I always seem to end up as the poor, innocent person getting accosted in the grocery store about how great these bananas are or “Can you believe the price of these strawberries?” When, there I was, just minding my own business when someone – anyone, really – felt the need to chat to me. I often think: “Why me?” (Or I mentally wail it out in drawn out syllables…) and then it hits me and I want to slap myself for being so stupid. It’s because I am (shock, gasp, horror!): Polite. Friendly. Nice (but only on certain occasions).
Yes, I’m usually quite a friendly person and you know something else, it’s like they can tell. Wait, don’t tell me… it’s written across my forehead in large, skin-coloured letters, which are visible to everyone barring me, isn’t it? I knew it!
Sometimes though, I want to be… bad. Morally corrupt or really unfriendly and snap at random strangers when I’m having a famously bad month (whoops! I meant ‘day’…) but most times, I just… don’t. Most times, I’m that helpless person who idiotically tries to be kind or at least polite to everyone I meet.
Oh, and you know those people who are always the ones to end the chat and you now think they are a little deranged or imagine that they actually need to have the last say as it’s key to their survival? I’m one of them, I confess…
Though, truth be told, I don’t do it to annoy the hell out of my contacts (fooled you there, didn’t I?) or to be ‘Little-Miss-Chatterbox’… I do it because it’s polite. Okay, sure, maybe I’m the only person on the face of the planet who finds it a bit rude (or a lot, depending on the context and/or situation) but isn’t it kind of weird when someone sends a questioning message (meaning, they generally expect or at least hope for a reply… #JustATip) – that is, a message literally concluding with an actual question mark (one of these things: ‘?’) – and then the texter-in-crime doesn’t respond. Seriously?
I admit, I’m curious by nature but do you perhaps do that in person too? No? Oh, so just with online messages then… because that’s ‘okay’. Right… whatever you say.
This said, it seems that, because we are so used to only making time for conversations and real people (are you still familiar with that concept? I hear they’re good to actually be around every now and then and that they’re sometimes even fun… Oh and did you know, they even breathe and bleed and have souls behind those cold, harshly lit screens?)… We don’t really know how to interact with actual humans anymore.
In 2015 alone, have been around a few of said live human creatures and honestly, I can barely count on my hands the number of times someone (or more correctly, both or all of us concerned) ignored their phone or tablet for a change and actually spoke to me, looked me in the eye, watched the change of play on my face as my expressions varied or listened to the tone and fragility or strength of my voice. Not for five minutes but maybe for an entire hour, sometimes two… and on one occasion, even for an entire day.
Now, I am not saying you should ignore your messages or contacts for an entire day – and I understand that we all have busy lives and hectic schedules – but occasionally, someone reminds you that it is, well, to put it lightly, kind of impolite or hurtful when you don’t reply to an online message or email.
Do you also receive so many emails during a weekday (and often on weekends too) that if you don’t keep checking your Yahoo or Gmail Inbox periodically, it quite literally fills up with 10-25 emails minimum, at least half of which are relatively noteworthy or pressing?
I’m not one of those greatly important people (my sympathies, friend but I am thanking the Good Lord for this) who receives roughly a hundred emails a day… Yet, if I don’t check my Gmail for, say, two days, I quite literally groan when it refreshes and I look at the number of ‘unread’ emails awaiting my attention. (Darling Facebook, I haven’t logged on in twenty-four hours but it’s okay, relax, I’m not dead. I’m just doing this thing called living… Remember when we used to do that? Oh, wait… That was before your time, wasn’t it?)
Most of the time, I hold down the selection tool on my phone or mouse and just start mercilessly deleting whatever I deem to be ‘Spam’… when, in truth, I am simply too lazy or my brain is too fried to focus my attention for more than five minutes at any given time and I could and probably should be reading those too.
You know what though? In most instances (with the obvious exception of auto-replies and standard, generated mass emails), someone sat behind a computer screen or a mobile device and typed out that message you just deleted, unopened.
They might be busy too, they might be sad or having a a really awful week but still, they made time to write and send this to you. The least, the very least, you can do is open it and even if it is one of those casual reminders, like “Don’t forget, the meeting starts at 17:00 p.m. this coming Monday” or “Please find attached the following…”, you should still have the basic common decency to type out a very brief, completely emotionally undemanding “Thank you,” and hit ‘Send’.
Because, if ever you have been on the other end, compiling emails and sending them out to clients or colleagues (or yes, even to friends), then you probably have some idea of how annoying or disappointing it is when you don’t even get a curt “Will do,” or “Ok” in response.
Don’t let me even get started on job applications via email… Most of those are ignored with a vengeance. So, let me get this straight: you are young, eager and seeking your first job (or even an unpaid internship at a company or store) and you actually expect a reply from an actual company or so-called ‘important person’ in your field, industry or country… are you quite well? You didn’t hit your head by any chance, did you?
We all understand how pitiful it is to check our Inboxes several times a day or desperately wait on a phone call… much as we all know that familiar sinking sensation – which makes us feel almost physically sick because we don’t even know if our email was even ever read, let alone acknowledged – that comes when all you see or hear is the sound of silence… and my, doesn’t it have a cold, unfriendly and all-commanding voice?
I’m not expecting anyone, least of all myself, to go out and save the planet… but go on, send a reply or read that email for yourself before it ends up in your “Trash’ folder.
On the other hand, back to what I said earlier… it is most certainly both rude and hurtful to ignore a real person whilst you frantically type out messages on your Whatsapp and BBM chats. I’ve had a few people personally call me out for doing that several times this year alone and honestly, most of the time, those messages could have been attended to later when I was alone. It wouldn’t have resulted in a train smash and I can promise no one would have hated me (at least not anymore than they already might :P) because of it.
One evening, when I was trying (and failing) to spend a frantic, short evening out with my loved ones, I was literally being overwhelmed by messages from several chats and, being the person that I am who always feels morally compelled (it’s definitely a curse…) to respond and because I have trouble avoiding queries or simply saying ‘no’ to requests for assistance/help, I kept on replying. I kept typing and sighing and wanting everyone to just stop and leave me alone for an hour. I wanted to switch off my data and put my phone away… but they seemingly needed me, so… I didn’t.
I carried on until eventually one of two people turned to me and said: “You know, we came to see you and to spend time with you and you haven’t stopped with your phone ever since.” When they said this to me, I somewhat despairingly said in reply, “I know that and I am sorry but they keep asking me questions or for help and advice though… What else am I supposed to do? I can’t just ignore them!”
Then it hit me… I was ignoring the people I was with instead and having a horrid time myself when I was meant to be having a little ‘downtime’. So, I promptly, but hopefully politely, ended my chats, locked my phone and more than a little exhaustedly handed over my phone and beseechingly asked the other person to: “Take it. I don’t even want to hold it anymore because it just never stops.”
After that, I got on with my life, my real life – you know, the one away from a touchscreen – and engaged with the people several centimetres away from me instead.
Honestly, it ended up being one of the most relaxed and memorable evenings for me personally in 2015… and you know what? No one was even remotely offended when I replied to all those persistent texts two hours later either.
The point is… Yes, sometimes doing this thing called being nice or polite or just half-decent to total strangers, whether virtual or literal, and your friends, family, exes and future fancies all wrapped up in one is terribly energy-sapping and tiresome.
Often, too, you won’t feel like typing out a reply to that annoying text, which woke you at 1:00 a.m. in the morning with its most pathetic or seemingly unimportant contents but it’s not always about our doing the things we feel like doing, is it?
It’s about being kind or caring (or even just pretending to care, if those are too much for you to manage) because someone, somewhere, tried to contact you and they’re waiting for a sign of life. Just as you have so many times before with your own people, requests or aspirations.
You don’t feel like responding to life? Well, that’s okay, neither do I… but you know what? I’m going to keep on being that stupid girl who can never ignore a message or email or who secretly really doesn’t feel like being helpful or polite “24/7, baby, 365” but does so anyway when people need her help or reach out to her.
Not because I necessarily always ‘like’ it or I am not sick to my gut of it too sometimes – but simply because I know how it feels when you’re on the otherside trying to break through, when you just need someone to listen, to make light, trivial conversation with you in the grocery store about cheap veggies or when you just really need a nice person (with a good heart, though that’s optional) in your life too… because honestly, we all do sometimes.
So when you don’t feel like responding to life… Please, just force yourself to anyway. Someone out there needs it and one day, that someone is going to be you.
Posted from WordPress for Android by T.A.Ryan