Though no one has ever accused you of being a grandpa, in some ways, you are what one would call old fashioned. For you jeans will always be blue, tea will always be black and formal will always equal no fun.
But that’s you. Natalie is different. She is geographically distant and dispositionally far-off. She is occupied with the person and oblivious to dictionary. She uses more exclamation marks in a week than you would have come across in a life time of reading. Time seems to be treating her well and auto-spell is her bitch.
A routine e-mail from Natalie reads as follows:
how have u been ??!?
Hey, can you send the MoM of last night’s call?
Thanks a million buddy!
C ya soooon!!
What do you say to that? You have never used an exclamation mark in a formal mail and you want to keep it that way. You come close though as you feel compelled to return the rare joviality or at least acknowledge it.
What gets to you is the consistency. You may have bad days, mood swings and paper cuts. Natalie seems to be on one continuous acid trip. The same chirpiness, the same exclamation marks and the same devil may read the dictionary syntax. You have come close to slipping in a smiley in your replies. But you fear straying into an emoticon binge and check yourself.
Other times you come close to sending the following replies:
‘I am doing the same as yesterday, just like you’
‘You don’t like spell check, do you?’
‘On Prozac, are we?’
When the day finally arrives to talk to Natalie you are surprised to find yourself looking forward to it. You hold the receiver some distance away from your ear to buffer the sharp cries you are expecting from the other end. Instead, you hear nothing. You bring the receiver closer.
‘Hello, Natalie? Can you hear me?’
‘…yes. He…hello,’ comes a murmur in reply.
‘How are you? Its good to finally talk to you.’
‘Ye…yes. I am…good, I am good.’
What follows is one of the most queasy conversations of your life. You regret having made the call. The world seemed a better place with crazies like Natalie. Now, its just a place where typing a thought is better than living it.
She has gone back to her vibrant e-mails. But in person, she always comes across as a shadow of her inbox avatar. Now that you know the effort that can go into a putting up a smile, you will never ignore a kind word again.