02/12/2013 07:37 am ET Updated Apr 14, 2013

Text Etiquette

We were going away for the weekend, so I hired a dog sitter, a young woman named Karen. I gave her the house key a few days in advance and we reviewed the dog's routine. "If you need me, just call my cell," she said.

After we'd arrived at our destination, my husband urged me to call Karen. "Just make sure everything is okay," he said. I didn't want to call. I didn't want to seem like an overbearing mother. Instead, I did what any modern woman would do. I texted.

I typed in her cell phone number and sent the following message: "Hi, it's Lisa. Hope all is well. I miss my guy." I pushed send.

Moments later I heard the Sherwood Forest hunting horn signaling an incoming text. I read.

"This is Cindi. You texted my husband's phone. Who the hell is Lisa?"

I dropped the phone. "Oh my god," I said, shaking my hands as if they'd been tased. "I sent the text to the wrong number."

My husband picked up the phone from the floor between my feet and read the curt exchange. His eyebrows rose and he took a step back, putting distance between us. "That's bad." He held out the phone but I clasped my hands together, refusing to take it back. He placed it on a chair and tiptoed away. With his hands up in surrender, he said: "That's really bad."

We stared at the phone. "What is going to happen?" I whispered. What was I expecting? That Cindi and her husband were going to hunt us down and demand a reasonable explanation?

"Seems to me," my husband said, "Cindi's husband has some 'splainin' to do." His Ricky Ricardo accent did nothing to calm my panic.

"What do you think I should do?" I asked. "If I write back that it was a wrong number, she will be instantly suspicious."

"Too late," he shrugged. "She's already suspicious." I did the only thing I knew how to do. I reached over and very surreptitiously turned the phone off.

We met friends for dinner that night. "What should I do?" I'd explained my texting mishap and asked their advice.

Send an apology. Don't send an apology.

Call to explain. Don't call to explain.

No one had any idea what the proper procedure was.

"I'm sure this happens all the time," one friend said. "There must be an app for that," one woman joked, pulling out her phone. "I'll Google it."

I arched away. "I've had enough phone excitement for one day. Anyway, I'm not much of a texter."

"Obviously," my husband laughed, but he quickly, wisely, cut himself off. His cell phone skills were hardly limber; neither of us felt the need to embellish that point.

"I never text," one man said. "My fingers are too big for the touch screen."

"Mine too," his wife agreed. "I wish they hadn't changed to the touch screen. I was just getting good at the buttons."

The Google search was hardly helpful. "It says not to text while having dinner with friends," she read aloud, seemingly unaware of an obvious incongruity. "And you shouldn't text while intoxicated." She sucked an olive off the skewer and washed it down with a gulp of martini.

"You should really use T9," the man across from me said. "It makes texting so much faster."

I shook my head. "I'm waiting for that technology to become obsolete so I don't have to figure it out," I said. "Shouldn't be too long."

I never did decide what to do about Cindi. I asked my grown children, but they did not seem to grasp my interest in propriety. "Basically you're screwed," one son said.

The other son simply studied my face as if to determine what species I was from. No help there.

Somewhere, some poor guy is looking up at the long, narrow end of a shotgun, and there is nothing I can do to help him.

I'm sorry, whoever you are.