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Misunderstood text messages can lead to trouble
Robert Williams

Can you hear me now?

The words of a long-gone television commercial for some lost-to-memory cell phone provider offers a reminder that, despite the proliferation of communication devices all around us today, communicating with someone still can prove challenging.

One sure thing about modern technology: It’s not foolproof. Cell phone wizardry, email, text messaging and the such are terrific.

But they’re not infallible.

What can be frustrating is that while you might phone, email or text dozens of inane, useless messages over the course of a day that are received by your intended in lightning speed, the one time you desperately need to reach someone with a plea for help or a change of plans — the words often just won’t get there.

My wife and I debate the usefulnesss of communication often. A lifetime as an editor has me trained to rely on well-placed, well-timed words to work magic.

But she’s gotta hear them. Or read them.

And that’s not always easy.

Like most men, my cell phone is normally in my pocket. Some carry them clipped onto their hip. Where we go, our cell phone goes with us.

Women are different. (I understate.)

My wife can phone or text me and regardless of where I am, that message will usually alert my ear with a ring or tickle me with a vibration.

Chances of reaching my wife with a call or text are maybe 50-50, at best. She, like many women, keeps her cell phone in her purse. And her purse may be on the floor beside her desk in the office. Or it may be in the car. Or it may be in another room. Or it may be just about anywhere. With the phone inside. And she may be within hearing range of its call, or she may not.

“I’m not attached-at-the-hip to my phone like you are,” she responds when I grumble gently about not being able to reach her.

Text messaging is fast becoming the vehicle of choice for communicating by millions. Especially younger folks.

A text message does have appeal, less intrusive than a call, but faster than email. I will text someone later than I would ever call them.

Text messaging is also known by the euphemism as “instant” messaging. But that ain’t so.

How many times has my wife texted me to stop by the store to pick up something, only to have the message “ding” on my screen anywhere from five to 30 minutes later, long after I’ve walked in the house and heard her ask: “Where’s the milk and bread?? Didn’t you get my message?”

Text messaging can also be cumbersome for a fumble-fingers. Again, being an editor, it’s difficult for me to hit “send” on a message containing misspelled words. Yes, texting has its own language of abbreviations and jargon, but such dialogue doesn’t yet come natural to us old folks.

Often’s the time I’ll stop what has become a long text “conversation” to just plead: “Call me.”

And let’s not even get started on how easy it is to misinterpret someone’s message via text without the inflections and tones that come with the spoken word. Attempts at humor can not just fall flat, they can ignite a slow burn in your lady’s mind. When she texts back a “Hmmmm...” or “Really??” it’s best to dial her up quickly. Trust me.

Misunderstood text messages may soon displace cluelessness among men for starting more arguments with their ladies.

Can you hear me now?

Robert M. Williams Jr. is an Effingham native, now living in Blackshear. He publishes weekly newspapers in Blackshear, Alma, Folkston, McRae and Forsyth. Email him at