Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ovrhrd Rcntly

I was walking home just the other day when I heard a girl say to a friend as they passed me, "I don't know how people walk and text all the time."

At first I felt smug, since I was, at the time, reading a book as I walked. Here I was, the walking, reading proof that I could do what they couldn't.

But it's not that simple, is it? Texting's different from just reading, right? It's reading and writing—and from the looks of it it's an odd and somewhat difficult form of writing not so much based on dexterity as it is on timing. Texting might be quite a bit more difficult than reading. That girl may well be just as accomplished a walker-reader as I am though she has yet to master the art of mobile mobile-phonery.

The truth is that I don't rightly know. I've never sent a text. I've never received one, on account of I don't have a cell phone (but that hasn't prevented at least one person from trying to text my landline; I won't name any names, but her initials are Lauren Everett). I think the typing thing would be pretty tricky, and looking at that tiny little screen has got to be hell. Plus the thinking you have to do to read and then compose meaningful, classy, and often flirtatious responses probably doesn't jive with the thinking involved in not running into things.

See, reading while walking is made easier by a few important factors. For one, bigger books make better reading. You have to hold little books up close, not so much because the words are smaller but because they're harder to hold still. As with ships on a rough sea, books with a little weight to them ride much more smoothly. Also, with larger books you don't have to turn the page so often, which is good, since every time you are distracted even a little bit—by turning the page or turning the corner—you are kicked out of reading mode and become just a walker for a few seconds. To read when walking, you want to take long, straight paths. You aim yourself at the end of the road, look down at your book, and just walk, trusting that people will stay out of your way. You take smaller steps to compensate for uneven terrain so that you don't need your eyes to do more than subconsciously monitor the parallelity of the edge of the page and the edge of the sidewalk. A cell phone is tiny, thus shaky, and they don't command the respect or create the spectacle a book does in a pedestrian's hands (though one fellow of my acquaintance is not so much awed by my books as inspired—the muse moves him to taunt, "Bookie loves his bookie-book," as he tries to slap Dickens or Dan Brown from my hands before I can look up and shift my myopic focus), so more maneuvering is probably involved. And all that switching gears, from reading to composing to punching buttons, probably accounts for more zagged ambles than heels and booze combined.1

Maybe I give too much credit. I dare say it is tougher to ingest, say, the text of a 1790s gothic novel while on the move than the text of a...text. And cell phones are backlit, so there's never a need to "pan for gold," tipping the book from street lamp to headlight to neon sign just to read one more sentence before dusk becomes final.

I guess I won't know till I try. Don't tell my mom, but recently I've felt dangerously close to breaking down and getting a phone. Any ideas2?

1 Not meaning as the sum of two separate factors, but actually combined.
2 what plan I should get? how to combat such weakness?


Elisa said...

get a plan with unlimited texting. and i will text you.

Special K said...

on a completely unrelated note: I GOT YOUR GAMES TODAY! Wheeeee!


Queen Bee said...

RESIST! You can do it! LLA is accepting members (Land Liners Anonymous) We have a 12 step program for anyone else interested in recovering from cell-phone overusage :)

Janssen said...

I like having a cell phone (we have no land line) because I can always get ahold of someone if I need to. I think it makes me feel safer since I'm a girl.

Jennifer said...

Hey Bro, How do you make the footnotes? I want to use them on my blog.

David Grover said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Grover said...

The way I do it is to make sure I'm in HTML editing mode (not "compose" mode) and then I write in the following things:

Where the little number goes you type <sup>1</sup>.

Then down at the bottom of the page you type this:

<sup>1</sup><span style="font-size:85%">Type the footnote here.</span>

I just have that typed up on an e-post-it note on my desktop so I can copy and paste it without having to retype it over and over.