June 19th, 2009


Until my late teens, almost everyone I knew had not only the same area code but the same first three digits in their phone numbers. It was a very small town, but as far as I was concerned it contained everyone it needed to. Sure my extended family and parents’ old friends lived in the faraway U.S., but so they always had, and it was hard to miss people whom one rarely saw in two consecutive years.

Nevertheless, I delighted in post from such farflung correspondants, and a few made an effort to write to my young self on a regular basis. I was a far more ardent correspondant than any one recipient could handle, however, so whenever the elementary school penpal program circulated, I signed up again, winding up with a worldwide network of fascinating penpals, all of whom I would exhaust into silence within a year or two. I also wrote a family newspaper for distribution within my household, with articles on such topics as whose birthday it was that week, and what we needed from the hardware store (oh, this blog was so clearly presaged). I was also likely the only kid in the world who didn’t have to be nagged to write thank you notes for gifts.

I went away for the summer I was 17, made no friends, and used up half a dozen books of stamps. I went away the summer I was 18, wrote only slightly fewer letters but did finally actually make genuine friends who didn’t live in my township. They were older than I, already in university and conversant in the ways of university email addresses. I had no idea about any of this, but when I returned home, I tried to figure it out.

We’d had a computer in the house since the end of the eighties, which my brother and I used to play endless video games of steadily evolving complexity, and occasionally to do schoolwork. I had no idea what my folks were doing with it, or with the shrieky dialup “internet”; work of some sort, it seemed.

So the fall of my last year of high school, my dad taught me about email. I don’t know if freemail accounts hadn’t appeared on the scene yet or I just didn’t know about them, but my father generously shared his work email account with me, leading to a whole new form of household nagging (“Did you email Amanda back yet? That note’s been in my inbox all week? You really should…”) Everyone was sad when I moved away for university, but at least I got my own damn email account. By then I was hooked.

Far away from my area code and all the relevant people it contained, I started emailing my friends and family constantly–minutia about school and new friends and food and weather and clothes and health…and people *emailed back*. Letters had become old-school and boring: you had to buy stamps and envelopes and remember to walk past a mailbox, so I very rarely got post, but email still had the gloss of novelty to it, and I was thrilled to get email every day.

More than a decade and several technological revolutions later, I’m still pretty excited to see that Inbox (1) bar pop up! Letters have largely gone dormant for most people, though I can’t resist that heart-leap hope when I unlock my mailbox that today will be a day that one of the six people on earth who still use post will have sent me something.

In truth, I think the bloom is off the rose a bit with email, too. Most people’s jobs require them to send and receive dozens per day, and most of those are of the “Please reconfigure the pages completely and within the hour” variety that rarely causes heart-leaping, even in me. I’m sure I know a lot of people who, off the clock, would like their computers firmly silent and email-less.

Not me. I’ve never gotten over my childhood desire to hear from those distant, and much as I love to talk, I still feel my best self-expression–most coherent, most thoughtful, most amusing–is in writing. I like to think over a letter/email/story, rewrite a line or two, delete (some of the) extraneous stuff. I think I have a career as a writer that I could never have had as an “extemporizer,” and I think you’ll agree if you’ve ever gotten voicemail from me.

So I’m an email junkie. I send and receive dozens a day in a professional context, and although fewer in personal context, I’m still ever-emailing. I do get that not everyone wants to write long discussions of life, the universe and everything in their off-hours. Actually, I’m sort of amazed that some people (other than myself) do, and that I can be the recipient if only I continue to respond in kind.

All this email-relection has been brought on by the fact that I’m headed out of town this weekend to a cottage, on an island…with no internet. This has never happened to me before, really–not since that critical turning point back in the late nineties. I think it’ll be good for me, although challenging. I think the lake water, sunshine, friends, tofudogs, boardgames, actual dog, boat, bonfire, and coleslaw will help.

But I’ll still miss you, interent, and all my lovely far-flung friends that live inside you!

You just can’t do that again

Leave a Reply

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

Now and Next

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Me

Good Reads

What People are saying!


Search the site