Call me, maybe?

How’s the match between the way you try to reach people, and the way they want to be reached?

When we’re in the US, we have routines for how we stay in touch with the people we usually talk to, and we can generally keep them sorted out. When we’re in Spain, some of those routines change. Even though we can make international calls via the computer for free, I don’t often make use of that capacity. I’m not much for just calling someone to chat, even when we’re in the same town. If I were to call an American friend from Europe, I can’t shake the feeling that I’d need to have something pretty important to say.

While in Spain we add our Spanish friends into the communication mix, which has the potential to complicate matters, as Randall Monroe, creator of XKCD, so ably demonstrates:

In fact, though, almost without exception, the way that our friends at church here in Spain stay in touch is through WhatsApp on their mobile phones. This proves very pesky for me, as I’m currently a very slow thumb-typer, and though I’ve chosen Español in the settings, my phone wants to autocorrect most words I enter from what I have painstakingly typed in Spanish into something nonsensically English instead.

So I slowly tap away at a message, only to find when I look back over it (sometimes before I hit send) that 50% of the words have been transmogrified into English words sharing a few letters with what I was trying to say. My friends know that my Spanish isn’t perfect, but if they’re getting Whatsapp messages from me, they probably think I’m entirely incoherent. I would so much rather send an email!

But everyone’s using WhatsApp on their “móvil.” Fewer people seem to use email; they may not have a computer, or may not use email on their móvil if they have an account at all. It doesn’t do me much good to be able to effortlessly type a detailed email if the person I need to reach doesn’t ever check their account.

So I have a strong preference for email as an outgoing mode, and I’m best with email as an incoming mode. It’s the thing I’m most likely to see, and if the person writing to me is a friend or a professional contact, I’m going to want to send something back, in which case see above.

I know one of the reasons that people give for avoiding email is that they get swamped. For whatever reason, I don’t tend to get bogged down by my inbox (I don’t think it’s uber-efficiency on my part, but I do let filters and inbox tabs help me out). There are others in my family for whom this is not the case. El Guapo’s backlog of unprocessed emails is large and frustrating, or at least it was frustrating before he gave up on the goal to process it all. Our son Fiddler has also mostly given up on the form because of the size of the backlog dogging his footsteps.

I can understand that. There is no law that says “thou shalt answer every email.” The difficulty comes when someone has corresponded with you by email in the past, so there’s a precedent–they can be excused for thinking an email they send you is going to be read.


If you’ve given up on email but your account still sits there, steadily filling up with gigs of correspondence naively hoping to be seen, consider setting up an auto-response so that those of us still trying to reach you by email will figure it out:

“Hey, I’m not going to see your message anytime soon, but have a great day,” or “Welcome to my inbox Black Hole. If you need me to see this, try [insert alternative]” or even “I’ve taken a solemn vow never to read email again. I know you’ll support me.”

Of course, if you’ve stopped reading your email, maybe you’re not reading blog posts either. So how will you see this? Should I try calling you, maybe? Or perhaps I’ll run into you in person. My budget is unlikely to stretch to sky-writing. I know–I could send you a badly spelled WhatsApp….

[Images: , XKCD,,,]






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