All right, Curmudgeonites. I'm going to try to lay this out calmly . . . though I don't expect to succeed. This is how it works: When adults make appointments together, they each take responsibility for keeping track of the date, time, and location. See, you say you're going to be somewhere and—lo and behold—so you are. Once something is on the calendar or in the datebook (ask your grandmother), it's all set. Unless both parties have agreed to leave the plans loose (a perfectly acceptable arrangement), scheduled appointments should not need to be confirmed, reconfirmed, "firmed up," or anything of the kind. The simplicity and common sense of this age-old protocol is so many miles beyond blatantly obvious that it seems idiotic to even mention it. It's just cause and effect: make plans; do plans.
But oh, these lazy-thinking, tradition-flouting, unmannered, inconsiderate (hold on, I'm just getting warmed up) phone-faced, emoji-brained, witless, selfish, self-centered, selfie-taking, short-attention-span-having flakes. They make appointments, and then, apparently, either show up, or don't. It's anyone's guess, really.
This erosion of this once evergreen social norm of keeping one's word was previously contained within the city limits of Los Angeles, where, as long as anyone can recollect, plans have always been theoretical. Once, while accepting registrations for a class I was teaching there (I believe it was on how to cultivate a grouchier outlook), I decided to offer a discount to the clients of a friend of mine—let's call her "Jane Michaels." A few days after Jane sent the information to her client list, I found myself engaged in an email correspondence that made me want to pull out what was left of my hair. It went like this:
Him: "Jane Michaels."
Me: "Hello, I received your email, which contained nothing more than the name of my friend, Jane Michaels. Did you want me to assume that you were interested in registering for my class, and that you were requesting the discount I'd offered Jane's clients?"
Me: "That's just great. So glad you can join us. May I have your name?"
Me: "Hello, Scott. I must apologize for being less than specific. May I have your first and last name, so that I can add it to the registration list?"
Me: "Great, Scott Rogers. You're all set."
Him: "when is it"
Me: "Ah. All the information should be in the email from Jane. I imagined you knew the date and time before registering. That's the typical sequence."
Him: "ok sign me up"
Me: "All right, Scott. I'll be expecting you." (I wasn't.)
Him: "are u gonna send out reminders"
Me: "No. I will not be sending out reminders. In fact, based on our very engaging correspondence, I already know something you don't, which is that you will not be attending this class, as you are clearly not capable of forming an idea or an English sentence, let alone keeping a commitment. So I'll take you off the list. Enjoy whatever you end up doing that evening."
And that was that. As I said, this was Los Angeles. One can hardly be surprised.
But now this need for constant spoon-feeding has become so pervasive that many businesses have chosen to accommodate it, rather than waiting to see whether the clients they're expecting actually materialize. It's shameful. How can one manage the responsibilities of adulthood if one needs to be reminded of an appointment which he himself made? Not that I really care about other people, not especially. But now, their flakiness is affecting the Curmudgeon, and that's where I draw the line.
About two weeks ago, I made an appointment with a doctor (I'd been smiling, and needed to have that checked out). As soon as I hung up the phone (ask your grandmother), I received an email confirming the appointment I'd just made. The confirmation truly wasn't necessary, as I'd been right there when I made the appointment and, being an adult, I'd put it on my calendar, which, being an adult, I check daily.
The next day, the emails continued, asking that I confirm that I'd received the confirmation. Then came the texts: "Don't forget, you have an appointment with Dr. Blatschmidt on Tuesday at noon." Then more emails. Then an automated telephone call: "You. Have. An. APPOINTMENT. With. Doctor. BLATSCHMIDT. On. TUESDAY. At. NOON. O'clock. For more information, press one. To confirm this appointment, press two. To cancel, press three. Para servicio en español, marque numero quatro. For a definition of the word 'appointment' press five. For a ride to your appointment, press six. For a blankie and a bottle, press the star key." Naturally, I ignored all invitations to reconfirm, as the appointment was confirmed the moment I'd made it, and, barring further communication to the contrary, I found it insulting that this doctor's office doubted my ability to keep my word.
As it turned out, I did end up canceling the day before the appointment; by then, the smiling had cleared up on its own.
The problem feeds on itself. The less we obligate ourselves to remember our responsibilities, the weaker that ability becomes. There are now products on the market that remind parents that they have children in the back seats of their cars. Yes, really. These people shouldn't have cars, let alone children.
I've repeatedly asked business not to re-confirm our appointments. But thanks to a generation of dimwits who lack the ability to operate a calendar, it is all but impossible to stop these reminder calls, emails, and texts from coming. They're programed in automatically. And now, I'm told, that pesky Facebook has begun sending subscribers reminders for events in which they've indicated even a passing interest. I imagine it won't be long before notifications start showing up on other social media as well, you know, in case you forget to check Facebook. And if that doesn't work, I guess they'll have to start sending "human calendars" door to door, reminding everyone of their commitments (and maybe also that they have children). When that happens, I'll be reminding you that I told you so.