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Pardon my textos

I’m sitting on the third floor of some building across from Baptist Hospital waiting for the nurse to call my father-in-law’s name. He is to have a magical laser procedure done on a cataract surgery gone bad.  They are punctual people, my in-laws. We are 45 minutes early.

So we wait and watch through the windows as rain falls on Fondren. We also watch HGTV’s “Good Bones” because it’s playing on two screens and cannot be easily avoided. The red-headed mother and daughter duo are spending $300K to redo an urban bungalow in swaths of (surprise) gray and white.   

Somewhere along the timeline a Bissell commercial comes on. I’m getting educated on the latest advances in vacuum machinery when another waitee in the room commits the ultimate gizmo faux pas. At least my children think it’s the ultimate gizmo faux pas.

The poor guy sends a text using voice dictation. In front of people.    

“I’ve got an appointment at 3:30 to firm up getting some hearing aids,” he recites plain and clear. Everyone in the room tears away from the Bissell commercial to see what’s going on in his corner. I dare say most of us are thinking that his acquisition of the afore-mentioned hearing aids can be none too soon, if the volume of his voice is any indicator. 

The Dictator’s wife makes an attempt to hush him, but he is oblivious. The whole waiting room is privy to his continued text-versation.  Not long after that scene, a nurse whisks the wife away, and I wonder what The Dictator will do in her absence. Within five minutes I know.

“Yes, yes. I’ve been paying quarterly,” he responds loudly, this time to a live caller. I think his Android is on speaker phone.

“If I pay all at once, is that a significant savings?” he asks someone across the bandwidth.

My mother-in-law shoots him a look.

“Could you send me that amount then?” he presses, repeating the details.

The receptionist peers over the counter.

“That first payment? Ok. Sounds good,” he finally finishes.

I only wish my kids were here to see this. Any time I dare to push that little dictating microphone, my progeny suddenly slink down into their seats. Turn away and act like we’re strangers. Promise they’ll catch up with me around the corner. Humph, they think I’m bad. Here, meet The Dictator. I’d flat out video him if I didn’t think I’d be breaking some law.

What gets me is that younger folks consider phone whispering a virtue. They have so much spare time that the efficiency of dictation and a state-of-the-art speaker phone hold no appeal. I fear it’s a generation gap that may swallow us whole.

Of course, the dictation convenience doesn’t come without its quirks. I readily admit it. I call the quirks “textos,” and my kids aren’t fond of them either. No, siree.  Take this recent transcript.   

Text Attempt No. 1: I think the transfer has me no rust.

WHAT?

Text Attempt No. 2: I think the transit has to be in a rush.

WHAT?

Text Attempt No. 3: I think the trace grill has been a rough ride.

ARE YOU USING VOICE DICTATION AGAIN, MOM?

There would likely be lots of exclamation points involved somewhere in the misfires if my kids had not once studied a writer who taught us to avoid that punctuation mark. “Use strong verbs instead,” she instructed. Of course, my kids probably use exclamation points behind my back, but not to my screen. Oh, no. On there, frustration is expressed in all caps and GIFS that I don’t understand.   

But let’s face it, if I don’t have time to type the text in the first place, I certainly don’t have time to proofread it. So my kids just need to use their imagination. They can figure out my texts, at least the gist of them. 

Sometimes, though, I just let Siri do the texting for me, but I have to watch her, too. She doesn’t understand Southern staples like “worn slap out” and “fixin’ to” and “over yonder,” which means I have to speak plainly and s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. Which sort of defeats the purpose. 

(You have to be careful with that “sort of.” Dictation tends toward “sorta.” Can’t have that.) 

But back to the waiting room. The Dictator’s wife finishes her appointment and gestures for her husband to leave. I return my attention to some cabinet hardware the “Good Bones” duo is promoting, but only for a moment. Some lady to the right is answering her phone. I’m pretty sure she’s got it on speaker, and she’s in need of some hearing aids, too.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.