Who of us could have anticipated that “texting” would ever be a word, let alone the primary mode of human interaction, except among the young of the species for whom it is the exclusive mode of human interaction? (To the Meridian Readers beyond the borders of Meridian’s home planet, sentient-but-not-exactly-human beings who I am assured by The Editors are faithfully reading and cherishing Backstage Graffiti, I offer my apologies for this Earth-centric bias. “Human” interaction, I mean. Trouble is, I don’t know anything about your communications technology except that you’re obviously online and certainly way beyond texting. ((Or not! Woh, what if your voices have atrophied utterly and the number of your manual digits have evolved from the usual five per limb to twenty-six, one for each letter of the alphabet that all episodes of Star Trek teach us is common to the Universe? Or what if, by the conspicuous absence of Steve Jobs, your technological evolution got stuck at “dumb phones” and by now you’re, gulp, well, “all thumbs”?)) ) I mean, there was a time when “to text” would have been as nonsensical a notion as “to hamburger” or “to politician.” (The first example that popped into my head was “to egg,” but I can remember when that became a verb. Also “to paper,” as in “somebody’s house.” Enough of light-hearted vandalism from ante-digital yesteryear.) *I texted this whole column to Meridian Magazine.
“The Ladybug” is our ’91 red VW Cabriolet with the theoretically white convertible top. It’s the only car I’ve ever owned that people admire right out loud while they and we are waiting for the light to change to green. (Have I ever dispensed here the procedure for getting a red light to turn green? If I have, please forgive me. ((You’re a different person than you were when last I shared it with you, so it will have a different, enriched, meaning for you.)) If I haven’t shared it, then take as your example the multitudes that stood up in the street of Jerusalem while Ezra read them the law. Here’s what you do: Whine. No kidding, it always works. Get the family involved—a veritable chorus of whining. The light has never not turned green. But I always stop whining for the duration of anyone’s praise for The Ladybug.)
[It is incumbent upon me to confess here that I began writing this column in January, and that I began it with the following paragraph.]
I’m sitting in The Ladybug in the parking lot of Burgess Park in Alpine (named after Van Burgess, who donated the land, a man I’ve never seen driving a car, but many times driving a tractor) and I’m thinking how smart I am for using my car for an office instead of renting one (all you need is a nice view ((talk about “corner office”!)) and an unlocked Internet connection nearby—right now it’s “Adams,” which is our next-door-neighbors’ parents who live by the park) and wondering what I will do when the snow reaches the radio antenna.
A moment ago I read a text from Verizon telling me how much I owed them and proceeded to erase it, as I always do. Then, in a fit of housecleaning zeal, I proceeded to erase all the other texts that had accumulated on my phone. When I was nearly done (having already determined to save one from my son that has a web site I need to look up and one from my wife that is particularly cute), the cold claws of sudden error gripped my heart. What was I thinking? Here I was, Meridian Magazine’s resident personal history cheerleader, deleting history!
I could have challenged you to write “My Life According to Texts I Have Received and Written.” I think I still will.
But first, I’ll reconstruct all this history from “sent” texts, which I have not yet erased. Push, push, push, scroll, scroll, scroll…
Uh-oh, I’m learning something fundamental, here. I am not eloquent in my response to texts. Here’s a random sample of what I’m finding:
“Got it. Thanks.”
“okedoke” (I’d like know what precipitated that Niagara of syllables!)
So maybe I’ll just have to remember what I erased. This is always harder than if something is written down. Hear, and be warned. (A particularly astute Australian I met on my mission down there once told me “The sharpest memory isn’t as sharp as the dullest pencil.” Remember pencils?)
Okay, there was a series of texts sent to everyone from the elders quorum counselor that included things like
“Thomsons could use a couple of guys to help shift a fridge.”
“Temple night at 6:00.”
“The Coppins family is moving Saturday. We need a big group at 9:00 in the morning.”
“There’s a family moving into the house across from the bishop right now.”
“Everybody look out for a four-year-old boy in a grey sweatshirt that was last seen in Fort Canyon. He’s one of the Patricks.”
“Found him. Thanks.”
“Same boy. Gone for two hours.”
“Found him. Thanks.”
“United won!” (A couple of families in our ward were hosting some rugby players from New Zealand and Tonga. These ringers, along with a South African and a couple of other islanders beat the legendary ((there’s a movie about them)) Highland team for the national ((World? International? Inter-stellar?)) championship at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake. My son and I watched them do it. It wasn’t cheating to have those foreign guys—the Highlanders were salted with islanders, too. On the Sunday before the match, both teams sang together in our sacrament meeting, a devotional song with which United always began practices. Both teams came to elders quorum that day. We sent one kid on a mission from our ward while he was here. His Tongan teammate wore a lava-lava to church every Sunday. It was made out of the same dark pinstripe that my Wal-Mart suit is made out of. How ‘bout that?)
This same text-happy priesthood leader, Jeff Pierson, has become a counselor in the bishopric, and the texts continue to flow. There’s history in them. The fate of families, the rescue of children, battles of champions. The history of a ward, which is a history of my family.
I remember a recent exchange between me and a guy who keeps wanting to connect on a project of mutual interest and keeps getting side-tracked. His apologies (“I feel like dog food”) would warm the heart of a Viking. A reflection on that relationship, beginning with the texts, would be long and rich and colorful. Worth recording, that’s for sure.
We have a new bishop, a very funny and gentle guy—Bryce Doman (used to catch footballs at BYU ((I saw him do it at the only game I ever went to. BYU against Texas. My eleven-year-old son, Joshua (((who by then already had written his acceptance speech for the Heisman))) and I were on the very top row of the east side of the stadium, at about the fifty-yard line (((that’d be fifty yards from the playing field))). It’s the very first play of the game. After this amazing sleight-of-hand in the backfield, after Texas has confidently tackled all the running backs, several suspicious offensive linemen, two of the refs, some cheerleaders, and Jeffrey R. Holland, nobody knows that the quarterback, Sean Covey, still has the ball.
Also nobody knows that Bishop Doman is about forty yards down the field with nobody within miles of him. That was his first touchdown reception as a Cougar)) ). His texts capture his humor and generosity magically. I erased them. Happily, I’m writing about him anyway. But the texts were really good.
I erased texts that were full of gratitude. “Thanks for the lesson.” “Thanks for the home teaching—you rock.” These say more about the writers than about the recipient, but the reassurance doesn’t hurt any.
Texts from my wife, always full of love and centered in specific concerns over the safety and welfare of the family. Also funny. Also gone.
Embedded in the texts from everybody are accidental (sometimes intentional) references to what’s going on generally, touchstones with the world surrounding the send, language borrowed from lyrics or dialog from current plays. references to extraordinary (and memorable) weather, offhand tippings of the hat to political earthquakes of the moment.
Texts are powerful carriers of truth, feeling, the information of life. I believe Hugh Nibley was rumored to have studied ancient texts, even. It’s essential to the arts, as well. In the theatre, we have this thing called “sub-text.” This is when you are on stage and texting beneath your costume and the audience never suspects for a moment! (Of course, we had young people on the front row of “110 In the Shade” ((you know, the one with Audra Macdonald)) who wouldn’t have suspected anyway—they were busy texting.)
So: if you don’t know where to start your journal, or how to resurrect it—if you don’t know how to begin to capture the adventure of your life, open your phone.