Lost in Translation


It’s nothing but words. Words of description, feelings and stories. They roll out of our mouths or with pen and paper, and in some crazy, weird way they come together to say what we want to say. Right or wrong, intentional or with regret, they come out and all of a sudden the bell has rung. We can apologized, repeat and explain but just as the “ayes” have it, the words have spoken.

This morning’s ride to work had me thinking about how the written and spoken word has changed. We no longer write long letters on paper placed in an envelope or stand in the kitchen talking on a phone with a 3 foot cord. Communication is instant these days and can often be misunderstood. As fast as our thoughts will allow our thumbs to type, a message is sent and then read to see if we actually sent what we meant to say. I’m not knocking this type of communication, I’m just trying to understand how we got here.

Before the instant message, we sat down to put our thoughts on paper. Each word and sentence thought out carefully and a lot of concentration was given to show the recipient that we had decent hand writing. When we were through with the letter we actually penned our name at the bottom with some sort of closing wishing them well or expressing our feelings. Done. Fold it up, put it in the envelope and lick the seal. Now in a couple of days they will know exactly how I feel. Today, they know exactly how we feel – RIGHT NOW. If you needed to talk to someone immediately, you picked up the phone, dialed their number (after looking it up in the phone book) only to be greeted with a “hello?” How archaic.

It’s amazing how I can’t remember ever throwing away a letter. It’s almost as if it was something to be cherished and kept to read again and again. I think we’ve lost something in translation – but it’s not in the words we say or write. It’s in the amount of thought and effort we put into it. It’s hard to show how good my penmanship is in a text message. Who am I kidding – I have no penmanship. The keyboard and mouse have taken over and I can’t even find a pen. The phone calls are more convenient now and I don’t have to stand in the kitchen to talk, but now they come more frequently and the topics are less in-depth. It used to be when the phone rang we looked at each other to see who would get up to answer it. Now, we look to see who’s phone is ringing. We usually don’t pick up with a hello and hang up with a goodbye, and I’m a little sad about that.

So back to my ride in this morning. When I finally pulled into the parking lot at work and shut off my bike, my phone rang. It was my dad calling to see if I had called him. You see, he doesn’t have caller ID on his phone so when he sees a missed call he calls everyone to find out who it was. Although he has an answering machine at home, he doesn’t have voicemail on his cell phone. We had a short visit, I told him I loved him and he said the same and we hung up. I thought about how I answered the phone and whether or not the traditional hello and goodbye was used. They were not. But I heard “I love you” before I hung up and that’s just as good in my book. That’s one thing not lost in translation.


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