By Shelly Reuben
And so, Clarissa sent Poppy an email inviting her former college roommate to dinner at Le Café on, let’s say, Main Street, in Anywhere, U.S.A. Clarissa asked Poppy to bring along her husband Phil, so that they could both meet her new boyfriend at the same time.
This was to be an Important Event for Clarissa, because Lucas had just proposed. She also wanted to show off her huge diamond solitaire one-carat engagement ring.
Poppy, happily married to Phil for over two years, was delighted for her old friend, and felt that their first dinner together as couples foretold many fun-filled occasions to come. Including shared vacations, backyard barbecues, birthdays, and (Poppy was a big one for projection) a double wedding when her twin girls married Clarissa’s twin sons.
This, all irrespective of Poppy and Phil being childless and Clarissa never once in her life having considered the prospect of motherhood.
Poppy had an active imagination.
That attribute notwithstanding, after seeing the word “URGENT”— all caps — on the subject line of Clarissa’s email, Poppy sensed that her old friend really truly wanted to get together for dinner.
For her own part, Poppy greatly anticipated ogling her old roommate’s new beaux.
And so, Clarissa and her fiancé planned to meet with Poppy and her husband. At this stage of the proceedings, they had to coordinate … one, two, three, four, five, six … exactly seven variables: Four people; one restaurant; a day when Le Café was open; and a time when both couples were free.
Which amounted to about six billion less variables than NASA would have to coordinate in order to send a single rocket ship to the moon.
With every conceivable means of communication at their fingertips — email, instant messaging, twitter, Facebook, and God knows what else — you’d think that it would be easy.
It was not.
Below is a significantly condensed account of the communications that ensued once Poppy responded to that first email from Clarissa.
Subject: Dinner Invitation
To: Clarissa@emailaddess.com" Clarissa@emailaddess.com
Bravo Old Buddy! I am wildly happy for you, and absolutely certain that Lucas will live up to his “advance praise reviews.” Ha! Phil and I are dying to meet him, and we would love to join you guys for dinner at Le Café (my all-time favorite restaurant!) on … what date did you have in mind?
Oh, goody. So glad you can make it. I was thinking sometime the weekend of May 21. Would that work for you?
Subject: Forward: Dinner with my ex-roommate
Hi, Honey. What do you say? Are either Saturday or Sunday of that weekend good for you?
Nope. I have to be in Albuquerque for the forensic conference I told you about. How about the weekend of the May 28?
Hi, again, old Buddy. Phil can’t make it on May 21 or 22. But we’ll both be around the following weekend. Would that be convenient for you and Lucas?
The old friends I told you about, can’t make on the weekend of the 21st. They suggested the weekend of the 28th, but that’s when we’re meeting with the wedding planner and the people about the boat. I was thinking maybe sometime around June 4, but if…
And so on. Such emails flew back and forth for five days to rapidly diminishing warmth and greatly increased frustration, until both senders and receivers began to wonder: Who are these people, and why am I bothering about them?
Soon enough, everybody lost interest and stopped making the effort.
But, what if it didn’t have to be that way?
What if — miracle of miracles — some vastly intelligent individual invented a simple device one could pick up, punch in a few numbers, hold to one’s ear, and be instantly connected with another human being?
What if someone invented a …a … what shall we call it? A telephone!
Here is an audio transcript of the resulting conversation:
Clarissa: Hi, Poppy. Guess what? I’m getting married, and I’m dying for you and Phil to meet Lucas. You’ll adore him! We want to take you guys to dinner at Le Café. Do you have a calendar nearby?
Poppy: Yep. It’s on my lap.
Clarissa: Okay. Lucas and I are free every weekend in May except for the 28h. How about you?
Poppy: I think we are, too. I’ll call Phil now and get right back to you.
Poppy phones Phil. He reminds her that he will be in Albuquerque the weekend of May 21, and they remove it from the equation. Poppy calls Clarissa back, and they quickly pick a date.
Other than gleeful peals of congratulatory merriment, the whole thing takes less than five minutes.
Why? Because the spoken word provides an opportunity to respond quickly and efficiently. Even better, it not only communicates information, it also contributes nuances of intent, burbles of excitement, effusions of joy, and much-needed warmth.
So…the moral to our story is this: Turn off the damn computer. Consult a calendar. PICK UP THE PHONE. Talk to your friend.
Talk. Flapping lips. Remember? Friend. Hint. Hint. The two of you actually like each other.
Keep it simple.
Make it easy.
Zip. Zap. Get it done.
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2016
Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com.