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I’m in the New York Post!

18 Aug

I was recently quoted in an article in the @work section of The New York Post entitled “Gimme A Break!” by Aline Mendelsohn, talking about disconnecting from technology when going on vacation (which, P.S. I highly recommend doing!).  Check it out here:  http://www.nypost.com/seven/08112008/jobs/gimme_a_break__123978.htm

Texting: A Status Update

22 Apr

So, I’ve been texting for a little over a week now, and I thought it was time to check back in with a status update.  I think it is safe to say at this point that I am past the honeymoon phase, meaning that I am no longer texting everyone in my Contacts to say, “Hey!  I can txt now!!!” or staring at my phone watching for a new incoming text.  

However, lest you think I am jaded and blase about texting, I would define this new stage of texting I am entering as the blissful newlywed phase; I still get a giddy jolt from the beep that announces a new text in my Inbox, and my heart wells up with appreciation at the convenience of texting someone to tell them that I can or can’t make a plan.  In short, some of the novelty has worn off, but me and texting have fallen into a comfortable routine, and a familiarity and security have developed that makes our relationship deeper and more meaningful than a fly-by-night fling.

Also in the update department, my friend gave me a snappy nickname associated with my new habit.  To backtrack, last week I had a multiple-text exchange with her during my lunch break in a very short period of time, and she marveled at my mad texting skillz.  This weekend we were possibly going to meet up and she texted me “Where are u mt?”  I saw the ‘mt’ but my brain just breezed over it and without thinking it out too much (as if I had I would have realized that this didn’t make any sense), I thought that maybe it was a typo for ‘now’ as in “Where are u now?” or perhaps something having to do with Mountain Time.  But the next day she pointed out that it stood for Mad Texter, and hence, my new nickname, which is really catching on.

And speaking of Mad Texting Skillz, my co-worker C has become my texting inspiration/mentor.  She is 23 and just graduated from college, so she is a card-carrying member of The Texting Generation.  As a Level 5 Texter, she told me that sometimes, when she wants to show off, she will text, without looking, while crossing the street.  And she doesn’t even have the kind of phone with a full keyboard (training wheels) like I do.  She also has to clean out texts from her Inbox 2-3 times a day.

I am a fast learner but I’d place myself more at a Level 3, on the Advanced Placement Track, excited for what this next phase will bring.

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

This Is What My Friends Told Me About Texting (Or: Ode to Texting/My New Phone Part 3)

15 Apr

This is what my friends told me about texting:

They told me that it is going to replace phone calls, that soon I won’t be calling anyone at all.  But.  Unlike 1985, before the days of call waiting, unlimited calling, and free nighttime minutes, when I talked on the phone so much I had to keep a log of all my calls for my Mom to monitor (she eventually had to get her own line in order to eke out any airtime (or rotary dial phone landline time) at all), or 1992 when I would spent the whole school days with my BFFs, talking and passing notes, and then the whole school nights on the phone with them, recapping everything that had happened that day, anticipating the weekends, talking about plans and parties and possibilities, and then summarizing everything we had already talked about, these days I barely ever talk on the phone, and I tend to display tendencies as a social isolator.  So I think that texting, rather than being a replacement will be a supplement and add to the richness, the flavorfulness, the robustness of my technology diet.  

This is another thing my friends told me about texting:

That there is a certain type of guy, perhaps a, let’s hypothetically call him, emotionally unavailable type of guy, who will only text.  He won’t call, he won’t write full, hearty emails, he will just text.  And in this way, with this type of guy, texting will actually replace intimacy instead of supplement it.

And what I say to that is:

Right now, no one’s really calling me per se, so a serial texter would be an apparent step up, a seeming improvement, and I am tempted to say ‘That’s cool, I love texting, it ain’t no thang,’ and settle.  Except.

I want a multi-faceted (and emotionally available) guy.  I want the whole technological package – someone who will write and call and round it all out with some well-timed texts.  I don’t want to starve on paltry low-cal reduced fat snacks; I want the complete, delicious, nutritious, lip-smacking, clean-your-plate-delectable meal, with texting as the dessert, the cherry perched on top of the ice cream sundae, the cream cheese icing slathered on the red velvet cake.  Yum. 

So I am more tempted to believe that this available, in-touch, communicative-on-many-levels-and-via-many-forms-of-technology man exists.  Despite evidence sometimes pointing to the contrary, I am more tempted to have faith, and trust he will appear, that affirming you-have-a-new-message beep comfortingly announcing his arrival.

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

Is it possible to be in love with a cell phone?

15 Apr

Just checking.  Because my new phone just fell off my desk and the back cracked open and the battery flew out.  And I got very nervous.  Like very.  That it was hurt.

But I picked my Baby (um, cell phone) up, cradled it gingerly, placed the battery back in, then cradled it some more, and it seems to be doing fine now.

look ma, im txtng!!!

14 Apr

Until yesterday, I had never texted in my life.  EVER.  What happened was, when the texting craze came on I was on a budget, so I wasn’t eager to add more features to my calling plan.  Plus, I am a H-U-G-E email addict and I thought texting would just be another technological time-suck to get pulled into for hours, days, years even in a way that kind of feels like human interaction but, in reality, is really somewhat anti-social and pretty much destroys one’s ability to be present to/with others/one’s surrounding environment for any length of time.  Like, how annoying is it to be trying to talk to someone in reality, while they are simultaneously buried in their phone, consumed with texting someone else?  SO ANNOYING!  I so didn’t want to be that consumed texting person, so not only did I not have a texting plan, I had a block on texts, and that was that.

Sure, there were moments when I wished I texted.  I always thought texting would vastly improve my dating life.  My friends always seemed to be getting sweet, cute or sexy, dirty texts from the guys they were dating.  Maybe I would be more date-able if I texted?  Texting is certainly less intimidating and less vulnerable of a form of communication than phone calls or emails, and I wondered if I was missing out on some population of men who would want to text me yet weren’t ready for a full-on phone call.

In the beginning phases of a relationship, those sweet,cute/sexy,dirty reminders that my guy was thinking of me via text would make me giddy, I thought.  There was one guy I dated who tried to text me something to the effect of “I had a great time last night” or “I’m thinking of you” the day after our first kiss, but I never got it so he had to tell me about it, and although it was nice to hear, it lost some of its impact in the translation, and having to discuss it, “No I didn’t get it, I don’t text.  No, I’ve never texted.  Ever.  What did it say?”…

And then there were the guys that said, “I was going to text you, but then I remembered.  You don’t text.”  What was I missing out on????

Everyone wanted to be the first person to text me, the one to prove me wrong, that I could receive texts, to be the one to pop my texting cherry.  On a blind date with a guy a few years ago, he was in total disbelief that I couldn’t text.  Like, really, he didn’t believe me.  He was sitting across from me at this teeny-tiny cocktail table at a bar all:  “OK, I’m going to text you now and then let’s look at your phone and see it.”  And I was all:  “Wow, what a fun game,” totally knowing how it would turn out.  So he texted me, and I took out my phone and stared at it and…nothing.  He stared at it and…nothing.  Then he showed me what he had texted me:  “Tell me about ur parents.”  Which was like, super-annoying, because pre-let’s-prove-that-you-can-get-texts-game he was grilling me about my parents to try to ascertain, I imagine, how well/mal-adjusted or just totally fucked up I was to further ascertain, I imagine, if I was a suitable dating/mating partner.  And since he’s not my therapist and I don’t enjoy being interrogated and analyzed on a first date, I was trying to politely avoid his somewhat offensive line of questioning when he bombarded me with exactly that same line of questioning via text (which I never got by the way, because I CAN’T TEXT ON MY PHONE!). 

Anyway, it’s 2008, and I finally had to concede that texting is the way of the future.  And there were signs along the way that I needed to hop on board.  At one point I was enjoying coffee and a fresh-baked muffin at a bakery with a friend when we noticed a 5-year-old (approx.) busy texting a few tables away, and my friend looked up at me with serious eyes and a grave expression and said:  “Jen, he’s FIVE.”  Then I found out that my Dad and sister text each other and I didn’t want to be left out of any family bonding via text. 

So last week, after having my eye on one of those texting phones from Verizon that flip open one way for phone use and the other wayfor full-out keyboard text-ability (if I was going to enter the World of Txtng I wanted to give myself every advantage) since December when I was at a bar with someone who had this cool phone and all these boys were texting her about where we were all meeting up and no boys were texting me because I couldn’t text, and I was drooling over her phone and envious of all of her incoming messages from so many guys that she couldn’t even identify all of their numbers, I finally took the plunge and ordered it last week and upgraded my phone plan to include texting (a Verizon rep asked me if I wanted to go for Unlimited texting but I thought that was excessive since I’ve never even sent A text, so I decided on unlimited IN texts and 500 out of network).

My phone arrived at my desk 5:35pm on Friday mere moments before I left work(actually, I saw the FedEx guy roll a cart past my cube and down the hall and I accosted him with “I THINK THERE’S SOMETHING IN THERE FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!”) and I was so excited that I would have my new phone to play with for the weekend, and galloped up and down the aisle booming the announcement of my soon-to-be textability to all my co-workers.  I created more buzz by spreading the word amongst my friends that I would soon be texting (although they had heard this proclamation before, but this time, I meant it), and after being intimidated by the Verizon box staring back at me all weekend, by Sunday night I was ready to conquer my fears.  Fears of the unknown, and of change…I have had the same phone for four years and all the features I ever need to use are second nature.  I was afraid to leave this security blanket behind, and be faced with needing a feature and not knowing where to find it.  I was afraid of the possibility of texting addiction, and of the anti-social implications – what if I get so into texting I never actually speak to anyone ever again? 

I called Verizon Customer Service, and the great thing is, the Customer Service Reps tell you their names and give you their direct extensions so if you connect with a certain rep who is very familiar with your “issue,” you can call them back!  Directly!  After brief, preliminary conversations with Ratisha and Heidi (who were both quite helpful) in the afternoon to gather some preliminary information and work up my nerve, I was finally ready to activate my new phone, and when I called again on Sunday evening, I got Brian.  The first thing I had to do was upload my contacts from my old phone, and I had this irrational fear of doing something in the wrong order and losing all my contacts and having to send that mass email to all my friends:  “I lost my contacts in my cell phone, please email me your cell phone number or we will never be able to speak again!” 

Brian talked me down and talked me through the uploading contacts process and then told me he would call me back in 15 minutes to check on me and make sure it all went OK, which I loved because I need accountability because sometimes I lack follow-through, so I felt comforted that Brian was there to make sure I didn’t abandon this cell phone project mid-way in favor of doing the dishes or shuffling papers around.  But he didn’t have to call me because I expertly uploaded my contacts and called HIM back in FIVE minutes!  Then I was supposed to call a different number to activate my phone, but Brian just conferenced me in to that activation number and stayed on the phone in case I had any questions.  Which I did when the automated voice stated my order number.  “Brian, that’s not the same as my order number!  My order number has some extra digits on the end.  What should I do?”  He paused the automated activation doo-dad and said calmly, “That’s OK, it’s the same thing, you can go ahead.”

The next step was turning on my new phone which I tried to do but nothing happened.  I panicked!  Brian told me to put the battery in.  I complied.  Still nothing!  He told me to plug in the charger, and my phone started going crazy, the screen flickering on and off like a strobe light.  What should I do???  He told me to wait for a few minutes, and as I stared at my phone alarmed, so close to texting yet so far away, I filled the space with nervous chatter and during which time Brian and I also shared a few laughs, and then he said, “It may take some time to charge, give it an hour and then call me back.”

I waited for an hour and a half to be on the safe side, but the weird strobe-light situation was still the same, and nothing happened when I pressed the power button.  “OK,” Brian said calmly, “we’re just going to trouble-shoot here.”  He had repeatedly asked me about the battery in our prior call and he said, “I don’t want to sound condescending, but are you sure the battery is in right?”  I had previously repeatedly responded, “Yes, it’s in and it fit so I don’t think it would snap in like that if it wasn’t in right,” but I decided to humor him this time and check again.  “In retrospect,” I responded, “I see that I put the battery in backwards.”  After a little prying (it was snapped/wedged in VERY tightly) I popped out the battery and turned it around relieved, “This is going to work so much better now!” I assured Brian.

After hours of back-and-forth phone calls, I felt bonded with Brian, but for a twinge of sadness, I was ready to say goodbye.  I was ready to get busy texting on my new phone.  I was ready to hear the affirming beep/bling signifying that I had a new message, that I had friends, that I am loved.  I was ready to learn all the nuances of a new phone, I was ready for change, I was ready for the unknown, I was ready for the discomfort and the growing pains, I was ready to learn new texting shorthand, I was ready for the liberation of not having to capitalize or punctuate, I was ready for dating and for cute, sweet/sexy, dirty texts from new men who wouldn’t grill me about my parents on a first date, I was ready for new beginnings, I was ready for unlimited possibilities, I was ready for it all.

Right before I put my old phone to sleep, Verizon removed the texting block, so the last thing my ex-phone ever did was receive a text from my friend that said, in part, “How’s texting” and the first thing I did on my new phone was send her a reply text back that said, in part, “This is my first text evah!” and then, “I heart texting!”

My text-able phone is activated, my old contacts have been successfully downloaded onto my new phone, I heart texting, and I am ready for it all.  This is so gr8!!!

Copyright © 2008 by Jennifer Garam

Workaholic Takes An (Email-Free) Vacation

11 Jul

coffeestill-life.jpg

Still Life With Coffee: A pen, a blank notebook page, an ice coffee…my idea of perfection!

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I am a self-proclaimed workaholic, and I come from a long line of workaholics – my sister is a workaholic, my father is a workaholic, and so are my mother and my stepmother. On an given night, one might find me sitting in front of my computer at 11pm, just coming to the realization that I haven’t eaten dinner yet, and I haven’t watched one reality TV show or Sex & The City rerun all week. I am very passionate about what I do and can get lost in my projects for hours, days, weeks at a time, which can be a very good thing, but can also throw my life out of balance if left unchecked. Every life needs a little Dancing With Stars or Carrie Bradshaw every now and then to maintain balance.

Last week, I did more than take a break from work to watch So You Think You Can Dance (yes, I am partial to the dance-based reality programming). I did something totally radical for me – I took a much-needed vacation! And not only that, I took an email-free vacation. I did not even bring my computer, which turned out to be the right choice as my quaint little inn had free wireless and I do not know if I am strong enough to resist free wireless. And the thing is: I did not even miss my email one bit. I was not even the least bit tempted to “casually” (i.e. frantically) stroll into an Internet cafe or library so that I could get my fix. And sometimes, I even left my cell phone on the bedside table of my quaint little room, and aimlessly strolled around, completely unreachable.

Instead of being enslaved to my email addiction, I spent my days reading and writing, going for walks, lounging on the beach, and essentially, listening to my inner self about what I wanted to do next, and then doing it. And in doing so, I reached a whole nother level of relaxation, rejuvenation, inspiration, freedom, possibility, and hopefulness that I have not experienced in what felt like years, perhaps since before the dot com boom.

When I got back home post-vacation, one of the first things I did was to check my email. And I noticed, instantly, that my energy diminished, and I felt bad. As I logged on, I felt my hopeful, rejuvenated relaxation just drain right out of me and pool up on the floor. I felt the disappointment of a few emails I had been eagerly anticipating not being returned and not waiting for me in my inbox, and I felt the stress of emails that I would have reply to, of obligations, and people needing things from me. I have been grappling with my email addiction for years but it was enlightening to me to actually feel the tangible energy drain that it creates.

Our culture is extremely techie-addicted and I am really coming to believe that this can be to our collective detriment. It is so hard to be present and simply be and allow yourself to soak up all the beauty and joy and friendship and love and peace that can be present in a moment when you are worrying about an email you are expecting, or texting someone else who may or may not meet you later, or intermittently taking phone calls that “have” to be dealt with “right now,” but are really very rarely of an actual urgent nature, it is just that everything seems urgent and requiring of instant attention these days.

I used to have a friend who, every time we went out for dinner or coffee, she would plunk her cell phone down in the middle of the table, and then take every call she got (there were many) and proceed to engage in lengthy conversations while I was faced with the choice of reading the menu again, checking my own voicemail under the pretense that there might be a new message for me to listen to, or staring at my elbow. It definitely sent the message to me loud and clear that I was of secondary importance to any and every one who was calling her. Interestingly enough, we have since drifted apart…

And then there is the etiquette involved. It has become so second-nature and accepted for everyone to be doing a million things all at once – taking a call, checking their BlackBerry, texting an acquaintance – and everyone does it, that it is difficult and uncomfortable to say: “I feel unimportant and ignored when you spend our entire lunch date on your cell phone (or immersed in your BlackBerry).”

On vacation, it was so liberating to be free of all these vices and their choke holds, and I felt noticeably calmer and everything felt measurably crisper, clearer, more intense – leisurely conversations with friends, cups of creamy fudgey fudge-swirl ice cream melting over onto my fingers, scallops drenched in lemon and butter, a fresh lobster roll on a buttered hot dog bun surprisingly crunchy and blackened in bites, pale pink dripping into fiery coral sunsets, the smell-almost-taste of ocean salt water, broken shells on the beach, sand between my toes, long walks with no where in particular to go…an empty notebook page, an intensely good book, a large delicious ice coffee with just a splash of milk…

It is always hard for me to reintegrate back into my regular life after a vacation. Seven years ago, when I got back to my office job from a weeklong vacation at the beach, I tacked up photos from my trip in front of me in my cubicle and for days after my return, I found myself getting lost in thought in the middle of some mundane task like entering repetitive information into a database, staring off at my ocean photos and dreaming of my beach-bound return, of a more relaxing and peaceful existence outside of New York City and its crazy hectic pace. (And that was even before email got so mainstream.)

This time, I wonder if I can bring some of that peace back to me and into my hectic agitated New York City existence. If I don’t have to travel 8 hours to remember who I am and what I want to do moment-to-moment, to remember the simple things that bring me immeasurable joy, like scallops and sunsets, like getting lost in a book without distraction, like walking down the street with eyes so wide they soak up every inch of detail as if I have never seen any of this before, rather than walking from my apartment to the subway without any recollection of actually seeing one building or person or tree on my way there, because I was too busy being wrapped up in my To Do list, or mentally drafting an email response to an urgent request. I wonder if I can have that kind of heightened awareness, that calmness that disconnection from technology brings, that degree of intense aliveness, in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon, in the middle of Brooklyn.

I am certainly going to give it a try…

two-bookworms.jpg

Two bookworms on a seaside vacation, happy as clams….

Copyright © 2007 by Jennifer Garam. All rights reserved.