In the Suburbs / Hearing a human voice
Several years ago, I was vacillating about whether I should become an entrepreneur. Should I stop taking chances on tentative public relations jobs with corporations and agencies, and just set out on my own?
I met Steve at a huge networking event. In one evening, he showed me that I really could make a go of it as a consultant.
Since then, we shared breakfasts and coffees, attended countless networking functions and became great friends. And by discussing the triumphs and heartaches of running one's own business, I think, we helped each other out.
In the past couple of years, we also got to know Steve's girlfriend, Marlene, and had some great times when she came up to Fairfield. When he decided to move into Manhattan with her, we knew there would be some great times in the city, too.
Based on our busy schedules, texting became our communication of choice, and it seemed like we were texting about anything and everything. Of course, we still did some chatting on our cell phones and occasionally met for dinner up here. Texting was just quicker.
Then one day after Thanksgiving, out of nowhere, Steve texted that his girlfriend had lost her job and they had decided to move to Florida now -- not three or four years later as planned.
"Oh, well," I texted back. "Just when I was looking forward to more of those upper West Side brunches or dinners, now I'll have to keep in touch even more by text and phone or come down for a visit.
Steve and Marlene left Manhattan Dec. 26 for Sarasota, where Steve hopes to carve out new sales territory. And that was it.
"I'll definitely call," I told Steve in a text late last week.
"I'll look forward to that," he texted back, sending some great pictures of their new home, which he later told me needed a lot more work than he and Marlene had originally thought.
This Tuesday, I decided it was time to call. Enough with the texting and emailing. I wanted to hear a human voice. It was time to catch up.
But that didn't happen at first. We've been trying to sell our house, and I left Steve a long voice mail explaining that we'd had a great open house Sunday. After lowering our price, about 12 possible buyers had come through. We were very optimistic, I said.
Steve called me back about 10 minutes later and it was just great to reconnect voice to voice. "So aside from your new house needing major repair and painting, do you like it down there," I asked.
"Very much," he said. "This was a good move for us."
We joked about expanding from a Manhattan apartment to a Florida home, and Steve explained that it was a little strange to have compacted his worldly goods to share space with Marlene in New York and now to expand things all over again in a 1,400-square-foot Florida house.
"This place was in terrible shape when we moved in, so we set out to find a handyman who could help us with painting and repairs. The guy we're working with is so reasonable, he's doing all our painting for about $50 a room. We could never find anyone that willing ... or that cheap in Manhattan."
We had a good laugh over that, and Steve mentioned how much he appreciated my picking up the phone to catch up. "I guess I'm old fashioned, but I still prefer a good old fashioned conversation to just texting and e-mail," he said.
I agreed. Texts and emails are really pretty impersonal.
Steve and Marlene are adapting quickly to Sarasota's relaxed atmosphere, and their Labradoodle, Grover, has been sunning himself nonstop since they got into the house.
Although it was 6 p.m., I was glad I'd made the call and reconnected. Steve always sounds relaxed and upbeat, and he is a great listener. We agreed it's worth making an actual phone call because it is important to hear that other human voice.
I realized as soon as I'd turned off the phone that I felt really energized after this call and would definitely get into a regular calling mode once a week or so. The best part of the whole thing was catching up with a good friend and hearing how much he appreciated my taking the first step.
That definitely made me think twice about the impersonality of texts and emails. With a call, friends feel like they're up to speed on so many different areas.
And the best part -- no sore fingers.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.