Thursday, October 4, 2007

Real Time Communication

Yesterday I did not speak with my daughter in the conventional sense, nor did I see her as she is 300 miles away at college. But, I heard from her throughout the day, in "real time" by text message on my cell phone. This is the standard way she and I communicate these days. If there is more to be said than a text can manage, we'll chat on the phone but this is less common.

By text message I learned that she found her North Face fleece jacket which had been lost for nearly a week; a critical element of her wardrobe and one that would surely need replacement to the tune of $150.00 as "it's really cold here, Mom". No other outer apparel is quite the same as that North Face. She phoned last weekend upset that someone had "ripped it off" from the laundry room in the dorm and I advised that she post a non-inflammatory note on the wall of the laundry room stating something to the effect that "Someone mistakenly picked up my black North Face jacket and I'd love to get it back". It's all irrelevant now because she found the jacket "under my bed. LOL" My one word response by text was "Oy", to which she responded, "I know". I was relieved by the happy ending to the story but frustrated by all the energy both of us spent on this non-issue. I also learned how she did on her accounting test and how challenging the class is for her especially with all her other killer classes this semester.

I texted her the news that I had sent a package in the mail with items she requested last week and also her Victoria Secret credit card (another oy) in a separate envelope. She responded, "Oh sweet, you're the best" to which I answered back in my confident manner, "I know". And so on and so on.....all of these little snippets of text are recorded on my phone and easy to review.

Things are so different now-a-days. I remember back to my college years when my parents were 3000 miles away in Aruba and I was in Ithaca, New York. I wrote letters home several times a week and Mom faithfully wrote me Sunday to Thursday nights on her typewriter, a one page letter that Dad took to the post office the following morning on his way to work. Letters never arrived in a predictable way either coming from or going to Aruba. Some days I would receive three letters at once, out of sequence and then would go many days without any letters. The same was true for Mom and Dad in Aruba. Occasionally letters would make the journey in a miraculous 3-4 days and other times it would be 10 days or more.

Living overseas, we rarely used the telephone. Early on it was a major deal to connect with an overseas operator who would place a call and then the echoes and static made the conversation less than ideal. The telephone was reserved for emergencies, usually when someone was very sick or worse, dead. In fact, receiving an overseas call in Aruba typically made everyone's heart turn to ice in anticipation of the inevitable bad news. As technology improved, I used to call Mom and Dad to let them know I had arrived back in the states safely after a day long journey from Aruba but this wasn't until the mid 1970's. Even then, our conversations were brief; just to let them know that I was in one piece and then, goodbye. Prior to that era, Mom would wait for the first letter to confirm that loved ones had arrived stateside. She has always mused that the waiting seemed endless. Can we even imagine this today in the era of cell phones, clear land lines, email, and text messaging?

When Chris was in Slovakia this past summer for 7 weeks, I routinely heard from him by telephone and the connection was so crisp it sounded like he was across the street. Hearing his voice was a great comfort (one of Mom's favorite words). I am addicted to "real time". I am not proud of it, it just is. And, I really admire my parents who lived through an era where they had to rely on the "no news is good news" mentality until the first communication came through. But then, they didn't know any different and everyone else was in the same boat.

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