Of the mistakes I’ve made in this life for which I am truly ashamed, two revolve around birthdays, one of them mine. My 19th, to be exact. I was living in Manila with my bff at the time, and my mom had called a couple of times in the lead-up to the day to make sure I’d be home at a certain hour. At the time, I thought absolutely nothing of it – of course I’d be home…I can even see myself rolling my eyes.
I wasn’t home.
I happened to be out, completely oblivious to the fact that I’d forgotten my promise.
Meanwhile, my mom had gathered a few of my best friends, made a cake, and planned to sing “Happy Birthday” to me over the phone and let me speak to all my peeps – which would have been a pricey gift considering the cost of phoning long distance and my propensity for conversation, not to mention the fact that I’d not spoken to anybody for more than two months by that point.
What. A. Dick.
Times have changed, though. For one, I’m a little more aware of the world around me…In my defense, other people’s feelings weren’t often so completely off my radar – I just completely screwed up that day. But it isn’t just that. Communication has done another Alexander Graham Bell on us.
Consider that, a few months after my bff moved from L.A. to Manila in 1995, we decided to talk over the phone for a long time (try 25 minutes…and bear in mind we were 15 and female). Then her mom got the phone bill. $80. So back to snail mail we went. Letters took on average 6 weeks to arrive, so we’d write for a couple of weeks before sending them off – more like journal entries than letters. I remember reading replies in her letters to questions I’d posed months before-hand…it was really quite funny. And that’s how it was when I was in Manila, too – long letters and a couple of phone calls to my dear old mum. That was 1998.
Fast-forward to 2003, about a year and a half after Chris left the U.S. Not only did we have the convenience of email, but we could chat online. While the limitations of communicating sans sound could be frustrating at times, it meant we could touch base every day, or nearly…and it may have had a lot to do with the fact that we’re together now.
When Chris and I lived in London, we had Skype, but I hadn’t gotten my family and friends completely on board at that point. Over the course of our roadtrip in 2010, I was determined to set up a Skype account on everybody’s computer before Chris and I left for the Philippines. Meanwhile, it was taking off anyway, and more and more people were using it. Being able to talk to my parents face-to-face in the Philippines was a different world.
Last Friday, our friend S, proud new mother to a 6-month old angel (and, incidentally, the victim in that other birthday story. But I’m not ready to share that one with the world just yet.), got the day off of mom-ing. Her lovely other half was in charge, and as she’s teaching summer school, she had a half-day. As a result, we planned a Skype date, complete with alcoholic beverages and stores of gossip and trash-talking. It was lovely.
But imagine the distance we’ve come in a mere 14 years (yikes! Has it been that long already? I shed a tear for my poor, lost youth). S, who is a total geek, will remind me that the Interweb existed long before I got wind of it, and she was gaming on it long before I understood that RPGs could take place virtually…long before I understood that particular definition of virtual. I’m a bit more like the masses – and even worse, because in a lot of ways I’m a total luddite – in that I caught on to the world-wide web around the end of 1999.
The point is, sat there, on my sofa, wine glass in hand, S on my computer screen, sat on her own sofa with her own glass as her new cat, Pan, clammored for some attention…it was almost (but not quite) as nice as sharing the same physical space again. The fact that I can talk to my parents regularly in the same way means we get to see one another change (not that anybody’s aging over here!), and the shock is a little less harsh when we do come face-to-face.
I’m not sure my mom’s ever completely forgiven me for that whole incident. But I’m gonna go ahead and put this out there: if one considers the additional stimulus offered by Skype, paired with its incredible accessibility, my odds would have been way different with Skype on my side (or Facetime or Google Talk or whatever).
All I’m saying is this: had Skype been around in March 1998, I probably wouldn’t have missed that call.
*In answer to that original question, methinks prob’ly not…