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Monday, January 17, 2005

Pinger or Pingee?

Recently, while admiring the home office of a fellow journaler which he shares with his wife, I tried explaining that it was sometimes difficult for me to do my late-evening online reading with my wife sitting nearby.

He looked at me with a puzzled expression so I rushed on to explain. You see, I have always been a very slow reader.  Mild dyslexia and a very short attention span sometimes make it hard for me to comprehend long sentences, much less a complex paragraphs.  Unfortunately, Zahava and I often do our blog reading at the same time. This means that I have to contend with a nearly constant stream of, “oh… can I read you something?”, or “Did you read so-and-so yet?”, or any one of a hundred similar well-intentioned interruptions.

What Zahava doesn’t internalize is that each time she speaks to me while I’m reading something, my little mental choo-choo runs off the tracks, and I have to start at the beginning of the sentence (or sometimes paragraph).

Not fun at all.

While I was telling Ben about this small (in the grand scheme of things) inconvenience, it occurred to me that this 'problem' isn't confined to our home office. I can be anywhere in the house and Zahava will yell up (or down) to tell me something, or share a passing thought. Even when I’m at work, several times a day I’ll get a cheerful call or an SMS message ‘just checking in’.

As I explained to Mr. Chorin, I don’t usually mind these little bits of non-essential contact (unless I’ve already read the same sentence 15 or 20 times without comprehending it), but I don’t fully understand them either. That’s when he turned to me and put it all in perfect focus.

He said, “Oh, she’s pinging you.”

And just like that I understood.

As a former Navy sonar technician, I’m intimately familiar with the term ‘pinging’. It is the slang word for sending active sonar into the water in order to locate an underwater object (such as a sub) based on the returning echo.

In the online world the word ‘ping’ refers to a utility that checks to see if a particular IP address is accessible. It does this by sending a small packet of information, and waits for a reply.

Blogger/journalers automatically ‘ping’ those who have blogrolled them each time they update their sites.

No matter what the frame of reference… it all comes down to the same thing:

Pinging = “I’m here… are you still there?”

This is essentially what has been going on in my marriage. But until I spoke with Ben I hadn’t been able to put a term to it.

Zahava and I ‘ping’ one another at fairly predictable intervals… but the intervals at which Zahava 'pings' me are much shorter than the intervals at which I ‘ping’ her. For instance I can go several hours before I feel the urge to ‘reach out’ and make contact with her. If the demands on my attention are particularly heavy, most of a day can pass before I feel that longing for connection.

But Zahava seems to be wired a little bit differently. Even with a gazillion things going on with work and kids and teaching and reading and, well, ‘stuff’… she still has a nearly constant need to ‘ping’ me.

“I’m here… are you still there?”

And it doesn’t matter if I’m right next to her, in the next room or on another continent… the 'ping interval' stays basically the same.

Other than the whole ‘pinging David while he’s reading’ thing (which will never be OK), I really enjoy being the ‘pingee’ and my mood is usually much improved after a quick call or text message. But I can’t help thinking that maybe there’s supposed to be some sort of ‘ping parity’… you know, equal transmission/interval time.

I don’t know… I’ll have to ponder that one for a while.

In the mean time, I'd be interested to know if 'pinging' is as widespread as I suspect... and if so, do you find yourself more often the 'pinger' or the 'pingee'.
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Posted by David Bogner on January 17, 2005 | Permalink

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Hmmm... Interesting. I would not be surprised if there was a general sex asymmetry to 'ping' frequency. I would guess that wives would usually be the more frequent pingers. Obviously, this is just a generalization and there will be many exceptions, but if women crave intimacy more then men (and I think they do) then you would expect them to want to frequently reconnect with their husband. It's not that the husband doesn't want to reconnect, but he's much more outside-world-directed and is concentrating on killing a buffalo or finishing some software or closing a deal or whatever.

Which reminds me, I'm supposed to be signing a bunch of chart notes from last week, and when my wife sees my post she's going to ping me with a frying pan. Gotta go...

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Jan 17, 2005 7:06:31 AM

Doctor Bean... There might be a hint of truth in the 'intimacy' theory of yours, but I won't touch the whole hunter/gather debate with a 10 foot pole. My wife is much more type 'A'/buttoned-up business type than I am, and is probably better equipped for 'closing a deal' than I could ever hope to be... so I want to make it clear right here and now that my reason for writing this post has little to do with gender stereotypes! :-)

Posted by: David | Jan 17, 2005 7:27:51 AM

Of course. My wife could kill a buffalo better than I could, too. She has a PhD, for crying out loud. I'm not a neadrethal sexist. (I know you weren't accusing me. It's just something I like declaring periodically.) I'm just saying, that no matter who's better at killing the buffalo, when women are doing it, they're much more likely to be thinking about their spouses, then when men are. Is that so wrong?

"Gender stereotypes"? Yikes. I wasn't talking about them. I was just talking about differences between women and men!

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Jan 17, 2005 8:00:09 AM

My husband says that I should say that I agree with him.

Posted by: Ball-and-chain | Jan 17, 2005 8:19:53 AM

It's a Mars and Venus thing, Dave. Most (notice I did not say all!) women NEED to be 'pinged' more, but find themselves having to do the 'pinging' to stay connected. I love the metaphors! :)

Posted by: sarahb | Jan 17, 2005 2:52:17 PM

I could write reams on this...
I think I can offer an interesting perspective.
In short - we ping.
Some days are heavy pinging, some rather light.
I believe our pinging needs are rather similar. Altho - we probably ping less than most other couples, and we certainly ping less that most other lesbian couples, some of whom may as well just keep an open port... for the constant chatter.

Posted by: lisa | Jan 17, 2005 5:58:00 PM

I think this is definitely a common gender difference. Men need that constant pinging from us, otherwise they might forget to ping us altogether and wander off into their sheds for weeks on end! Well, that's what we think, anyway...

Posted by: Alice | Jan 17, 2005 6:02:13 PM

Doctor Bean & Dr. Ball and Chain... oh to be a fly on the wall at your place...

Sarahb... I loved it too. When I heard it I had one of those 'Ah HA!' moments.

Lisa... So that would make you both the strong silent type? ;-) I know different!

Alice... I don't NEED the pinging from my wife, but I do enjoy it most of the time. I can say that it seems like most of our arguments seem to be proceeded by a sudden change in the usual 'ping interval' Meaning either I'm suddenly not pinging her enough or she is pinging me too much. There is a thesis here somewhere...

Posted by: David | Jan 17, 2005 6:46:50 PM

Ah yes. And then, there is this men-and-their-caves thing, too. We women are told not to ping you men while you're caving. And just to say it, it's really a crappy feeling. But shopping usually helps ;)

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Jan 17, 2005 9:31:01 PM

Oh, so that explains why if I sit on the couch, she yells "Take out the garbage."

Or if I sit down in front of the computer, I hear "Where's the laundry?"

Ahh...love....

Posted by: psychotoddler | Jan 17, 2005 9:50:41 PM

I love my cave, my fortress of solitude. It is just so relaxing.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 17, 2005 10:11:08 PM

I love your word "Pinging". Never thought about using it in this respect. "Pinging" is one of the most important things if you are in a long distance relationship. It saves your day and your week. "I am here ... are you still there?".

But I think I stopped pinging as soon as 'my Ping' was always around.

Posted by: sandra | Jan 18, 2005 3:19:41 PM

Well, that gender stuff is obviously generalised, but I do think this is a very common difference. Where there's a difference in ping-rates, I wonder if a few days of extra pinging from the less frequent pinger might cause a shift in the balance... either by causing the big-pinger to slow down or by getting the lesser-pinger more interested in frequent pinging, or both. (There's probably some law of thermodynamics that follows this, but I don't know what).

When I ping my other half at work, it's over the computer, and I actually type in the word "ping", funnily enough :-)

Posted by: Alice | Jan 18, 2005 6:15:15 PM

I've known my husband for almost 30 years and we've been married for almost 25. He, generally speaking, pings me more than I do him, but not all the time. I chalk it up to the fact that he is more of an extrovert who recharges by socializing, and I am more of an introvert who recharges via solitude. Whenever he stops pinging, I begin to ping the heck out of him until I find out what's on his mind. It's only when there's something on his mind that he stops. Usually whatever is bothering him is work-related.

Posted by: Gail | Jan 18, 2005 7:46:49 PM

mademoiselle a. ... I was going to yell at you for making generalizations about men, but then you brought up retail therapy... I guess I'll shut up now. :-)

Psychotoddler... Hey, long time! Thanks for stopping by my humble little journal. I happen to agree with your statements but that really isn't what I was driving at with this entry... I was simply talking about general 'pinging'. not nagging.

Jack... doesn't it get cold up there at the north pole?

Sandra... I wish I could take credit for the word. As I said, it is a widely used expression and my friend Ben Chorin reminded me of this particular usage.

Alice... I just got back from a two day business trip and my wife almost stopped pinging me at all while I was gone. I think Zahava was protesting this post.

Gail... At least that shows that you are aware of each other's ping interval and can recognize when something is out of sorts. That's a good thing, no?

Posted by: David | Jan 18, 2005 9:33:27 PM

I am the pinger in the house. He's the pinger when on the road.

Posted by: Alice | Jan 18, 2005 11:42:33 PM

Jack... doesn't it get cold up there at the north pole?

I just wrap the cape around my chest and put on the special tights.

Posted by: Jack | Jan 18, 2005 11:46:03 PM

Oh, I'm the other Alice BTW. I yell, "Do you love me?!" in Swedish into his loft office while I'm down below. He usually yells, "YES". To a Swede the whole thing would sound quite weird because they don't say "I love you" but a few times in their whole lives, like when your wife has just given birth or someone's about to die. Oh, and they don't really yell either.

Posted by: Alice | Jan 18, 2005 11:47:59 PM

Ha! I laughed out loud when you described the little choo choo running off the tracks. That is *exactly* how I feel every night when I'm busily goofing around online and my girlfriend chats away about various subjects. She doesn't realize how hard it is for this man's brain to multi-thread. Women are better at it, methinks.

Posted by: Jim | Jan 18, 2005 11:50:09 PM

"At least that shows that you are aware of each other's ping interval and can recognize when something is out of sorts. That's a good thing, no?"

Whatever it is, it seems to work. We rarely argue and we enjoy one another's company. I feel very lucky.

Posted by: Gail | Jan 19, 2005 1:56:48 PM

We are equal Pingers ... but if he is on the road .... then he is the King of Ping... which I actually love.

Posted by: honi | Jan 19, 2005 5:08:51 PM

I'm much more of a pinger than my girl is when we're together. I think she's more of one when she's away. I'll have to check with her though :-) But I'm also the one who pretty much provides a running commentary on everything, too.

Posted by: Beth | Jan 19, 2005 6:38:36 PM

Hi David, just checking in briefly...

I asked Chris (my husband) what he thinks and we agreed that we ping both more from home (when the other one is at work) than we do from work. But that we probably ping about evenly. We're both introverts, though I'm probably more extroverted than he is.

Posted by: Kay McCulloch | Jan 24, 2005 11:27:17 AM

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