My night of text mania

By Paul Lester, June 24, 2010

Most men go to the pub or watch the footie. Me, when I'm bored, I go meshuggeh with my mobile phone.

I'm a text maniac. A text pest, only the real victim is me, when I get my bill. I'm allowed 500 free texts per month, but somehow I manage to exceed the limit every time. Which is amazing, considering I only have six friends, and I rarely, if ever, text any of them.

There is something about the text that suits people you hardly know; it seems a little cursory to dispatch a conversation with someone you've known for three decades in a three-line - or even three-word - message.

So I text virtual strangers - virtual being the operative word for this cyber form of communiqué. This is what happened the other night, when I found myself at a particularly dull gig, where I was supposed to be taking notes and generally listing the highlights in preparation for a concert review. The real giveaway that I was less than absorbed by the musical events of the evening was that, instead of pogoing down the front, I was slumped deep into a cosy leather chair some distance from the action ("action" is probably overstating it - it was really just a bloke with a beard strumming an acoustic guitar and occasionally swaying from side to side).

So I did what I normally do in such dire straits (actually, Mark Knopfler on Mogadon is pretty much what our troubadour friend sounded like) - I reached for my mobile and texted some recent exes. By "some" I mean "28". Because that's how many women I met last year in a dating frenzy designed to fill the void left by my divorce. Basically, I went on the texting spree because I was bored. But part of me, very possibly the part that needs copious amounts of therapy, was dying to know how many of them would respond. I was pleasantly surprised by the results - about as surprised as the bloke on stage was angry after my phone beeped continuously during his mild-mannered ballads.

When I’m bored, I go meshuggeh with my mobile

I got 22 replies, quite impressive if you put it in educational terms. It's at least the equivalent of a B at GCSE, or a 2:1 at uni. Being the sort of terminal pessimist who believes his glass isn't just half empty, it's a cheap and nasty receptacle bound to crack and spill water all over his lap, I was dismayed that six of them didn't get back to me so I texted again. This did the trick - six more beeps, and six variations on a "please go away or I will be forced to contact the authorities" theme.

Still, that left nearly two dozen females with whom to gossip. My right hand was a blur of OMGs and LOLs, my poor phone was almost overheating. It could have been eye strain, but I swear at one point it messaged me to say: "Enough already with the prodding".

I did well out of it all, though, and I learned a lot. I got useful tips about my dating faux pas - you've heard of the wrong kind of leaves; I apparently use the wrong kind of words and wear the wrong kind of clothes. I had an amusing exchange with one textee about the human condition that concluded with her deciding that "people are a bit rubbish", which I didn't take personally (much). And I got asked to appear on JNet, the Jewish radio station based in north London, by a woman who's just been given her own regular slot.

It was a programme about "relationships, dating and intimacy", three subjects about which I'm more than qualified to offer an opinion. With the possible exception of relationships. Oh, and intimacy.

I went on last Wednesday. Worryingly, after typing my every thought for the last few weeks, I discovered I'd lost the ability to communicate via speech so I asked whether I could message in my contributions. Their reply wasn't very polite. Still, at least it came by text.

Last updated: 11:48am, June 24 2010