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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Is That In Code?

I have written before about my sister Liz, and how we have joked for years that she's "the pretty one", meaning I'm "the smart one." Hey, don't get mad, it works for us, especially because it seems to be true. Several years ago I came to realize that she didn't really understand all of the capabilities of her cell phone. It was not a smart phone, just a phone of average intelligence, but it was clear that she needed some help. As a seasoned user of an average-intelligence phone, and her sister, I took it upon myself to help her. Hey, I have ended up being a trainer at almost every job I've had. If I can train people to do telephone customer service, for example, I can teach my sister to make better use of her phone, right?

We started off by making sure that she was comfortable with text messaging. She caught on pretty well, and then I asked her about assigning ringtones to her contacts. She had no clue. So we did a tutorial on how she could know that it was her boss or her husband calling simply by the ringtone the phone was playing. This was pretty exciting for her, but she needed to get more ringtones. And since she didn't have a computer at home, I became the go-to person for her to acquire ringtones. Sometimes she would ask for a specific song, or something that would be appropriate for whomever she wanted to have their own specific tone.

So I started texting her different ringtones. At first, I had to walk her through saving and/or assigning each one, but she got better with practice. One day I was happy to have found her what I thought was a perfect ringtone. I texted it to her and waited for her happy response. Instead of a reply of thanks or expression of how clever it was, I got this answer: What? My mental reply was, "Huh?" So I replied by asking what she meant. I got a blank email from you. Uh-huh. I told her that I hadn't sent her any emails, blank or otherwise. She responded by calling me from work, and sounding completely disgusted at her too-stupid-to-live little sister. She informed me that I had sent an email to her phone and that there was nothing in it. Of course, the first thing I had to do was explain, for the umpteenth time, the difference between emails and texts, and that using the words interchangeably would confuse anyone, especially dumb younger sisters.

Liz huffed that I had sent her a blank text. I told her that I was sending her a ringtone; perhaps there was some mistake on my part, so I'd just send it again. I sent it again, and Liz called me back, more disgusted than ever. Still nothing. Then a light bulb went off in this little sister's brain. "Um, is the volume turned off on your phone? Maybe that's why you can't hear it?" She asked if she had to have the sound turned up to hear the text, and we got it straightened out. She had gotten the ringtone, and she liked it a lot. I walked her through saving it to her phone, and noticed Trent out of the corner of my eye, shaking his head. He praised my patience and my quick realization of what had gone wrong. And it never happened again...until the next time!

Something challenging about my sister and her texts - she makes up her own uses for symbols, or her own abbreviations for things. The big problem with this is that they have nothing to do with the way everybody, and I stress everybody, uses these symbols or abbreviations. And I am not a cryptographer! Here's an example of a Liz-text. Hey I hv to tlk to u @ work. Cl u ltr. This mystifies me. Does she want me to get in the car and come downtown to where she works so that she can talk to me about something? I show it to Trent, and he agrees that it seems she wants me to do just that. So I text her back. Do you want us to come down to your work so you can talk to us about something? She answers almost immediately. NO!!! It's wrk I need to talk to you @. Again, the lights go on and my detective mode kicks in. Oh! so you need to talk about your job? Her response barely contains her disgust at my stupidity. Yes, she wants to talk to me @ work. In Liz-text, apparently the symbol the entire English/American English-speaking world uses for "at" means "about."  And that's not even the worst of it.

I could go on, but I've forgotten most of her weird texting foibles. It's probably for two reasons. One is that they simply made no sense by any stretch of my (or Trent's) brains and imagination. And it can be pretty stressful when "the pretty one" thinks you you're a complete idiot and a pain in the behind because you can't break the code!