Sunday, June 19, 2011

Beware Auto-Correction

Text messaging is all the rage these days. Parents of kids with cell phones will tell you that their bills reflect thousands of text messages sent and received, but hardly any talk time. I can’t figure out how to get my kids to talk with me on the phone; they neither answer my calls nor return my voicemails. But they are usually very quick to respond to a text message; even during school hours when they shouldn’t have their devices turned on.

My most recent relationship experience consisted mostly of communication by text message. This lady was about twelve years my junior and evidently preferred texting to talking. This suited me quite well as I have long preferred email to phone calls since they are less intrusive. If the matter is not urgent, and most aren’t, then a recipient of an email can reply at his or her convenience. When a phone call arrives and you are busy and cannot answer it is often perceived by the caller as rude that you don’t answer. The truth is that the call might come while you are at work, in a meeting, on another call, in the rest room, dressing, swimming, out of earshot of phone, brushing your teeth, in the shower, have your hands in dishwater, be carrying a tray of drinks or some other activity that prevents an immediate answer. Unfortunately the caller cannot see why you didn’t answer and in the case of the female caller, this will often spur her imagination to kick into turbo mode as she obsesses about the possible reasons you are ignoring her call.

Thankfully this was not the case with my last relationship. She hardly ever called without first texting to see if it was alright to call. I admit that I rather liked that. So I do text more these days, but still do not know the lingo used by the kids. I haven’t tried to learn it either. This means my messages tend to be rather long as I don’t much abbreviate. In fact, I still use all punctuation, apostrophes and capital letters for names and new sentences. Yes, you can tell me that my way is inefficient and I wouldn’t try to argue, but I would insist that my method, while slower and more tedious, does result in less confusion over meaning. At least that’s the usual case.

Like many people, I tend to utilize a number of different devices and change my primary mobile phone frequently. This means that I have to learn new keyboard layouts, new tricks for making capitals, switching between letters and numbers and how to insert special characters.

It seems many devices come with a default setting for auto-correcting text. This may be appreciated by many, but I don’t like it at all. I find it extremely annoying that this mini-computer wants to attempt to guess what I’m going to write. Even more frustrating is when it changes a word after you have typed it because it ‘thinks’ you meant to say something else. This can even get beyond annoying when the device auto-corrects something so critically important as to change the tone or context of the message.

So being innocent me, I sent a message to this girl I was seeing and included her name in the message for emphasize. But my cellular phone had its devious little way with my message and proved that auto-correct is not my friend. When Angelica responded with an outrageous accusation in all capital letters I was confounded. What the hell was she doing?

So my response was a request for simple clarification: “Who are you talking about?” Angelica responded that she had suspected for a while that I was cheating on her.
“What?” was all I could muster in response. I then added “Give me a call when you figure out what’s going on so you can explain it to me.”

“It’s over! DON’T EVER CALL ME AGAIN!” was her final message in all caps.

I sat quietly for a moment; staring at the device and waiting for her inevitable “LOL JK” but it never arrived. So stunned was I by what had happened I looked out my front window to see if she was outside waiting to surprise me with this little act. But she wasn’t there, didn’t show up and never texted me again.

It wasn’t until the following day when I was replaying the full scenario that I went back to review my messages in an effort to understand her weird, extreme reaction.

It took a few minutes because I was initially focusing on her messages, but when I looked at my outgoing texts I saw it. Clear as day and as stinging as acid rain: my Samsung had auto-corrected her name from 'Angelica' to 'Andrea.'

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Result of Experience

I feel like I’ve left you with the sense that I’m more focused on money than anything else in. It is true that I frequently elaborate on specific financial aspects of relationships, but it is merely to explain the importance. I’ve read of several surveys in which financial incompatibility is listed as the primary reason for divorce. Some marriage counselors and economic professionals quote statistics of greater than half of divorces being a direct result of financial mismanagement by one of the “trusted” partners. Yes, a large number of marriages end because of economic incompatibility.

So it is not just me. Sure, some may try to label me as cheap, but I look at it quite differently. My view is that a thoughtful consumer is a better saver. I’ve never gone so far as coupon clipping or sale chasing, but I will admit to recycling, reusing and to being greatly impressed every time I see one of those shows where in which a shopper walks out of a store with a cart full of highly discounted and near free items.

If there is a better deal coming soon or a lower price around the corner then I will wait for the sale or walk around that proverbial corner. I’ve always been planner and a saver. I’ve always run my affairs on a budget and even in the days of only bringing in $3-$7 and hour I always found a way to save something. In the early days I thought mostly of saving for emergencies such as a vehicle breakdown. Over the years, as I matured professionally and financially, I also focused on saving for the future. Whenever I had the desire to buy something that I didn’t need I went through a long process of weighing pluses and minuses to determine if I would actually make the purchase. If I convinced myself that I actually needed it or really thought I’d make good use of it, then I would adjust my budget to begin saving for the major purchase. That’s right: I didn’t run out and make an impulse purchase. I would not touch my emergency fund for a luxury item. I’d find leeway in my existing budget to put aside money each month. If that meant going out less, working overtime or taking on another job then that’s exactly what I did. By the time I’d saved the money required to buy the item I felt more like I could afford it and it was easier to part with the cash as I was more able to justify that I’d worked for the nonessential gift to myself. I’ve been responsible like this since I was a teenager. I guess I’d have to credit my parents for preparing me for life as they taught me by their own responsible example.

Then, in the middle of my third decade, my world came crashing down around me. A divorce wrought havoc on my master plan, tearing down the walls of security I had worked so hard to build. I was modestly proud to be well ahead of the average man my age with retirement savings, personal investments and children’s college funds, but this comforting position was destroyed in this hateful event.

So I would categorize my reaction to any further threat as falling within a normal range. You may compare me to those people who only decide to lock their car doors, clutch their purse tighter or install a home alarm as a result of having been robbed at least once. Yes it is reactionary, but it is a totally natural reaction. After you touch a hot stove once, you aren’t likely to make the same careless error again. Yes, it would have been better if the proper precautions were taken in advance, but Monday morning quarterbacking is of no use. Once you realize the negatives from having suffered the bad stuff, doesn’t it make more sense to build a better defense from that point on? How stupid would a person look if they voluntarily remained a perfect victim: aware of the threat yet accepting it without any preparation or precaution.

So, that is how I see myself. I am proceeding along life’s treacherous path at a somewhat reduced pace, but with an extraordinary amount of care. If you are not moving along in the same manner, then you have failed to learn anything from my experiences and will instead wait for the eventual opportunity to learn from your own. I wish you the best of luck and the least of failure in this process.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Temporary vs Permanent

Relationships are fragile; so much so that the end is often a complete surprise to one or both parties. Rhiana and I seemed a near perfect match, but she disposed of me like last year’s picture-less calendar. I was flabbergasted. Stung that she’d dropped me and stunned further at the abrupt manner it happened. There was no explanation or even a good bye. My calls, questions and texts were ignored. I gave up after a couple days to avoid crossing that line from whence I could be labeled stalker and to prevent myself from just looking pitiful.

Thank goodness I never got one of those prison-style neck tattoos with her name on it. Of course I’ve never actually considered doing that. It is only on my mind because I saw a lady with one this morning. I am always amazed when I see someone, especially a good looking woman with some dude’s name scribbled high up on her neck. That is not something you can easily get rid of. Of course, they wear it in a place they will never actually see it, but it will be there in every mirror and photograph for the rest of her life. Will she limit future relationships to guys with the same name? It is something to ponder…if you have that kind of time on your hands.

If I ever did go so far as to put permanent ink on my throat I certainly hope I’d have the good sense to go with something enduring like “my girl”, “I’m with her” or my own name. Other than the fact that the neck is mine until the end and that I’ll most likely still be dating girls, I can think of nothing else as long lasting. Certainly not any relationship I’ve experienced so far.

I did nearly get a tattoo once. I was a young, nineteen-year-old Marine, barely off Parris Island and busy drinking with friends. Someone brought up the idea of tattoos and I was as motivated at the idea as the next fellow under the influence of alcohol and peer pressure. I picked out some real hard corps tattoo with the large initials ‘USMC’ complete with raging flames around it. I recall that I did have the idea to place it on my forearm or chest so that I could cover it when necessary. But in the end I didn’t go through with it. No, I didn’t chicken out, but once I sat in the chair, the guy working the needle decided to up the price almost thirty percent from what I’d seen posted. I questioned his math and he responded “the prices went up but I haven’t changed the signs yet.” I quickly hopped out of the chair and declared loudly to my friends that I wasn’t giving this scammer my business. One or two of the fellows went through with it, but I never even considered it again since that night. I was a very highly motivated young Marine, but I was also both quite frugal and very much against being taken advantage of.

I think that this particular story sums up a lot about me since many of my posted views touch on an aversion to wasting money on poor relationship investments and a strong desire to avoid being manipulated and used whenever possible.