Many years back, when I first heard about the idea of video phones, I thought they were a bad idea. Get dressed up, comb my hair, maybe even clean my place just to make a phone call? Why would I want to do that?
And then I fell in love. With a man who lives in Oakland, California. 1,800 miles from here.
Now I can’t imagine living without Skype.
Love may be as old as the hills, but modern technology provides options our ancestors lacked.
We even met in a high-tech way: through email. He read something I’d written and wrote me a fan letter, I wrote back because his letter was interesting, and we began a correspondence. Of course, we could have done that the old fashioned way, through letters, but I’m not sure it would have happened. He would have had some trouble getting my mailing address and I was always pretty bad at writing letters.
We didn’t start a romance online, though. Neither of us are as foolish (or conniving or whatever) as that Notre Dame football player. We just had pleasant email conversations until we actually met in person at WisCon last year. Then we had some very fine in-person conversations and one thing led to another.
If we were in our 20s, likely one or the other of us would have packed up and moved to the other’s city by now. But we’re not young and we have commitments. He has a job and while I just quit my day job to concentrate on my own writing, I have an elderly father in a nursing home nearby. Moving is not in the cards for either of us at the moment.
So we have to make do. And modern technology makes that possible. Here are the main tools we use:
- Airplanes. They may not be all that new, but they’re an important part of the equation. We can get together in person regularly. There’s a nonstop daily between Oakland and Austin and there are some nice places in between where we can meet up for a long weekend.
- Text messages. He texts me every morning when he gets up and I text back.
- Skype. We skype most evenings. This sometimes requires complicated scheduling, due to the time zone difference and evening plans, but we manage to make it work.
- Telecommuting. He recently spent a couple of weeks with me without taking vacation by connecting up to work from my house.
These things have all contributed to the growth of our relationship. The daily text is fun. Being able to get together regularly because flights are relatively inexpensive and convenient makes it possible for us to spend quality time together. Telecommuting was particularly valuable because it allowed us to be together while living our regular lives.
But Skype keeps the whole thing together when we can’t get together in person for long periods of time. It’s amazing how much seeing the other person — not just a photo, but the person himself, moving around, feeding his cats, eating dinner — makes the connection between you stronger. The other night, just after he got back to Oakland from the time at my house, we ended up talking by phone because he was not going to get home until after I was in bed, and it wasn’t quite the same. I felt a little tongue-tied when I couldn’t see him.
(Though the phone conversation was also high tech, since he was calling me while his friend was driving him across Oakland.)
Last year when he spent a couple of weeks in Mongolia for work, we often skyped twice a day — once when he was getting up and I was going to bed and again when I was getting up and he was going to bed. Using US mobile phones abroad is pricey, but to skype all we needed was an Internet connection, which he also needed for work.
Long distance romances have been around for some time, but there’s no question that the digital revolution has made them easier. However, we still haven’t come up with a way for people to live in far apart and yet see each other in person on a daily basis.
Come on, you scientists and engineers. Let’s get busy on making transporters a reality.