One of the occupying forces in my house is the (still) teenage boy, a soon to be college sophomore, a child who never speaks a paragraph when a sentence will do, never a sentence when a one word answer will suffice, and never a word when a grunt can be grunted. He is: The Texter. It is a constant source of amazement to me that I could help give life to, and then help raise a person who is like me in every way except for our opinion on words. I love them, I am fascinated, distracted, and enchanted by them. (Today I sat in the drive through line at McDonald’s, looking at the Hyundai in front of me which was labeled as the “Limited” model and I thought about how that word has changed recently, “Limited,” in the context of this car, meant “Special” -only several million were mass produced- but now when my internet connection is “limited,” that’s a bad thing. Words change… but I digress.) He parses out syllables like they are hundred dollar bills: sparingly. The word “elaboration” has too many syllables for him to consider using, the act of committing elaboration is only accomplished with much prying, threatening, and pulling. I long for the day that he needs to go to the dentist and have a tooth extracted: I want to see which is easier, pulling the tooth or getting him to talk about it. I think the dentist will win.
Yesterday, for example, another of our captors, one of my grown daughters, The Texter’s opposite in every way, was back from a few days at the beach and eager to reconnect with those of us who had enjoyed the peace and quiet of her absence. That is: we missed her. She told us about the beach, the drive, and asked me about my weekend. Then she turned to the boy, who had played in a fairly important state golf tournament that day, a relatively big milestone in his life, and asked a question that would have been an open invitation to start a conversation with most of the inhabitants of this planet: human, animal, or rock: “Did you work today?”
He answered her question:
I laughed out loud, and they both looked at me with questions in their eyes: “Well, no syllables wasted there.” My daughter caught on right away; “In fairness, I did ask him a yes or no question.”
Such is life with The Texter, who has been known to text his friends while sitting in the same golf cart. Phone calls to this black hole of words are routinely unanswered, only to be subsequently answered with a text. Again, no wasted syllables, a simple “?” a likely reply. He is an otherwise caring, gentle, and sweet boy with a wonderful sense of humor, I don’t want to give you the idea that he is sullen, he is not, and I actually understand him like only a parent can. Thankfully, he is an engineering major and his economy of words will serve him well in a profession where the words, “It was metric,” are considered a splendid punchline, explanation, or master’s thesis.
This morning, we had this conversation. Via text, of course:
“Can you give me a number for Joel’s parents?”
“Um… sure. How about 7, I’m not using 7 today.”
“Like a phone number.”
You should know that he was writing from work, and I was waiting up to 15 minutes for each of these answers. The suspense was killing me.
“You mean like the number you are texting to?”
Over the next several hours we established that his friend’s parents had a question related to my financial planning practice, and he didn’t know if they should call my cell or my office number. It was exhausting.
I love my son, and while I am a quiet person who won’t say a lot until I get to know you (I like to think being a good listener is my best trait), I have met my match, we get each other. Some days the two of us can sit side by side for hours, exchanging only grunts, other days we have in depth conversations that might use 2 to 4 whole sentences. We are men. When you ask us, “Did you work today?” The answer, “no” efficiently and effectively gives you the information you requested, and there is no further need to communicate on that particular subject. There’s no need to discuss work: we didn’t go, what’s left to be said? The inquiring person is now given an opening, you could attempt to guess what else was in our day (“Did you, by any chance, play golf in the Florida Open today?”) but that would involve more words. It’s better to just watch the ballgame, after all, if we want to tell you anything about our day, we’ll text you.