Nasty? Little Ole Me?

Voice Card  -  Volume 14  -  John Card Number 5  -  Sat, May 26, 1990 05:37 PM

This is a response to Vol 14 Larry 10 ("Nasty John")...


As I read through your bountiful, well-written, and promptly returned selection of voice cards, I was puzzled by what seemed to be an undercurrent of hostility in several places. Puzzled? Nay: Astonished! You have always seemed to me to be virtually unflappable. In grad school and in the office at San Jose, while the rest of us were forever dodging bullets and diving under our chairs, you were always calm and collected, the type who smiled at even the deadliest of deadlines. Larry angry? How could this be?

When I reached your final card, light began to dawn. Could this be it? A carelessly written note and a lousy twenty dollars? I think what we have here is a classic misunderstanding. Please let me explain and apologize before it goes any farther!

Apparently, at some point in our phone conversation, I gave you the impression that I didn't want the subscription fee until next time. I honestly don't remember saying such a thing, nor can I think of a reason why I would, but anything is possible. I am very absent minded about this sort of thing. So either we misunderstood each other or I simply forgot whatever it was I said.

Another week passed before I was able to assemble the packets for shipment. Just as I was about to seal the envelopes I remembered that two of the members had not included their subscription. I had to think a moment before I could convince myself that the two were you and Robert. I glanced around my father's desk and grabbed the first bit of paper I could find. As fate would have it, this was the infamous Elkhorn stationery (my parents occasionally ski at Sun Valley but I haven't been there for many years).

I jotted down a brief reminder and slid it into your packet. It was carelessly written in less than thirty seconds, and although I did write something like "fork it over", it was certainly not my intention to pressure you or convey any displeasure. I was just being flip, perhaps because the whole business of asking for money makes me slightly uncomfortable.

As a matter of fact, I was not at all annoyed. Every time subscriptions are due someone always forgets to include the payment. This is very easy to do and is something I myself sometimes do in similar situations. I (incorrectly) assumed that this is what had happened in your case and my only purpose in writing the note was to provide a reminder.

I can imagine your annoyance at receiving an abrupt note that must have seemed like a false accusation. This could only have been compounded by the resort stationery. Perhaps you pictured me lounging by a swimming pool with a cigar and a portable phone, ruthlessly turning my best friends over to collection agencies between sips of a margarita. Please accept my heartfelt apology! I value your friendship and your contribution to this group far more than any silly subscription fee.

It is worth noting, by the way, that Archipelago is most definitely NOT a profit-making enterprise. Even with the subscription fees I am losing money. The fees simply pay for stamps, packets, and the occasional replacement diskettes. Everyone in the group has been consistently honest and generous in helping me with this expense and I have never had any cause to complain about it. I can't say it too often: Thank you!

A final observation: by now it may seem to some of you that I am devoting more words to this matter than are really necessary. After all, I think Larry would be the first to agree that this was a very minor incident and by now it is all but forgotten.

But my past experiences in relationships of all kinds have taught me never to underestimate the destructive power of a misunderstanding. This is why everyone keeps harping about the importance and difficulty of communication in marriages and other relationships. The most innocent of misunderstandings can start a chain reaction of accusations and counter-accusations that can escalate in a moment and take on a life of its own. The results are sometimes tragic.

Our only protection against this cancer is constant vigilance. If hurt or annoyed, we must air our grievances in a non-belligerent way so that the cause may be rooted out and clarified. And in our dealings with each other, we must maintain an attitude of mutual respect and affection. Good friends deserve no less.

There. I hope I have put this matter to rest. My only worry now is that Robert received an almost identical note. Robert? Are you still there?