Saying "I Miss You" on a Moron Phone
Published on November 5, 2012 by guest author: Margaret Hartley

Since our teen daughter graduated and moved away from home, we’ve been mailing postcards and packages, sending emails and making phone calls. And we’ve resorted to low-tech forms of high-tech communication, which generally means an inept mom attempting to send a text message on a little pay-as-you-go cell phone — the kind you can buy for under $10 and then add minute-units by buying a card at the supermarket.

I’ve had that little phone for years, primarily to prevent my husband from panicking when I’m heading home from work on a snowy or icy night. In the past I rarely remembered to use it — or to charge it, or buy time for it, or to take it with me. On a snowy night I’d rather stop at a convenience store to use the pay phone, and maybe get a cup of coffee, too, and take the time to walk around a little and scrape the ice off my windshield.

That was then. Now I take the phone with me wherever I go in case I happen to be in a place that has cell service, which is pretty much anywhere on Earth except where I live. Because my daughter might need to get a hold of me.

I approached texting slowly, only after I figured out I couldn’t hear anyone talking through the little phone if I happened to be in a noisy place, such as anywhere but the top of a mountain. I’d be in New York City, taking the daughter to ballet auditions, and the phone would ring. I’d panic first, unable to get it out of the pocket of my backpack before it stopped ringing, or unable to figure out what button to press to find out who was calling. But even after I finally figured out how to answer it, it didn’t matter.

“What?” I’d yell. “I can’t hear anything!”

How could I? Generally there was a subway rumbling under ground, a helicopter flying overhead and a couple of guys jackhammering through the sidewalk right next to me.

So I figured out that you can spell out words, if you push the telephone number keys over and over to get to the letters you’re looking for, and you can receive messages back, without having to talk or try to hear to anyone.

After a while I got faster at pushing the buttons, and a little better at stopping at the right ones. I had a lot of trouble with punctuation at first, which made me sound very demanding. (A request for a lunch meeting — “Want lunch” — sounded like it came from starving caveman, so I softened it the only way I knew how, writing “Want to meet for lunch question mark.”

It took a lot of time to spell out, but I didn’t want my cell phone to turn me into a rude person.

Once when I was on a train, trying to rearrange plans with some friends, I resorted to caveman-speak in response to their well-crafted text sentences.

“If you critters aren’t too tired, do you still want to meet for dinner? And do you know any place in Rensselaer?” my friends typed, likely from a fancy phone with separate keys for every letter and punctuation mark. That’s what they call a Smart Phone. Other friends have what they term Dumb Phones, because they can only call, text and check email — and can’t even take photos or download videos, for goodness sake. I fear my phone is far below that. Mine is a Moron Phone.

Or maybe it’s me. Because my daughter has an identical phone and seems quite capable of sending articulate messages, with capital letters, humor and punctuation.

Back on the train, my response to my friends went something like this: “Meeet us at station. Phone no workee.” That seemed the easiest way to say my brain was too tired to keep pressing buttons and that there were tunnels ahead.

Despite the odds, I’ve gotten better over time. I know now that if you hit the button that has a 1 and a picture that looks like eyeglasses on it enough times you can get a period, dash, comma, plus sign or question mark. I know that if you push another button you can get capital letters or numerals. I still can’t figure out apostrophes, so I write out what would normally be a contraction, or use a comma before the ‘s’ for a possessive. Because even on a really stupid phone, grammar matters.

Last weekend a friend and I climbed Hadley Mountain in the very early morning, and from the top, where there was cell service, I texted my daughter: “Lovely morning on Hadley Mt. No bears.” The last time she climbed the mountain we saw two bear cubs.

Later I noticed I had I pressed a few wrong keys, or didn’t press them enough times to get the letters I was looking for, and the message my daughter got was a little more jumbled than what I thought I was sending.

But so what?

What I really meant was: “Thinking about you, miss you, love you” and whatever letters I actually sent, she probably knew why I was sending her a message.

So I guess that makes me a texting pro.

Margaret Hartley lives in the last place in the U.S. without cell service, but nonetheless has taught herself how to make a question mark on her moronic phone.

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The author texts her daughter from the top of a mountain.

User Comments
Rebecca | November 08, 2012 10:54


KB | November 08, 2012 11:01
no, it makes you a loving mama pro!
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