We had a nice family dinner the other night in a fairly decent restaurant. Included in the gathering were three teenage boys, all proud owners of the latest cell phone models.
   I hate them.
   Not the teenagers. Theyíre a pain in the butt sometimes, but generally I have a fondness for them. Itís the cell phones I canít stand.
   I donít know what we were talking about at the table, but I could tell the teenagers were a bit distracted. I quickly realized what was going on, and I thought about my parents and their admonitions for us to sit up straight, or get our elbows off the table. Times certainly have changed.
   "STOP TEXTING AT THE TABLE!" I cried, rattling them just a bit. "Itís rude."
   The 17 year old looked up briefly, and then returned his gaze to his lap, where he was furiously finishing a quick text reply to his girlfriend. "Hold on, Iím almost done."
   Ridiculous. All three of them are addicted to texting. Thereís hardly a need to talk on the phone anymore. They just text, and then text some more.
   I tried it a few times. My fat little fingers had quite the adventure trying to hit the right letters on my cell phone in order to compose a sentence. Thatís because the phone was designed to actually call people with numbers, not letters.
   But I guess after you do it 30,000 times or so, like these teenagers do, you get pretty good at it. And the newer phones all have little keyboards, where my fat little fingers can make mistakes a bit quicker.
   I will admit these kids are amazing with their proficiency. My 17 year old is very proud of his ability to compose a text with his phone in his pocket, which has been a great asset while in class.
   We used to call that pocket pool, but we couldnít use the excuse that we were sending a text message.
   My first indication that we were facing a texting epidemic came with my cell phone bill a few months ago. It was about 43 pages, and each text was detailed. And it was about $50 higher than it should have been.
   "Have you gone crazy?" I asked my 17 year old as I perused the bill. "You get 800 free text messages a month, and you used 1800. At five cents for every extra text message, thatís $50 in extra charges."
   "Sheís obsessed," he replied, referring to his girlfriend. "She texts me all day long."
   "Have you considered actually dialing her number and talking to her?"
   By the look on his face, it was clear that he had not. It was far easier to reply with his nimble little fingers. Averaging 60 text messages a day had made him a master of the craft.
   "I already changed my bill to unlimited texting," he said. "Itís only an extra $10 per month. Iíve got it covered."
   "But just in case," he added, "why donít you take my phone away for a few days."
   Obviously, he needed a break, and I was happy to comply. But by the second day, he was going through some sort of withdrawal, and he began begging me to return his phone.
   "Have you thought about using the house phone?" I asked. "You could call anyone in the world, right now."
   It wasnít a consideration. He looked at me like I was a Neanderthal. He couldnít text, he couldnít e-mail, he couldnít even check the time anymore from a house phone. Good God, house phones couldnít even take pictures. What a waste.
   He started snorting and pawing me, searching for where he thought I might have hidden his phone. Now who was the Neanderthal?
  His 18-year-old brother walked by at that moment. "Check this out," he said, showing us the new phone he had just bought. He showed us a text message and then pushed a button, and a female voice read the text message out loud.
  "Thatís lovely," I said. "Now you boys wonít even have to remember how to read."
   "Yeah, but weíve still got to write the damn things," the 18 year old replied. "I canít wait for the phones to take my voice and put it into text, like the computers are starting to do."
   I looked at the 17 year old. He wasnít listening. He didnít care about the new technology. He just wanted his old phone back, where he could get back to texting 60 times a day.
    I knew how he felt. Sort of.

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