In Part One of Alicia Krage’s four-part series about long-distance relationships during COVID, she told readers about how she and her friend Juan met. Today she describes how assistive technology played a role in growing their casual friendship into something bigger.
Three cheers for assistive technology! After coming home from my January visit with Juan in Houston, we used our smart phones to talk all the time — more than we’d been doing before. We both have iPhones and use VoiceOver (the speech synthesizer that comes with iPhones at no extra charge) to announce unread text messages we have. My usual routine is to swipe through my messages until I hear the voice announce Juan’s name, then type out a brief text message to him.
VoiceOver calls out each letter as I touch them, and when my finger finds the letter I’m looking for, I use “direct touch typing,” which essentially means all I have to do is tap on the screen where the letter is, just like a sighted person would text. In this option of typing, my phone says the word after I hit “space” so I can hear errors and fix them before sending.
There were good morning messages and goodnight phone calls. There were questions about my family: Juan regularly sent “How’s everyone doing?” messages before he even knew my parents or my sisters. He wanted to meet them!
So we came up with a plan. Juan would fly here in April so we could see each other again and he could meet my parents. It was important to him that he met them before we got together, since he was far away and he wanted my parents to be able to put a face to the name, to know just who I had visited for a week, to assure them his intentions with their daughter were good, true and genuine.
And then COVID happened.
Oddly enough, I took the cancelation pretty well. Maybe that isn’t the right wording. I mean, I wasn’t jumping for joy! After all, everything I was looking forward to was no longer happening.
Through phone calls and text messages, I was instantly reassured that this wasn’t a reflection on him or his character. This was out of our hands.
So, that week he was supposed to be here was substituted with lots of phone calls. We’d talk for two-and-a-half hours at a time and laugh about the number of times I called a Texas area code. “Can you imagine our phone bill back in the days when out-of-state calls would cost money?!”
That’s when the dynamic seemed to shift. It’s hard to explain a dynamic shift when communication is limited to just calls and texts. It just didn’t feel like I was talking to a friend. It felt like I was talking to my boyfriend. I knew my feelings were real and genuine. I knew his intentions were real and genuine. We talked through this whole long-distance thing and laid it out all on the table, everything we were afraid of or worried about. We talked through it like adults.
Stay tuned for Part Three to find out what resulted from all those long talks…
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