward. That's texting in a nutshell. It gives us the ability to deftly get out of the conversation at a time of our choosing. I don't text you to talk; I text you to leave afterward. What's not to love?

Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.


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