“Just the headlines!” Paige demanded, interrupting me with more brass than a marching band.
I’d known her game through years of friendship. As a retired broadcaster, she gets impatient with lengthy descriptions.
“Okay, okay!” I feigned defeat, waited for her reaction, then went right back to telling the same story, only faster.
She tilted her head back into her thick mane, pursed her lips and squinted her eyes in submission. If uninterrupted, I knew I had her for another ninety seconds.
Too soon, her phone vibrated on the table like a half-dead locust. She diverted her gaze as she picked it up. That’s when I stopped.
“It’s Peri,” she said beginning to text her daughter, then, without looking up or missing a keystroke, she added, “I can multitask. Continue.”
I didn’t, preferring to wait for her full attention. Instead, I watched her focus on making a point in minimal words. Those two text all the time, talk on the phone weekly, and keep a strong face-to-face relationship at least once per month. Each mode of communication enhances the relationship. Paige views texting like keeping an eye on the ticker crawling across the bottom of the news channel, whereas phone calls are news programming, and being together is the up-close-and-personal unedited interview.
Texting complete, Paige looked up with faux irritation. “Go on.”
And I did. It was my turn under the network lights.
That doesn’t happen for me all the time. I think of Hal, a buddy who texts occasionally, but when I return it, especially if I ask a simple question about how he’s doing, there’s dead air. When I see him, he doesn’t share much either. He gives out soundbytes like Halloween candy, a sweet little tidbit before smiling and closing the door leaving me outside.
Another acquaintance from years ago, Fiona, loved talking on the phone, so I rarely saw her personally. Her modus operandi for gathering and disseminating information was simple: share a little to break the ice, ask leading questions, and get the juiciest morsel. When she heard a gossipy soundbyte, her mind raced to an internal rolodex to determine who to call while the person finished the story and asked for support. Like what happened to Marla sharing her heartbreak.
“You’ll be fine,” Fiona snapped.
“But I hoped—“
“Someone’s beeping in. Call you tomorrow.” Fiona got what she wanted and disconnected.
When tomorrow came, Marla didn’t hear from Fiona, but heard her brutally edited story from someone she never would have told. Marla felt manipulated and betrayed by Fiona’s over simplification, which added to her pain.
Where’s personal reflection and honest interaction? Hal hides it away from everyone, maybe even from himself. Fiona fakes it and feeds off it from a distance over the wire. None of this is new in our culture of mass communication, ever-increasing information, and survival-mode summarization. Still, our fondness for using electronic devices instead of having face-to-face contact where we can sense emotional reaction and read nonverbal communication leaves something big out of the conversation. Many feel the loss. Some mourn it.
Though my friend Paige is sometimes anxious to get to the point, she still wants to experience the journey. She loves the interpersonal, is integral within a large community, as well as treats family and friends with equal care. She’s laughs, cries and hugs it out with her wide circle. Paige achieves this by balancing written and verbal communication, as well as by integrating text, social media, Skype, phone calls and personal contact to nurture rich, rewarding relationships in today’s hurried world.
Soundbytes are simply a tease. Headlines are just an invitation. With the important people in your life, do you want to nourish relationships with nibbles or five-course meals? And what would you like to consume to feel nurtured and satisfied?
Disclaimer: It’s true: writers write what they know, and, yes, I write from my experiences. However, all characters and situations in my stories are fictitious fusions, creative amalgamations. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or real interactions with me are purely coincidental.