Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cards on the Table.

I'm back on the Raincoast, feeling jet lagged and un-sexy. On my first day out in town, I needed to get to a particular store to buy a particular technological gadget so's I could surf the internets (essential). I hopped on a bus and asked the driver if I could get to this store on his route; he wasn't sure but a man getting on behind me interrupted and mentioned that it would be better if I hopped off at a certain stop and walked the rest of the way.

"I work near there, and that's where I get off," he said.

"OK, then I'll just get off when you do," I said. "Thanks."

We chose separate seats. When he stood up, I stood up, and we got off the bus. I started walking in the direction of the store. Awkwardly, he was walking in the same direction. I tried to slow down so we weren't walking together, but he paused and waited for me at the corner.

"Where is it you're going, exactly?" he asked. I told him. "They're in my office building," he said, laughing. "I'll walk with you."

So, off we set, even more awkwardly. We made conversation; he was a journalist, we talked about the story he was writing. We talked about my work. It was as good a conversation as perfect strangers can have during a 10 minute walk. He was clearly intelligent, and witty. And English. I was sufficiently entertained. No wedding ring.

When we got to the building, we shook hands, exchanged all those niceties: "it's nice to meet you," "good luck with your story," "good luck with your move," blah blah. Then he handed me his business card, and we parted ways.

When I got home later that day, I looked at his card. What did it mean, the giving of the card, I asked myself? He didn't say "call me." He didn't say "it would be nice to hear from you." But then, why the card? He had seemed like a pleasant enough man, so I thought, could it hurt to have a drink?

The next day, I emailed. I kept the tone casual, light: "Thanks for the guided tour, it was nice meeting you." I made a little joke referring to something we had talked about. Three lines, that was it.

He responded literally within 30 seconds. The reply was basically "You're welcome." Friendly, responded to my joke cordially, but that was it. No leading question for me to answer to continue the conversation, nothing to give me some encouragement that if I sent another email, he would reply. Certainly no invitation to meet up again.

I immediately hit "forward" and sent it to my friend Cath, saying, "Well, so much for banter. What the hell do I say now? I guess nothing." She immediately emailed back a suggested reply, which I fired off to him immediately. He responded, a little more wit this time, but again, the email was the electronic equivalent of a poker face, impossible to read. I had no idea if I would be shot down if I asked to meet up, and was not willing to ask until I was a bit more sure of the response I would receive. I waited a few minutes, and emailed a one sentence reply. Then I had to head out to meet a friend for lunch, but eagerly anticipated coming home to a reply, which I was sure was forthcoming.



So, if he didn't want to talk to me again, why the business card? There was no reason, professionally, to give me the card. If he was waiting to see if I was interested, clearly, emailing him in the first place indicated my interest, non?

While I am not devastated or even feeling particularly rejected, as there was nothing more than a mild interest on my part in the first place, this incident has confirmed that I am decidedly against the act of business card spamming. Cards should only be handed out to people you genuinely wish to contact you. This is what I have concluded, after much deliberation. Amen.

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