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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Gmail Bop-Bop

My phone bop-bopped yesterday. It was the G-mail bop-bop.

That’s different than the text message do-ding, and it’s not the same as the Yahoo! Mail blong, and it definitely wasn’t a voicemail, which is the first 22 seconds of the theme from “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” followed by a ga-ling.

I lazily pulled out the phone from my trouser pocket and noticed the insistent red light flashing at the top right-hand corner, letting me know that someone was urgently trying to tell me something. In emergency circles, flashing red lights indicate matters of grave import. In the black-and-white, bygone days, at White House, they had red desk phones with no buttons, and no rotary dial, just a flashing red light that would go off when Premier Kissoff urgently needed to speak to President Muffley.

Nowadays, we are all our own Merkin Muffleys. We can all be reached at any time of the night or day, and every email, text message, or voicemail carries its own little red light, indicating that it must be responded to immediately.

Of course.

Because my Spam and Junk folders have ironclad testicles, I am rarely disappointed to see that a message or an email is for scams trying to sell me discounted psychotropic medications or enlarge my PEN!S. Because my online work scheduling software is synched with my phone, I am, however, disappointed by receiving frequent emails alerting me to shifts that need to be filled that I will not be filling.

“You don’t ever work extra, do you?” a colleague asked me last week.

“Nope. But I’m very grateful that there are those that do, so I don’t have to.” And I thought that was a diplomatic way of stating my belief that I wouldn’t want to stay in that place one millisecond longer than I had to.

(No offense.)

The email that I received yesterday following this particular bop-bop was from my old boss. She had read somewhere that there was a local playwriting contest going on, so she forwarded the email to me. Not trying to be an asshole, though probably sounding like one, I wrote back a brief note thanking her for thinking of me and adding, “You still think of me as a playwright. That’s very sweet. I like that.”

Really, though—do I? Or was this email just another reminder of who I was, or barely was. I mean, I was a student who wrote plays. Then, I graduated, and I wrote a couple other plays. I’m not really sure that qualifies me as… much of anything, really. But I guess you are whatever people think you are. At least, to them.

Perception is so funny, and so tenuous. If you inflate your opinion of yourself just enough, you’re maybe looking at delusions of grandeur. If you minimize and undercut and justify, then you’re on your way to Poor Self Esteemsville. I wonder sometimes if it is even possible to have a completely untarnished, unbiased view of oneself, and if what we think we are is any more or less accurate than what others think we are.

I read that email and I knew I wasn’t going to write anything for this playwriting contest, but I lied and told my former boss that “maybe I’ll whip something up for this thing,” like it’s no different than preparing a bowl of mashed potatoes or a batch of brownies. Obviously, if I had any intention at all of taking this contest seriously, I would be sketching out ideas and creating well-dressed, middle-aged male characters who do silly things, in the spirit of my old friend Gilbert, and my not-as-old friends the Pythons.

But I’m not doing that. I’m writing to you. For you. For… me?

Well, probably not. But maybe I’ll write for me some day.

She thinks I'm still (or was ever) a playwright, so she sent me an email. It shouldn't have sent me through a loop, but it did. It shouldn't be taken as a guilt-trip, but it was. It shouldn't have made me feel bad, but it did. I don't know where that part of me went-- that desire to make up people and situations and move them about a tape-marked flat, black floor as if they were chess pieces and I Kasparov. I don't know where that went. Maybe it will come back some day. Maybe it won't. Who knows? I'm reasonably certain I'm never going to be mentioned in the same breath as Edward Albee or Tom Stoppard or Sam Shepard. But I've got my little red flashing light on my phone, which means I'm important. And I'll get back to you at once.


And, after all that horseshit: I wrote the fucking play.


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