Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Messages From Nun

I am constantly amazed at the speed of mobile phone texters in this country. Granted, the technology seemed to catch on much quicker here, and people were texting like mad back in 2001, the date of my last extended visit. I'm sure casualty ward visits are populated by the occasional repetitive stress injury or swollen thumb from the chatty person who hasn't said a word. I imitated the locals using two thumbs to Chumley, who quickly corrected me. "We only use one thumb. Anything more is amateur." When I go into a coffee shop or in any public area, the definitive "beep-beep" of a recently received text message is as common as hearing a sneeze. Less infectious perhaps. Or is it?

I was most surprised that my mother-in-law has a firm grip on her mobile phone, and is not afraid to use it. I contrast this to my mother, who is afraid of the spooky, glowing box called a computer that my father insisted on having. Asking her to send a text message would be like asking a pigeon to operate a telegraph. There would be some serious hunting and pecking, and more than a few feathers would get ruffled.

Text messages from my mother-in-law to her children have become almost legendary for their profound misuse of predictive text, that time-saving little system that guesses what you mean via a process of linguistic elimination. Now that I own a European phone, my Nokia asks what language I would like to predictive text in. I imagine that should I chose Finnish for variety, it will assume all my friends are named Bjorn and we're going out for elk frequently.

The example of Chumley's mum as a mobile menace that made me laugh hardest was an episode where Chumley and I were arriving in the UK from the States for a 10-day stay, complete with a stint as wedding guests. I had packed all foreseeable necessities in my luggage, and put it in the oh-so-capable hands of Air India. (This flight could be the subject of another post, just to do it justice.) As the cases wheeled by at Heathrow, and each one circulating on the claim bore no resemblance to mine, my spirits dipped lower and lower until I accepted the truth: I would have to leave Heathrow with only the underwear I had on my person. I held it together until we set off in our rental car. As the airport faded in the distance, I was unconsolable in a quiet funk. Chumley's phone beeped, and I mustered to strength to look at the screen.

"We'll be back soon. Pain arriving from the west. Love, Nun"

Too true, Nun. Chumley was used to receiving messages through the ether from someone called Nun, but it broke my melancholy for a while, at least. The good news was that I had my suitcase back the next day, and my shoes have visited Mumbai.

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