Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Texting a life-threatening situation: This is how teens talk?

At Surfside beach, on the south side of Nantucket Island, last summer.  
Here's a summer story for Toledoans on a beachfront holiday. For Toledo parents and kids.  For Sylvania families on vacation.   For grandparents with grandkids on an island somewhere. This grandmother is trying to find out how it's going with her family. The island happens to be Nantucket, off Cape Cod, but it could be anywhere in the world.   Communication is just about non-existent.  So here's a text message exchange with a beloved teen grandson that you might recognize.

"Hi Josh how was your first day on Nantucket? Post pix."

"don't have any."

"how was ur day?"

"ok. phone needs charging."

"how was ur day? What did you do?"

"good. went to surfside i had to be rescued by a lifeguard.mom home w chase.now we're cooking dinner."

"OMG. You had to be rescued by a lifeguard?"

"yeah. caught in bad undertow."

"You were alone in water?"

"yeah. waved for help but family thot I was waving hi come in."

"OMG. How did lifeguard know you were in trouble?"

"read my body language i guess."

"Lord, good lesson. always be near lifeguard, esp south shore."

"now i know."

So here's a life-threatening situation, one I've always feared, and this is how a typical teen texts the story. Basic information. Nothing more  text talk. text language. I want to hear all the details, but forget about it. My grandson, on his way to being a junior at Northview, almost drowned, and this will be the extent of it. Sound familiar?

"If it's a bad experience, it will be a good story," we used to say in the Peace Corps. However, I've become aware that texting prohibits the unfolding of the story.  "Just the facts, ma'm!"  Sgt Friday, the terse detective from the old TV mystery series, would have been a good texter!

I'd like the whole story, a beginning, middle and end, some narrative.  Ha. Fat chance.  "i had to be saved by a lifeguard." I see Josh struggling in huge powerful waves, caught in a vicious undertow, pulled away from shore, unable to get in, very scared.  I imagine him waving frantically for help, and his brother, sister and friends on shore laughing, thinking he was saying "hi, come in, join me." (I was told later they were yelling back to Josh to cut it out!)  I imagine Josh yelling and waving against the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, being pulled under and away.

How often have we warned our kids and grandchildren about the power of the ocean, the dangers.  Thank goodness lifeguards are trained to see the warning signs, and to save lives.

The best text I got back from Josh was "now i know."

Experience is the best teacher, but it sure lends itself to some heart-stopping moments, doesn't it? We the older and wiser know, but they, the younger, have to learn.  We pray that a higher power, the angel of all children, is watching over them, keeping them safe. We can also text, but we'll only get the bare bones of a story.   "now i know."
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