Body Language

I love Facebook, particularly because if allows me to keep up with my family and friends. I saw pictures of Tyler and Jacob the day each was born even though they live far away. I would have never known that Megan and her fiancé just bought a house or that Nicholas Kristof was writing a story from some secret place in Africa.  But I’ve never met three of the people I just mentioned in person.

I’ve seen pictures of them and I’m sure they are all nice people but without personal contact, it’s hard to tell.

Do you Skype? It’s talking on camera via the Internet, and by the way, when did Skpye it become a verb? I Skype with my grandchildren, which, due to time changes, isn’t so easy since one lives in Australia, one on the west coast and one in Philadelphia. Skpying is fun but after the first few minutes, my smile feels frozen on my lips. I’m at a loss as to what to say. It’s not like talking on the phone where I can doodle, look away or scratch an itch.  Surely, my grands feel the same way as they stare back at me. Also, unless I’m very lucky, I have to make an appointment to Skype with them. They are very busy people and I can’t count on catching them near a computer much less at home. Still, every once in awhile, I get to see one of the new babies in a wiggly blur.

Finally, It doesn’t help at all that my image appears in the lower right hand corner of my monitor. It’s like watching myself brush my teeth with all my wrinkles and gray hair showing. And who the heck thinks to put on makeup before answering the computer.  I’d rather Skype than not, but the truth is, it’s not all that great.

Recently I joined a business group that communicates entirely by email.  We have formed oblique Internet friendships yet I wouldn’t recognize these people if I ran into them on they street.  How strange it that?

I’m learning to “text.” I’ve found that I can secretly communicate with people and they with me. Other than my I Phone making a little ding, no one knows I’ve received a message. I can even set my cell phone on vibrate so my conversation is truly covert. Sometimes I use exclamation points and parentheses as a means of expressing myself. So far I’ve been able to avoided happy faces. Still, it’s not the same as talking to someone in person. Without inflections, how do you know if the person texting you is serious or joking? Here’s an example. Yesterday I got this from a friend:

“WHERE ARE YOU?”

I know all caps means yelling so I wondered if her caps got stuck or did she really mean  WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU? I thought, Oh my God. Did I miss a meeting?

Maybe she meant . . .Where ARE you? Was she worried about me . . . or . . .

Where are you? as in ‘just wondering?’

Some years ago, I sat opposite an interventional radiologist whom I hoped would buy several million dollars worth of highly technical x-ray equipment from me. He hailed from France, as did my company, which had only recently hired me as its first female sales rep. As an x-ray technologist, I had an excellent understanding of what my equipment could do but had never sold much and certainly not high-end sophisticated stuff. My fellow sales reps laughed when they heard I’d been assigned to this particular radiologist. They said he was too tough.

Maybe so, I thought, as he leaned back in his chair, an expression of impatience on his face. But when I enthusiastically showed him with my two thumbs and two index fingers how the dual C Arm image intensifiers worked in sync with each other to give him a multi-directional view of his patient’s heart, he bounced his chair forward and came to attention. Eyes narrowed, he fired technical questions at me. With all the confidence I could muster, I answered him, trying to remember all the things I’d learned. When he stood up and began to pace, I started to worry. Then, he came to a halt and blazed one final question.

“What size are the focal spots?”

When I told him, he stared at me in disbelief.

“Yep. That good,” I said. “Would you like to fly to France to see the equipment for yourself?”

He nodded and I knew I had him.

Body language will never go away. I just hope we don’t forget how to use it.

This morning, our redbud tree suddenly burst into bloom

3 Responses to Body Language

  • Cathy says:

    Great article, Betty. We have small nieces who live in California. I get to see them in person only once or twice a year. So Skyping with them keeps us in touch. You know how little kids are on the phone. They have no idea who they’re talking to. Skype lets them show me their new costume or picture they drew, etc. The technical part is strange, though. It freezes, echos, delays. Mainly I just sit and smile and let them talk. Then massage my cheeks afterward to release my perma-smile.

  • Jami says:

    Grandma,
    This post reminded me of a funny article I read by Joel Stein from Time (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1952314,00.html). He too thinks Skype isn’t THAT cool. I tend to agree. If the stars align and the picture quality is good, Skype is great. . . for about 5 minutes. More than that and I get anxious. Skype prevents me from catching up with friends and family while simultaneously doing important chores like folding laundry, sweeping the floor, or filing my nails!

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