Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Note on the Fridge Door

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

~William Carlos Williams

My British Lit professor at CNU was enthralled with this poem. He often referred to it in conversations relating to the death of romance. He noted that couples no longer wrote letters to one another and if they were to leave a note on the refrigerator door it would be no more poetic than "Need Milk."

I also had a professor at CNU that wrote the book on Human Sexuality (seriously, Sanford Lopater, look it up) and he often remarked that cell phones killed romance. These were conversations that I had with professors only five years ago. Just that short time ago, cell phones were not as commonplace as they are today. So, the heights of communication between couples had just begun its slow deterioration.

I understood and agreed with both these professors. My relationship with Jason offered a testament to both theories. There have been many times that as he was driving home from work we would talk so long on the cell phones that when we sat down to dinner together, there was nothing more to say. This is a sharp contrast to the days before I had cell phone, when I would meet Jason for lunch and his hands would be covered with ink-smeared notes that he jotted on them while driving to lunch so he would not forget all the things he wanted to talk about.

This came to mind afresh today because when I finally popped my negligent little bubble of denial and looked at our cell phone account, I saw that Justin was over his 250 text/ month allotment by 1,849 texts... with 11 days left to still go in the cycle. This hasn't been an issue before... but then, he started "talking" to a girl. Talking really meant texting, and texting often... very often, apparently. As he was typing away on the little numeric pad, I gave him several vague warnings that he did not have unlimited texts, but I did not pause to see how many there actually were until today (250) or how many he had actually sent (2,099 in 3 weeks). I was upset, not just at him, but equally- if not moreso- at myself, because I was so vague in my warnings; not addressing the issue in a way that needed response. Admittedly, I was too lulled by the idea of a girl that did want to talk to him so much. (Long story, short... I was an accomplice in Justin's first felony as I had him pose as Jason on the phone and call Verizon and add my name to the acount as an account manager, so I could call back and change the plan to unlimited- which was only $5 more per month vs. the $400 phone bill we were facing- and they even back-dated it to last month and gave me a credit, so I saved money.)

Anyway, more on my mind for writing was the breakdown of communication than the specifics of today's terrifying potential cell phone bill.

We took "The Girl" home from the Homecoming Dance. For the 15 minute ride she and Justin did not say a single word to one another. I really thought Justin must have not made the greatest impression. Alas, we barely had time to turn off her street after dropping her off before she texted him... "hey." Of the texts I have perused, I would say about 10% are "hey" (that "hey" almost cost me $40 today). She is painfully shy in person and they barely talk at school, even if sitting by one another or walking in the hall... but she can burn up a text.

Maybe it is a sign of aging, only seeing society on a downward slope... maybe it's the perspective of being an English teacher that sees how texting affects writing and how a lack of writing skills affects reading comprehension...

It just seems that the cost of technology is a lost of knowledge, logical thinking, intellectual stimulation. We are creating the society Ray Bradbury wrote about, and the quintessence of it is to be in a room of teens after school and rather than talk to one another, they are texting someone not there... and then they will text one another after they leave, rather than talk to one another while there. All forms of human communication are breaking down. It's going to affect the way we work together as a society. It's going to snowball into a huge downfall in civilization... communication is paramount to civilized behavior, what happens to a society when that basic building unit is lost?