Saturday, September 16, 2006

They're called "manners."

I sent this email to nine people on Sept 6:
I wanted to invite you all to an evening out for a belated birthday celebration. If you're free on Friday, September 15, how's about dinner at [local restaurant], followed by...? Drinks? Dancing? Whatever. (Or just talking for a long time at the table. That's cool, too.)

7:30? RSVP so I can make the reservation.

It's good to be 38!!!

I immediately heard back from One, Two, and Three, who could not make it and who were very apologetic. It was clear to me that they wanted to come and felt badly about missing it. And they were careful to let me know that they couldn't make it early on, so that I could make the reservation.

Four, Five, and Six replied that they would be there.

Seven, who regularly hosts a Friday night get-together at her home, asked if she could bring some of her regulars. (I said, sure.)

Eight said she'd see.

Nine never replied.

I called the restaurant and made a reservation for eight: me, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, and one extra (I didn't know how many people Seven would be bringing).

Yesterday, THE DAY OF, I received the following emails:

1) An email from Nine, to tell me she couldn't make it.

2) An email from Seven, to tell me that her friends couldn't afford to go out to dinner, and so she would not be coming but would be at her house with them.

3) An email from Four, to tell me that she had to do some political work for a family member and couldn't make it.

If you've lost count, that means I was down to myself and three people.

I called Eight:
"You're coming tonight, right?"



"Why are you calling?" [This was not said in a hostile tone. She sounded genuinely confused.]


"For the reservation?"


"Oh. No, I thought I could swing by, but it didn't work out."

So I called the restaurant and changed the reservation to three people.

I'm perplexed as to why Four, Seven, Eight, and Nine treated this so casually. Perhaps if I'd invited them to a home-cooked meal at my house the invitation would have seemed more formal. Still, I specified that I was making reservations and that I needed to know what people were doing.

I was taught to honor a commitment, short of extenuating circumstances (which, in my opinion, none of these were). I've even known people to make a point of swinging by a gathering for 20-30 minutes, just to put in an appearance, when something has come up that's prevented them from honoring that commitment. (I have even known people who have done this when they've already said they can't be there - they'd just pop their heads in, hand the host a bottle of wine and a hug, and then go to their kid's graduation, or whatever. In my opinion, this is entirely unnecessary, but it's a thoughtful gesture.)

I think what bothers me most is that these friends of mine seem to have assumed that it wouldn't matter to me whether they came or not.

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