I had the pleasure of carpooling a gaggle of girls home from the bowling
alley last weekend and all I can say is “ohmigod – like, it was really an
eye opener, you know?”
The event was a church youth group outing and my own seventh grade son was
the lone male in the car as I chauffered some of our neighbor kids home.
Driving with so many pubescent girls in one vehicle is a lot like driving
under the influence; you just shouldn’t do it.
As we left the bowling alley the group divided into four cars and the girls
took a few extra moments to hug each other with shouts of “I love you!” as
though Monday morning math class was a lifetime away. We piled into the car
and before the door was all the way closed the cell phones were in hand. I
decided to be quiet and simply listen to the chatter because, quite frankly,
there was no other choice.
“Ohmigod, I have to call Hannah.”
“You just said goodbye to her,” I said, confused.
“Hannah? Ohmigod, what are you guys doing in your car? Us, too. Just a
minute I have to put my seatbelt on, too. Oh, wait I’m being text messaged.
The other girls leaned in close to stare at the miniature screen that
apparently was unveiling words of wisdom at warp speed.
“Ohmigod, what should we text back? Wait – I still have Hannah on the other
line.” Click. “Hannah, I have to text message Kate, I’ll call you back.”
“Isn’t Kate in the same car with them?” I said, still confused.
“Should we send her the picture of us bowling? What do you think of this
one?” They all reviewed the selection of stills saved on the camera phone.
“Ohmigod, send that one. Wait. My phone’s ringing. Hello?”
“OK, I’m text messaging her now – “
“Hiii Daddyyyy, we’re just leaving. I know I’m your princess. Yes, I’ll call
you when we get there so I can say good night to you. I love you, too,
“Ohmigod that is so funny. That’s the way you have to talk to your dads when
they call. I’m all ‘yes, I’m your princess,’ and he’s all ‘call me later’
and we’re both like, ‘I love you.’”
At which point the girls all erupted in laughter that came to a sudden halt
when a Britney Spears ringtone pierced the air.
“Ohmigod, hi! Did you get the picture? I know, huh?”
“Tell her about calling the candy company.”
“Ohmigod, so we called the people who make Skittles because they say on the
package that the candy is rainbow colored and we were like, ‘where’s the
rainbow? I’m not seeing the rainbow here.’ And the candy makers were like,
“What?” I echoed, yes still confused. “You actually called the candy maker?”
“So what did he say when she broke up with him?”
“The candy makers broke up with someone?”
“Oh, wait – I’m getting another call, hold on.”
I assure you the thirty minute drive was nothing short of exhilarating for
me as I watched the teenage girls prevail over their technology and prattle
with the speed of light. When they finally exited the car amid proper thanks
and giggles (manners toward adults can apparently throw young girls into
fits of laughter), I took a deep breath.
It occurred to me that, teenage girls or not, our technology divides us as
much as it unites us. Six people can spend thirty minutes in a car together
yet say absolutely nothing to one another. We give only partial attention to
others while navigating our cell phones, i-pods and Blackberrys, and have
the nerve to call it the age of communication. Writer Thomas L. Friedman
calls it the age of interruption.
Still, I appreciate the ability to text message a note of encouragement;
share photos of people we love; say goodnight to a father. The duality of
our communication technology ensnares me.
This flashed through my mind as I watched the girls skip into the house, its
warm lamplight glow welcoming them and their cheerful chatter.
“Whoa,” a voice said from the darkened backseat of the minivan, startling
me. I’d almost forgotten my thirteen year-old son was with me.
“My sentiments exactly,” I said with a smile.
After a moment in the familiar quiet I finally asked, “Did you have fun
And with that proliferation of words mother and son drove into the night.
teaches the positive parenting course Redirecting Children's
Behavior, and writes the column “Are We There Yet?” which appears
weekly in the Glenwood (Colorado) Post Independent. She is a regular
contributor to Mountain Parent magazine and her work also appears in
the Denver Post. Charla has recently completed her first novel. She
lives with her husband, Tim, and three children near Aspen, Colorado.
Contact her at [email protected]