I love email. It is fast, easy, and non-obtrusive. I always use the spell-check and proper grammar, including punctuation and capitalization. I check my email multiple times daily, and I always respond when a response is requested or seems necessary. And in many correspondences, there is reciprocation. I send, so do I receive.
But every once in awhile, some times more than other times, I hit the send button and the thoughtfully crafted note flies out into the ether somewhere never to be acknowledged nor returned. I imagine that this happens for a number of reasons:
- I am impatient and unique in my obsession with checking my in-box, and if I just wait just a little while longer, a response is sure to come.
- I have inadvertently offended my recipient, rendering them wordless with rage, and we are no longer friends.
- My message was stupid and unimportant next to the countless other heroic feats that its reader must undertake on a daily basis, banishing it to the very back of their mind and the very bottom of their list.
- The message was important enough to print or move to a special folder, but in the process got deleted and with it went my email address, so that no further contact could be made ever again for all eternity.
- They were not serious when they said, “Keep in touch,” “Send me the information,” or “You are awesome,” and now they just wish I would shut up and go away.
- My recipient has fallen and can’t get up.
- Their computer has fallen and can’t get up.
Now, I prefer email over the telephone for a number of reasons, many of which I have already discussed during past entries on the subject of how I find phone calls to be the necessary evil not only of my work but also in this business of living daily life as an adult. What email offers a phone-phobe like me is the opportunity to form my words carefully and succinctly so that I don’t get caught up in a whirlpool of rambling. Email allows me to contact someone when I think of it, when it’s convenient for me, and it allows the other person to respond when it is convenient for them. I’m not pulling someone away from dinner or a meeting or a bath or a marathon or whatever it is that people do when I’m not around. I catch them when they’re sitting in front of a computer and making a little time for the reading of messages. I don’t like being an inconvenience to people, so therefore, I like email. I try not to overuse it, but I still worry that I do.
So, here I am with another etiquette dilemma: if someone doesn’t respond to an email to answer a question or query or to let me know when I should call them on the phone, should I feel bad if I send seventeen more messages or call during nap time? And how long do I wait for a reply before ringing or writing again? I know that my life is busy, and so I assume that others are busy, too. So do I wait three days? A week? Two? Or by the time two weeks go by, will they already have forgotten my first email completely? And how do I keep from forgetting what it was I wanted a response for, anyway, once the original gets pushed down to the bottom of my sent folder out of sight?
Another thing I like about email is the record of the correspondence. I can see plain as day exactly what the issue is, when things happened, what needs to be done, and if and when it was completed right there in black and white. As disorganized as this girl can often be, I do require a little bit of structure. Of course, I could always take notes during phone calls and transcribe them later for future reference, but that might be venturing a little too deeply into anal retentive territory than I’m comfortable going right now. So if it’s true that phone calls are just better sometimes (how to tell which times?), I suppose I’ll just have to do some dialing and see what happens.