My Birthmate and the Phenomenon of Email

Nearly everyone seems to use email these days. Maybe it’s because the price of stamps keeps going up, or maybe it’s because regular mail is slow and unreliable (“snailmail”). Whatever the reason for this modern way of communicating, it has become a type of addiction. You send an email and a reply comes back in a minute, as if the person was just sitting at the computer (or looking at his Blackberry) waiting to hear from you. Even worse, you don’t replay to an email the minute it arrives and the sender sends another one asking “Didn’t you get my email?” My favorite is when you check your email after breakfast and someone sent you an email in the middle of the night. Maybe it’s the new way of counting sheep.

For a while I was getting a lot of junk email, and even with the benefit of a “filter” a certain amount of it still gets through. There’s this lady in Nigeria who says that her late husband, the deputy minister of something, left her with $50 million and now she wants me to help make “arrangements.” I think I’ll pass. Then there is the helpful service that wants to improve a certain part of my anatomy. No thanks to that one too.

One thing about the Internet is that people you once knew can find you. A boy named Tony and I were born on the same day in February, a long time ago. Claremont General Hospital had only had one delivery room, and his mother got there first. So my mother (and I) had to settle for a regular hospital room, a fact I’ve used from time to time as an excuse – “Well, what did you expect? I didn’t even get the delivery room when I was born!” Tony and I used to celebrate our birthdays together, but he moved away when we were in kindergarten and I never heard from him again.

Until recently. For reasons I do not know, this childhood friend who had disappeared from my life looked me up on the Internet! He sent an email telling me that he lived in California, remembered our early years together in Claremont, and was eager to “catch up.” I didn’t quite know how to react, but I replied and told him I remembered him – “you wore rimless glasses” (funny what we remember from our early years). He replied, “Yes, and I still do.”

One thing led to another, and he said he would like to come East and see me and some others from those days. It happened that our Stevens High School 50th reunion was coming up, and he thought that would be a good time to return. Here he was, a Californian who never set foot in a Claremont school (unless you count kindergarten), much less Stevens High, proposing to travel across the country and intrude on “our” reunion He wanted to know, what did I think? I didn’t want to tell him that I thought this was another weird email, so I said something to the effect that “It would be wonderful to see you, but it’s a long trip.” He took that as a positive response.

Tony came to the reunion, with his wife, and his long-ago playmates from the neighborhood known as “the Bluff” had an experience that one doesn’t expect in life: We reconnected with someone we lost early in our childhood. It had been more than 60 years, and I’m not saying we filled in all the gaps. But someone cared enough about those shared early years to send an email, make that long trek, and take that considerable risk. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who does what he did deserves to be an honorary member of the Class of ’57.

2017-05-19T20:27:50+00:00 By |