Meet or Wed

The Sunday Express - EYE - December 12, 2010

I intended to say, "Have to keep car going to Shalimar hotel to meet somebody". "Meet" became "wed", because the w-x-y-z key is just below the m-n-o key and a carelessly pressed m became w. The phone then used its brain and said weet is not a word. So the last is extra, maybe it is wed. Why did it think of w-e-d and not w-e-e? Because like all of us, the predictive text is a creature of habit and I use the word wed - short for Wednesday - more than I use the word wee. In fact I never refer to anything as wee. Most of my friends would think that was an SMS typo. So the message read, "Have to keep car going to Shalimar hotel to wed somebody."

I am a total SMS junkie. The ability it gives me to tell people what I think about anything, at any time of my choosing, and to know that they usually can't escape it, leaves me breathless with excitement and giddy with power. Deleting an unread SMS from a friend or even an acquaintance is the depth of bad manners that almost nobody I know would sink to. As for those I don't know, I use email first before getting up close and personal on SMS. (Ironically, for the few people that I really love, it is pen-and-paper letters in snail mail.) You can use SMS to effortlessly tell grown-up children what you think of their career choices or (non-existent) marriage plans without fear of being hung up on, or a letter lying unread, under a pile of books and dirty dishes. You can plead your point of view with a client long after the meeting has closed, and he has hopefully had a game of squash and worked his aggression out of his system. Or you can get sharp tutorials on any subject by sending SMS to friend gurus - the sheer discipline imposed by SMS to frame the question in writing, in a limited number of words sharpens it and elicits great answers. Doing the same verbally, trying to articulate your confusion on the fly, anxious that the guru must get it, is a total mess. So as you can see, the only time-efficient way to have heartfelt intellectual and emotional outpourings on SMS, is to use predictive text or T9, as the geeks would call it.

And the trouble with T9 is that you end up sending messages you didn't mean to, and wish you hadn't, and then you send another five explaining and apologizing. I sent a message to a friend saying "met your brother. Very charming. Has invited me to Bangalore to neck". I realised the boo boo when I received a puzzled reply "what means neck?" N-e-c-k and m-e-a-l have the same key configuration and I didn't do what my mother forever told me to do - read through your answer paper before submitting it. I sent a message to a young executive who was co-coordinating my project from the client's side, asking for his fax number and got a cheeky reply "do you want my night number also"? I thought, silly fellow doesn't he know I am old enough to be his mother and can set him right in 10 seconds; and then I checked the message that I had sent. It asked for his day number because f-a-x and d-a-y have the same keys.

More trouble happened when I sent an anxious client a message prior to a presentation to his boss, saying "don't worry, will be diplomatic and manage for boss's dim issues", D-I-m and e-g-o are the same key strokes. If this isn't proof that T9 is a real person capable of wry philosophy, consider these J-o-y and l-o-w are the same, s-e-v-e-r-e and r-e-v-e-r-e are the same h-o-m-e and g-o-o-d are the same, and i-n-f (short for Infosys) and g-o-d are the same!

The best analysis of what has been lately occupying my mind - and my SMSes - comes from T9, which learns and adapts based on what you do. So h-e-r of late has been coming as g-d-p, hence have complained less about daughter and maid than I have discussed the economy. And g-a-m-e has been coming up instead of h-a-n-d - so I have been environment managing more than I have been consulting: "what do you think is his game" versus on the one hand, but then on the other hand".