Thursday, February 9, 2012


By The Missionary Sister

“Beam me up, Scotty!”

As crew members frantically push buttons and twist dials and type on space-age keyboards, lights flash and alarms bleep and Spock and Kirk go poof.

Sounds like Skype to me.

After all, what other technology allows you to interact with someone on the other side of the world, but while you’re frantically clicking buttons and twisting microphones and typing on your not-so-space-age keyboard, suddenly it all cuts out and your person goes poof.

Beam up? More like beam out. Good-bye, person. It was nice knowing you.

Sometimes, the good old-fashioned letter sounds wonderfully stable. After all, letters don’t just flit in and out of existence whenever they feel like it or go on vacations for weeks on end (which has greatly been the culprit of Catherine’s absence from the blog lately, as her Internet decided to spend some time visiting his summer home in Hawaii).

I mean, really, have you ever tried to Skype with someone on the other side of the world? Sometimes you just have to accept that half the communication will revolve around the fact that communicating isn’t.

So here you are, trying to Skype. You’ve successfully kidnapped the Internet, threatened him with a long and painful death, bound and gagged him, and forced him to stay there for enough time for you to have a decent conversation. But he is mad and determined to have his revenge through The Delay.

For example, let’s say Catherine answers my Skype call.

“Hi!” I say enthusiastically.

“Hi!” she responds.

Awesome, so far, so good. But this is where you’re going to get cocky. Even though you’ve had a fabulous, extensive, productive, wonderful conversation thus far, it’s completely a fake. Just watch.

“So how are—I’m sorry that—you doing—I haven’t called.”


The Delay has reared its ugly head—bringing with it the inevitable Speaking Over Each Other. Here you have a predicament. You start pondering the situation. You could speak but it’s been several seconds and so it’s possible that she’s already speaking and if you do now you’ll just cut her off and start the whole cycle over but she’s a nice sort of person so is probably waiting for you to say your piece and what if since she hasn’t heard from you she thinks you’re mad at her because you haven’t responded and besides she is older after all and has sort of seniority so you could just keep on waiting but the suspense is killing you and you might as well live life on the edge and so you blurt out—

“What did—what—you say—did you say?


Apparently she had the same thought process.

But no matter, Catherine and I are smart and manage to work around The Delay, but our troubles aren’t over. Next is The Echo. Although you may think it’s just that extra voice you regularly hear in your head, in reality, it’s not. (Sorry to burst your bubble.) No one knows why The Echo occurs. Rumor has it that bored teenagers hack Skype calls and repeat everything you say just to annoy you.

But the real problem with The Echo is that it’s just so insanely distracting. It’s like walking in a room full of mirrors. You naturally stare at yourself. It's weird. It’s not like you don’t know what you look like. But you nevertheless gawk at yourself like you were born on the moon, and it’s the same with The Echo. All you can focus on is yourself and what you said and what you are saying and pretty soon you can’t even focus on what you’re doing saying doing and you and you don’t even start to think about what you’re understanding and sense is is sort of really really disappearing gone away gone disappeared.

So then you call her and hang up and she calls you and hangs up and you both call at the same time and hang up and try to lose those annoying teenagers on the other end and finally you outsmart them and now you’re safe from The Echo.

There are more problems, of course. There is the video quality, which usually resembles some sort of low-budget stop-action animation film which freezes and starts and freezes and starts and inevitably stalls out when you’re in some sort of eminently attractive position of mouth open and hands flailing and eyes half shut. A frightening sight, to be sure.

No wonder the locals worried about Catherine’s family. They all looked like zombies.

Of course, some computers don’t have microphones at all. At one family gathering where this was the case, I was elected to type all of our communication to Catherine through the chat feature while she talked to us via the Skype call. (I made a mental note to forgive the mean lady on the Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing CD for all of the times she tried to limit my spelling creativity with little nasty red lines she put under all my typos and to thank all the little aliens for letting me blow up their ships as I rescued Planet Earth from their attacks in the speed-typing games.)

Really, it’s amazing we get to communicate with Catherine at all, after all that. But we’ve managed. After all, if good old Scotty can beam people up as they hurtle headlong in a freefall from thousands of feet in the air with bombs blowing up all around them, I guess we can handle Skype. And you know, I think I that know it will will….