My Text Conversation With a Stranger - 11/19/09
This all happened a couple weeks ago, when I was in Chicago for college homecoming. It's a great lesson in the generational gap regarding new media communication. It's also a lesson that I shouldn't text when I'm drinking.

So we're all at a bar Friday happy hour. I'm doing the usual move of sending a mass text to all my college friends, so see who might be in town for the weekend. One of these friends is my old roommate, Greg Kolb.

ME: Hey Kolb, you in Chi this weekend?

GREG KOLB: What?

ME: Chicago baby. Homecoming.

GREG KOLB: Who is this.

ME: It's Jury, douche.

GREG KOLB: Wrong number.

ME: Oh, my bad. You're not really a douche. As far as I know.

GREG KOLB: Ok weirdo stop talking me.

It could have (and probably should have) stopped here, but I decided to be playful. Also, I was about 5 beers deep.

ME: I think you meant to stay 'stop talking TO me'. But OK... Just think twice next time you murder my buddy and take his cell #!

GREG KOLB: Ok your weird.

ME: I think it's offensive for you to call me weird (twice!) when you don't even know me. And I think you meant to say 'Ok YOU'RE weird.'

GREG KOLB: Ok! Stop now. You're creeping me out. Bye.

Again, it could have ended here. But who keeps replying when someone has already admitted they had a wrong number, and apologized? It was becoming apparent I was probably dealing with a teenager, probably a girl. Maybe I felt like I needed this girl a lesson or something - what if I was dangerous, and not just somebody with a wrong number? Or maybe I was just giving into the goading of all my friends at the bar, who of course were all now a part of the game.

ME: Why are you still texting me back? Are you even old enough to own a phone? Also, you're being very rude to a stranger. If you keep being so mean, I'm going to delete your number and not be your friend anymore.

GREG KOLB: Good i don't even know you.

ME: Well you're losing whatever friendship we were starting to have. Nice job.

GREG KOLB: I don't even know you!

ME: THEN WHY DO YOU KEEP TEXTING ME BACK?

For a few minutes, nothing. Perhaps I'd gotten through to her? And then my phone rang. GREG KOLB.

At first I froze - texting with some random teenager is one thing, but I can't actually answer my phone and TALK to them. And what if it's this kid's parents, yelling at me to leave their daughter alone, threatening legal action? I let the phone ring 3 times, but then realize I have the name of my tutoring company on my voicemail. Crap! Having angry parents hear THAT is even worse. I pick up the phone.

ME: Hi, this is Paul.

GREG KOLB (in a young girl's voice): Why do you keep texting me!?

ME: I told you, you have my friend's old number. Why are you CALLING me?

GREG KOLB: Because you kept texting me!

ME: You know you don't HAVE to respond, right? I was just messing around with you because you kept writing back. You shouldn't do that. What if I was a bad person or something?

GREG KOLB: You, like, ARE! Stop texting me.

ME: Stop CALLING me! How old are you, anyway?

GREG KOLB: I'm eleven!

I pulled the phone away from my ear. Oh dear god.

I hung up, deleted Greg's number, and never texted back. I don't need some eleven year old kid's parents in Denver thinking I'm trying to kidnap their daughter.

I hope Greg Kolb learned something from all this, but doubt it. What is it with kids these days? My parents always told me "don't talk to strangers". But I guess it's OK to text with them. I also guess there's some kind of text protocol among pre-teens these days that you must ALWAYS respond to a text message, lest you risk losing a friend, or a Twitter follower or something. I'm never having kids.

Regardless, I definitely learned some things. That although I'm not even 30, I no longer understand the younger generation. And that phone companies are ever quicker about recycling phone numbers: I swear I talked to the real Greg Kolb less than a year ago.

Oh, and that I should never text strangers while drunk.

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