This morning I was driving home from school drop off, and I wanted to chat.
I’m a chatter. Always have been. When I was a boy, my mom would grow tired of my incessant questions and comments and say, “Jeff, if you have nothing interesting to say, say nothing …”
I don’t have especially interesting things to say. Not usually. But I want to talk Dez Bryant. I want to talk Southern California winters. I want to talk about your job, about writing, about my trip to New Orleans. I want to hear about your life, and how it’s going, and how it should be going, and whether you’re going to get engaged, and why your dad is acting like a jerk. I want to hear about Jimmy’s basketball game. About the school principal who got fired. Let’s talk terrorism. Obamacare. Fried okra. Menudo.
I. Want. To. Chat.
But here’s the thing: Nobody chats anymore. They just don’t. It’s a lost means of communication, buried beneath 1,001 Texts and eternal selfies and an overwhelming workload and the kids and the car and … and … and …
This is not an exaggeration. Not all that long ago, I had, oh, a solid 20 people always willing to chat. Now, optimistically, I have three. And they’re wonderful, amazing folks. One is a college pal who’s now a stay-at-home dad. One is Quaz No. 6. One is a former Sports Illustrated colleague. Otherwise, I don’t call to chat, because I feel like I’m just bothering people; like they see my number pop up and think, “Crap. Him again?”
Which they probably do.
This is not a good human development. We’ve lost something—the great irony of the ubiquitousness of communication devices is that we’ve stopped communicating in the most intimate of ways. We’ve replaced conversations with messages. We don’t take the time to say, “Hey, what’s up?” and “I heard your mom is sick. Let’s talk?” When I was a kid, Christmas cards meant you buy a bunch of cards at CVS, write personal messages in each one, then send them off. Now, we pre-print, then print out labels, then send. When I was a kid, you called someone on a birthday. “Hey, congrats on reaching 30. You don’t look a day over 50.” Now, we just do this …
I’m 42. I guess that’s old. But, man, I long for the days when we took time to hear the voices of friends and family members; when we weren’t staring at devices for 90-percent of our waking hours; when we said, “Wait, wait. I’m gonna stop working for a moment.
“I want to chat.”