Wednesday, 21 February 2007

THE SMS CHAP(TER)

It was something I had coveted for long. My boss has it, my colleagues have one each, and all the car and auto drivers have one.My plumber has one, the lady who supplies me flowers has one, and if I am not mistaken, my domestic help has one too – though she has never used it in front of me, out of consideration to my feelings.

So when I retired last year from my job, my colleagues’ farewell gift to me was, you guessed it, a cell phone, complete with new number and a month’s usage paid for.I was delighted and tried to learn the different functions from the youngest of my colleagues.

My cell phone is a basic model – you can make and receive phone calls and save phone numbers as in an address book. Pretty functional, and I was satisfied. (I have seen other models that take pictures, record sound, and videos, and heaven knows what else – but can they make calls? I have since found out they could.)

When it comes to technology, I have discovered that it is the youngsters who know the most. At work too, my young colleagues who are whizzes on the Mac and PC, always had tips for me to make better use of the Mac. It is in inverse proportion – the younger they are, the more they know the latest.The young lads helped me happily now, too, and showed me how to use the cell. They taught me to save numbers, and to scroll for the different functions. And so I was satisfied. I could now call people on the cell, receive calls from friends, call home when I went out, definitely content.

Till I was initiated into the messaging cult.
Till I met this young person, no one had told me that the cell could be used for text messages. Well to be honest I knew that, but did not know how. And then I did not think the expense worth the effort, since only a few paise more allowed me to make a call.

Now he told me that it was much simpler to SMS, as it is shortly called. “I shall flood your cell with SMS,” he promised (threatened). “And you can reply.” I told him it would be quicker for me to call or email my answers. I realized later that messages are discreet and private, you don’t have to have the whole world listening in to your conversation - or subject the whole world to yours - and a PC is not exactly portable. Of course, there is always the blackberry.

“Nah,” he said, brushing aside my timorous objections. “It is very easy.” And so the game began. He showed me how to use the keys for messaging, and said ‘Go’. He would send a message, and by the time I had found the option, replied, and hit the send key, there would be another one from him – and not just a short one. Since our common interest is trivia, he would send me interesting material, and I would limit myself to laconic monosyllables like “Fine”, “Gud”, and painstakingly finding the right alphabet on the tiny keyboard and punching the words in. And then looking for the right phone number to send it to.

So I struggled with messaging, unlearning all the correct spellings, (the use of which I have always prided myself on) and using new phonetic spellings, like ‘gr8’ for great, and ‘4’ for for. Those keys are not made for adult fingers - Arundati, my two year old granddaughter can handle them better than me, I thought, till I saw my young friend in action. Even while talking to me, he was sending messages to someone, not once missing his key, or batting an eyelid.

I have now been at it for a week.I can still not do more than two words a minute, and another minute to hit the correct buttons to send. Invariably, I choose the wrong option, lose my message, hunt for it and sometimes not find it. Then type the message all over again, and send it - this time to the wrong person!

Er, the local cell shop is offering trade-ins right now - I think I will trade this model for one that takes pictures and plays the radio, or maybe a blackberry..

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