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  • Felice Cohen

Knock Knock. Uhm, is anybody out there?

Children everywhere would be disheartened if people stopped responding, “Who’s there?” to the time honored Knock Knock joke.

I’m afraid to say it, but I fear it’s already happened. Not so much with Knock Knock jokes, but responding in general. It appears replying has gone out of fashion. Whether it’s returning emails, phone calls, or texts, that oh so simple courtesy has disappeared.

Last week I left three voice messages and sent one email to the same person regarding payments with my new home. After four days of no response, I called again. Then I called her boss. The next day I got my return call. It’s baffling because when they need something from me, they’re on the phone lickety split.

People have been talking of these slips in manners for a while. In our fast-paced, get-back-to-you-in-an-instant world, why is it some people just don’t? Are they too busy? Too tired? Too overworked? I try to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they never received my email. Maybe I never sent it. Maybe my voice mail was garbled. It happens. Or maybe it’s the lack of face-to-face communication that makes us forget there are actual people on the other end. Because while we think we’re connecting with people, really, the only things we’re connecting with are our devices.

In a past job, there was a young man who sat right outside my office door and he would email me. I would reply – via my mouth – “Are you seriously emailing me? Just come into my office.”

In this age of instant communication – and gratification – when we’re left hanging like a kid shouting “Knock Knock” at a party with no one answering, it’s unsettling. Self-doubt pours in. Are they ignoring me? Are they mad at me? Did I write something wrong? I’m well aware we’re all busy, but in less time than it takes to order a venti, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla soy, double shot, decaf, no foam, chocolate mocha with extra syrup, most people are capable of answering an email or text. A simple, “Sorry, crazy busy. Got your message and will get back to you in a day or two,” at the very least informs the sender their message was received.

Curious as to the protocol when it comes to getting back to people, I emailed a higher authority. But alas, it’s been two weeks and still Miss Manners has yet to respond.

Has this happened to you? Feel free to share…unless you’re too busy. 😉

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