“Return to Sender,” a 1962 hit song for Elvis Presley, might as well be my theme song these days. Not only am I sitting around sheltering in place and waiting to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, I’m also waiting for returns/replies to messages I sent out, some several weeks ago.
Don’t you hate when people lack the courtesy to reply to messages?
Return to Sender
I mean, really, people, reply to sender, please!
In my long-ago youth, I had some professional power. First, I was a journalist. People usually wanted their name in print or their face on air. Even people who didn’t want to be quoted rushed to provide “off-the-record” information.
Next, I worked in government, in the executive branch, and had “political” power. People were eager to schmooze and returned my messages in a flash.
Then, I worked for a large financial institution. I had “money.” People not only called me back, they asked me to golf at their country clubs!
After that, my power ended.
Bye-Bye Power, Bye-Bye Replies
I worked for nonprofit organizations and sat on the asking side of the equation, seeking money or supplies for vulnerable populations, including refugees, immigrants and individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. It was tough to get return phone calls.
For my part, even in my busiest years, I always returned messages promptly. It was common courtesy. You know, “do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.”
Growing up, my parents repeatedly exhorted me to be polite, respect my elders and send thank-you notes. Also, “you catch more with honey than vinegar.”
Now as a middle-ager, the underlying ideal of good manners resonates even more deeply. Wouldn’t society be so much better if we all practiced respectful behavior toward one another each day?
Yet, even though reaching out and touching someone is easier than ever, people are ruder than ever. Contact is 24/7. Overwhelming. And more unsatisfying than ever.
Bosses, co-workers, companies and spammers reach us at all hours. Similarly, unnecessary “reply all” messages and group texts flood our in-boxes and “smart” phones constantly.
And we, despite our vows to go on a digital diet, compulsively read all these messages.
So Many Messages!
Still, maddeningly, sometimes, individuals we need to reach are unreachable. Case in point: a certain somewhat prominent man I know. On more than one galling occasion through the years, I’ve had cause to contact him. I have never gotten a reply. It’s been a problem, causing me to devise complicated and tedious workarounds to get information I’ve needed. It’s been frustrating and insulting.
What makes this even more frustrating is that we belong to a professional association that prides itself on saying members will always return each other’s messages.
In my youth, I would have worried that it was me. “He” doesn’t like me. I’ve done something wrong. “He” thinks I’m stupid and not worth his time. Maybe I’ve offended him. Baloney! I assure you. I’ve done nothing to offend. Youthful insecurities behind me, I now understand the man is simply rude.
Hello Mr. Lout
Just this month I unfortunately needed to reach said lout for a story I’m working on. There was no workaround. Only he could provide the information I need. What to do? I waited two weeks. I followed up with the second “Hey, jerk, did you get my message” message — more politely worded, of course. No reply.
Now, officially in a bind. I could ask a third-party associate to intervene, but I’m tempted to try a different approach: “It’s Day 27. How ’ya doing? I’m still waiting.” “Day 28. Still waiting.” And so on.
I know. I know. He’s got a spam folder. My mail is going there.
Still, like Scarlett O’Hara, I believe that “tomorrow is another day.” I remain semi-hopeful Mr. Lout will reply and I’ll be able to finish my story. Maybe even meet my deadline.
As I sit and stew and plot petty revenges I’ll never execute, I continue practicing the Golden Rule, as frustratingly hard as it is to do.
All Shook Up
Meanwhile, I cannot stop singing that damn Elvis Presley song “Return to Sender.” However, now I’m also warbling it in rotation (You’re) “Always on my Mind,” “Don’t Be Cruel” and, of course,” I’m All Shook Up.”