I read a Raymond Carver story when I was in college. It’s about a husband and wife who are woken abruptly in the middle of the night to a ringing phone. The distraught female caller has the wrong number. Unable to fall asleep after the call – tucked somewhere between too early and too late – the husband and wife stay up talking, occasionally answering the same wrong number. They discuss life together, dying, and finally end up talking about their wishes should they find themselves incapacitated and on their deathbeds. The husband finally says, “Don’t pull my plug on me. I want to stick it out.” The wife says she wants hers pulled.
The story ends around dawn with the husband answering the phone one last time. He wants to ask the woman on the other end, “Who are you trying to reach? Why do you keep calling?” He has an overwhelming desire to get through to her, to let her know that she has reached the wrong house, that she must correct this mistake if she wants to contact the correct person. This becomes his cause, suddenly, his absolute wish, something he must do.
Just when he’s about to explain this to her, his wife reaches over and pulls the phone cord from the wall.
About a month ago I received an email from a woman asking me if I would take part in an online surprise birthday party for her boyfriend. The email was one of those group type emails. Who knows how many other people were on the list. I didn’t recognize her name. All she said was that she was the girlfriend so-and-so writes about on his blog and since we were on her list, we were regular readers of said blog. She asked us to see a registry and consider sending her boyfriend gifts. If we couldn’t send gifts, she suggested we make videos, cards, whatever the hell. But here’s the deal: I hadn’t ever heard of her OR her boyfriend or his blog before that day. I was more than a little annoyed.
Granted, I’m easily irked these days because I’m hormonally imbalanced. Something that may not have bothered me before can suddenly become the most irritating thing ever. I decided, against my better judgment, to write her back asking that she kindly remove me from the list. I said that I hadn’t ever heard of her, her boyfriend, or his Web site. I wanted to let her know for three reasons: I didn’t want her to think I was rude when I obviously didn’t buy him anything; if she reached me in error, I wanted her to know that whoever was meant to be the receiver of said email hadn’t received it; and lastly, I didn’t want to be the recipient of a bunch of spam, which is bascially what it is.
I didn’t hear anything for at least a week and figured she had removed me from the list. On the 12th I received an update stating her boyfriend’s address, his “Wish List”, and some gift suggestions. Needless to say, I was even more irritated. Normally this wouldn’t bother me. I tend to get a lot of email and I ignore a lot of it as well. It’s easy to delete them when I don’t feel I’m the intended reader. But for some reason I let it get to me this time. I started to write her back and then decided that I was being stupid. So I made a deal with myself: don’t write her back unless she writes you again.
On the 17th I got another email from his girlfriend. This time it was sent to remind its undisclosed recipients of the deadline; it included a thank you for all the kind feedback she had received, and a link to another blogger’s site that was putting together some alternative party stuff.
I wrote her back. I reminded her that I had written to her before stating that I hadn’t ever heard of her boyfriend or his blog and I certainly hadn’t ever read it before. I reiterated that she kindly remove me from the list of people in her address book, that I wasn’t trying to be rude, but I have enough to juggle with right now and I didn’t really want to continually receive birthday party updates from her about her boyfriend.
This is where one must ask the question, “Michele, why on earth do you care so much? Why not delete the damn thing and carry on with your life?”
Answer: I HAVE NO CLUE. If I could control these impulses, I would. But it seems that lately, given this whole pregnancy thing, my everyday goal in life has become the need to conquer all that I consider unfair. Like, I’m the Superhero of Conquering Unfairness. For example, one day I was walking to the subway and a guy in a white van drove up to the stop sign really fast. Had I tripped, he would have hit me. I was very angry. After all, I had the right away. So I stopped and shook my head at him, pointing my finger. He rolled down the window and said, “What is your problem?”
I said, “Why can’t you be a good person?”
He stared at me, totally confused as to how to reply.
“Seriously, is it so hard to be a nice person? I don’t understand why you can’t just be a nice, kind person.”
He was speechless, literally. He did not say a word back to me. But I continued to talk anyway.
“You could have hit me. And then your day would have been ruined. All because you’re in a hurry. You’re not a very nice person. You should be a nicer person.”
Eventually, I walked away and he drove on. (One of these days I am going to get shot.)
So, with this gal, I really wanted her to understand that I wasn’t going to take part in her boyfriend’s birthday and have no intentions of ever reading his blog. I wanted her to understand that it’s not OK to blindly email everyone you cand find and that I have enough trouble sending birthday gifts to my friends and family let alone some stranger I haven’t even met online.
She wrote me back right away saying that there is no such mihow address in her address book. Five minutes later, I got another email stating, “You have been removed from the list. Sorry to have bothered you.” Finally, I had my Raymond Carver moment, the moment the husband in the bed with his wife never got to have with the stranger on the other end of his phone.
Or so I thought.
Two days ago I received another reminder email. It included updated addresses, told me where to send stuff, told me the deadline has been extended. But time was running out! I needed to get my presents in the mail RIGHT AWAY.
I walked into the bedroom to tell Tobyjoe who immediately suggested that I write about it on my Web site and include links to the birthday boy’s site, as well as his name, his girlfriend’s name, and their personal emails. (He’s more upfront about such matters. Me? I’m passive aggressive.)
“You know what I should do? I should go to his Web site and write the following. ‘Hi, my name is Michele. Your girlfriend keeps writing me emails suggesting I buy you birthday gifts for your upcoming online surprise birthday party. Did you know you were having a surprise birthday party?’”
We both got a chuckle over this idea and Tobyjoe really wanted me to do it. But while I may be hormonally challenged these days, I am not yet cruel. Really. In fact, I pride myself of having a blog that’s 6 years old and avoiding all the typical, girl-on-girl, Internet fighting that goes on, which is probably the reason why I don’t see much traffic.
I let it slide. Again. I haven’t written her back. I will wait this one out because, clearly, I am meant to buy this dude something for his birthday, this dude I haven’t ever met, this dude who I couldn’t care any less about. But perhaps after we get done paying off Schmitty’s vet bill (I was debt free for one week), I’ll send the two of them a gift certificate to Toys in Babeland, because if homeboy’s girlfriend is hitting up a bunch of virtual strangers in hopes of making his birthday more memorable, I’d be wiling to bet that there are a few problems in that relationship.
Or maybe this is just a really creative (and annoying) way of getting more traffic to her boyfriend’s Web site.