All thumbs


POSTED: Tuesday, September 15, 2009

As far as spectator sports go, texting leaves a lot to be desired. It's a row of folks staring down at their cell phones, looking vaguely puzzled, as their thumbs dance over the buttons. Their thumbs don't even burst into flames. No thrill of victory and the agony of de-thumbs.

No. There's just the glory of coming in first, not by a nose, but by a thumb. Talk about thumbing your nose! Not to mention, as you're led into the winner's circle, as the crowds cheer, the thrill of being handed a 5-foot check to pose with for the inevitable photo op.

And a not inconsiderable check. Winners of the initial groups of Hawaii Central Credit Union's Text Messaging Contest at Kahala Mall on Saturday received $100 gift certificates, then there was a sudden-death playoff among the finalists for the grand prize: $1,000!

No wonder the crowd was going wild — er, watching with great interest. At a couple of points, the mall security guard even had to remind awestruck gawkers to keep moving, not to block traffic.

The credit union chose a texting contest because “;it's done by a younger crowd, the customers of tomorrow,”; said Travis Uchino, HCCU marketing manager. “;Financial institutions have to keep re-branding themselves, and we're looking toward the young.”;

Here's how it worked. A round of five or so were led onto the Kahala Mall stage. Each was given a T-Mobile phone, ensuring that the playing field — er, the playing keypad — was level. At the “;Go!”; they flipped over sheets of paper containing a banking advertising slogan that averaged 120 characters, the length of an average tweet. First to retype and send the message — and accuracy counted — was the round winner.

And all performed during a tape loop of the “;James Bond”; movie theme. Almost all competitors pulled out their own phones and sent out private texts when they finished.

A couple of the round finalists turned out to be semirelated. Sara Fack of Makiki, who usually texts on a Palm Treo, wound up competing against stepdaughter Kiani Lacanaria, who wields a Verizon enV2.

“;I'm a casual texter; she's the queen,”; shrugged Fack, who estimates she sends out about a hundred texts a month.

“;I do, like, a hundred a day, probably,”; Lacanaria said. “;Got to keep up with Facebook and boyfriends.”;

“;Boyfriends?”; Fack said, amused by the plural.

Justin Aquino of Honolulu was another round finalist and uses some sort of T-Mobile phone in daily use. He was fuzzy on the actual make but said it uses “;predictive text”; to anticipate his messaging.

“;It's not that difficult, and I don't really do that much texting,”; Aquino noted. “;Mostly I use it to plan things. Like where all my friends are going to party.”;

In the final round, Fack wound up in second place, and Lacanaria took the prize, not a bronze thumb, but the $1,000 check.

“;What are you going to do with the money?”; Uchino asked.

“;Shopping!”; bubbled Lacanaria, proving she's no good at sports cliches. Couldn't she have given 110 percent? Or gone to Disneyland?

Let's get some inside dope from the winner. Any suggestions?

“;Keep your thumbnails trimmed,”; Lacanaria said.