Texting across the generation gap

Published 9:19 pm Thursday, July 2, 2009

Recently, I have come to realize that it’s not the birthdays or even the invasive medical tests that make growing older such a drag. Instead, it’s all the constant, little reminders of advancing years that make it so depressing.

Things like standing in front of a brightly lit mirror take on a new dimension with the passage of time. Where did that crease come from? Do those lines on my face make me look more distinguished? How on earth can my moustache and beard continue to get “blonder” each day?

There was a time not all that long ago when nearly everyone I came in contact with was older than me. Now, I’d have to visit a nursing home or take up bridge for that to be the case. Lately, I find that the number — or at least the percentage — of people who share my frame of reference on the world is shrinking.

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That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be pretty disconcerting. It’s nice, for example, to spend time occasionally with people who remember when we actually dialed telephone numbers and posted mail, for whom I don’t have to explain, for example, that watching television once entailed, at most, five or six choices at any given time, and none of them were MTV.

Chatting with a couple of twentysomething friends recently, I was shocked at their frustration over Virginia’s new ban on texting while driving. “Can we still text at stoplights?” one asked, panic evident in her tone, if not her face. “I don’t know,” I replied. “Pull up next to a police officer sometime and try it.”

I have a cell phone, of course, and I’ve even been known to send text messages to let my wife know I’m in a long meeting that I can’t leave and therefore won’t be home until late. Without exception, though, all of my other text messages have been to folks a generation or two behind me — and then only because I knew that was the surest way to get them to respond.

The whole texting culture seems to be a dividing line between “kids these days” and “old fogeys.” Most of us who remember when all phones came with cords would prefer to call and actually speak with someone at the other end — or just wait until we can see the person face to face. Every time I see someone hunched over a cell phone, tapping out messages like some kind of modern-day telegraph operator, I feel the cranky old goat taking a little more control over my consciousness. And then I’m forced to face the fact of the yawning chasm that exists between 24 and 44.

Texting while driving? Don’t get me started. Dumb with a capital Stupid. Kids these days…. Sheesh.