Texting 1, 2, 3

When I was a kid, not only did we not have a microwave or a VCR, we didn't have an answering machine either. When you'd call a friend after school, you'd get one of three results, a connection, a busy signal or the eternal ring of solitude. Life obviously went on. These days, if someone is unreachable for even the shortest amount of time, impatience can give way to near-anger or the dreaded multi-dial assault. I think the problem is that after years of communicative bliss, some of us have had about enough with voice mail and cutesy ring tones. I must admit, though, life without is simply no longer an option.

But before cell phones, there was the beeper, which now seems about as technologically viable as smoke signals. At the time, though, it was an option usually enjoyed only by doctors and drug dealers – for obvious reasons. Back in 1997 or so, The Key West Citizen provided their crack news staff with a set of beepers. And though it may sound silly, we thought we were pretty cool customers. Aside from the pesky work stuff, my buds and I were able to track each other down on this sprawling island if for no other reason than to coordinate a successful happy hour. We were finally getting somewhere. Unfortunately, the leash was now in place. No longer could you say you didn't get a phone call; no longer could you ignore your boss after hours. Bummer. By far and away, the worst beep we'd receive in those days was the universally-dreaded "205-911." That was our editor's extension with the often, waaaay exaggerated "emergency" code tacked on for good measure. Thankfully, they're both with us today only in our collective, if not warped, memories.

The day I got my first cell phone was unforgettable. I couldn't believe that an entry-level, partially educated chump such as myself could actually drive and talk on the phone at the same time. Brilliant. I could field calls at the beach, on a boat or at the grocery. I was fully connected, baby.

Well, the honeymoon didn't last, as the more connected I became, the more I became responsible to keep up with the daily flood of stuff I somehow lived so easily without – just a decade ago. I admit that I would now perish without my phone, but at times I feel like heading straight for the Bight and spiraling my phone into the drink. The biggest drawback to this idea is having to be seen at a pay phone, and that's a look few seek.

To be fair, my phone has saved me on many occasion. It makes life more efficient and probably doesn't even cause brain cancer, (fingers double-crossed.) But doing the kind of work I do makes it difficult to stay on top of calls and messages. So about a month ago, I arrived, yet again, at the doorstep of the next step. No, I've not yet graduated to "Blackberryland," but I have discovered the incredible, if not slightly tedious world of, you guessed it, OMG, texting?

Alright, alright, so I'm not very good at it, my messages take a while to craft and no, I still don't understand "T9."

But let's get real, there are many times when it is not possible or polite to start gabbing on a cell phone. Everyone knows that, right? Right.

Additionally, there are times we don't want to gab at all. Who knew? This is the true beauty of texting. It's instant, unobtrusive and doesn't require an immediate response. And though I doubt this old dog will ever learn all the tricks of the texting trade, the bottom line is that it works. A quick trip online revealed that there are many web sites like NetLingo.com that feature hundreds of online code words and acronyms created to streamline the texting process. This stuff has naturally become the coded language of Generation Whatever and can be annoying at times, but the dream is to get everyone on board with this. Not so much knowing that "OMIK" means to open one's mouth and insert keyboard, or the definition of the more direct and self-explanatory "MOFO," but the idea that a thought can be shared without having to hear some stupid "Wind Beneath My Wings" ring tone excites me.

I suppose the biggest reason I'm an advocate for texting is that I dread sifting through 15 voice mails just to find out whether it'll be Salute or Quiznos for lunch. I'd like to leave you with this, and it is intended in the nicest of tones: When it's appropriate, save your breath and the space on your friend's voice mail, and "let your fingers do the talking." Take it from someone who knows, unlimited texting is your friend.

Rob O'Neal's columns appear in The Key West Citizen

“I have been a photographer in Key West, Florida for a while now. I've had the pleasure of meeting some famous people and some infamous people on this quirky little island. Key West has some of the best subject matter for photos in the world. The possibilities and opportunities are endless. From sunsets and green flashes, underwater photography, festivals and news events to famous celebrity photos and world figures.

Rob O'Neal ~ Photographically absorbed since 1993