Barry Smith: Irrelativity
Im about to sever all ties with Washtub Jerry.Delete.There. Did it. I just deleted Jerry, Washtub from my computers address book program my digital little black book. Washtub Jerry is gone. No undo available.I suppose my ties with Washtub Jerry were never that strong to begin with. I met him at Blues Camp about eight years ago. Blues Camp is like adult summer camp for people who really love scratchy old Blues. We hang out, stay in dorms, play Blues songs, listen to other people play Blues songs, talk about Blues songs, talk about other people whove played Blues songs. And yes, I actually CHOSE to go to Blues Camp because I know how to have a good time.Washtub Jerry was in attendance as an instructor. He wears a big ol ten-gallon hat and plays a washtub bass while standing on top of it. We sat together one morning at the biscuit-centric Blues Breakfast Buffet one morning and really hit it off. Days later, during the poignant Blues Camp farewells, we swapped e-mail addresses. At that moment I foresaw a lasting friendship years of exchanged e-mails teeming with wit, insight and obscure Blues tidbits.I think we ended up e-mailing twice, but I cant find a copy of them anywhere, so I may have imagined them.So now, many years later, Washtub Jerry gets the digital boot. Gone forever. Our window has closed. Im officially releasing him with the quick stroke of a key.Oh, and Washtub Jerry is a real person, not a made up name. You can Google him if you dont believe me. Which raises the question If you can Google him, then you could probably find his e-mail address pretty easily, so deleting him from your contacts list isnt REALLY all that dramatic and final, is it?OK, OK Washtub Jerry may have been a bad example. But after deleting his name I carried on down the list, axing plenty of friends who are not so easily Googled. Like – Greg John. Or is it John Greg? I sometimes forget the last-name-first rule when entering data. Problem is, both Greg John and John Greg work as names, but neither rings a bell. All I have for this person is a long-distance phone number, so I cant even hide behind an e-mail. And theres no way Im calling him: Is John there? Oh. How about Greg? Oh, hi Greg, I thought that sounded like you its me, Barry. Yeah so, how the heck are you? I havent talked to you since, uh since uh since uh And Id have to keep saying since uh until John/Greg said something that jogged my memory. Something like, since the running of the bulls or since I cauterized your wound using a leftover Fourth of July sparkler or who is this? No, its easier to just let go of both Greg and John in one heartless motion. Delete.- Jim. Thats all I have Jim. There was obviously a moment when I thought that Jim and I would be so close that I didnt even need to know his last name. In the Other Info part of my address book I wrote poetry guy. Like this helps? Jim the poetry guy. No freakin idea.Sayonara, Jim. Delete.- email@example.com What? Why would I only have a persons e-mail address and not their name? Is that what its come to? Maybe wonderfulwinky was that guy who was in my improv class, and we did that scene together where we were each in our own hot air balloons and I thought we had good stage chemistry but then when I saw that his e-mail address was wonderfulwinky I thought twice about getting in touch. Or was he that mime who did the slapstick surgery-gone-wrong routine that I liked so much at the time? Whatever. Theyre gone. Delete.It feels ruthless, this slash-and-burn approach to friendship. A bit of time and effort may yield some surprising and rewarding reunions, but it seems easier to just e-kill these people off and give my attention to people I know, and know how I know.I take some comfort in the fact that somewhere, right this very moment, somebody maybe even somebody I like is looking at their address book saying, Smith Berry? Who the hell is that? Delete.
Barry Smiths column appears Mondays in The Aspen Times. Visit his web page at http://www.barrysmith.com.