Anyone who has known me for any significant period of time knows that I hate to be ignored. I'm not talking about friends who never call or write, or one-night stands who pay no mind to my bunny-boiling proclivities, because, frankly, I rarely call, write or boil rodents. But when I do decide to reach out and touch someone, reciprocity is greatly appreciated. For me, few things are more frustrating than unanswered emails, unreturned text messages and snubbed phone calls. (Although, as I seldom ever pick up the phone to call anyone, the latter is rarely an issue.)
Lately, I've been getting that old cold shoulder a lot, and I'm not sure why. My inclination used to be to fire off an angry follow-up email or text; huff, puff and stew in the privacy of my own apartment; or simply delete them from Facebook, MSN and my life. But I must be growing up. Now I raise an eyebrow, shrug, and say to myself, "Well, that's that."
Before I go on, let me say that since I moved to Buenos Aires, I've grown accustomed to strange communication habits, most of which I've written about ad nauseum here, and won't bore you by listing them yet again. When it comes to emails and text messages, I divide them into three groups: 1) The informative message that doesn't require any response: "Hey, I'm meeting up with friends at Bar 6 tonight around 10. If you aren't doing anything, feel free to join." No answer, no problem!
2) The "tanto tiempo," long-time-no-see message. Basically, that's just me reconnecting with an old acquaintance -- or easing a guilty conscience and fulfilling my duty as a friend to say something, anything, at least once every eon or two. "What's up? Not much here. Well, hope you're well." Feel free to respond to these in a day, a week, a month, a year, never. Usually, after I've sent them, I forget about them.
3) The message that requires a timely response: "I've fallen and I can't get up! Help!"
Last weekend I sent an email to an acquaintance, someone I've known for about a year, although not very well. We flirt whenever we see each other, we've played tonsil hockey once or twice, and we've carried on occasional conversations via Facebook chat and email. It had been a while since I'd thought about him, and suddenly, he was on my mind, so I decided to drop him a few lines. They were in Spanish, but the gist was, "How are you? I'm good. Going to Australia soon. Do you want to get together before I leave?"
Nearly one week later, he hasn't responded. I know he received the message because I've seen him online. Part of me feels like sending him a follow-up email and asking, "Did you not respond because you are just too busy to write a few sentences, or because you are not interested in seeing me but can't find a polite way to say so (and in all honesty, I'd prefer silence to "I don't want to see you"), or because you don't really have any use for my presence in your life beyond being just another name in your list of one million Facebook friends?"
Of course, I'll never send that message. I won't have to. I might not see him before I leave for Australia, but even if he never responds to my email (and at this point, I have no reason to believe he will), eventually, I'll run into him somewhere. He'll offer that old porteño specialty -- "¡tanto tiempo!" -- and if I do decide to bring up the email, he'll come up with some lame excuse. Big sigh.
I don't think I'll be sending out any unsolicited emails or text messages for a while, though. It's too rough on the ego. I've already cut way back on Facebook chat and MSN because, frankly, I hate them both. I despise staring at a computer screen waiting for a response, and it annoys me even more when people just suddenly disappear without any warning or goodbye. Argentines do it all the time. I sometimes find myself wondering, "Was it something I said?" But usually I raise an eyebrow, shrug, and say to myself, "Well, that's that."
It might not be the most polite thing to do, exiting a conversation without waving goodbye, but I don't sweat it. Since I loathe "chatting" online anyway, and I hate goodbyes, it's a perfect opportunity not to have to do deal with either.