Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring Cleaning My Address Book

Confessions of an Address Book Pack Rat

Weighing in at over 4,000 personal and business contacts, my address book is officially out of control. It’s the electronic equivalent of the mafia: once you get in, you never get out. I’m reasonably friendly and outgoing, but I don't think it's humanly possible to personally know 4,004 people. In real space that’s a 37 pound Rolodex. One shouldn’t have a phone book the size of the phone book.

The size never bothered me until I bought a Black Berry. Synchronizing my computer address book with my Palm was quick and easy, but it takes an eternity on the Black Berry. I can go for a long European style lunch, come back and it’s still not done. Ironically, if I’m not there in the last 10 minutes of the process, it crashes my computer.

The fine folks at Research In Motion have assured me that they have no idea why this happens. It’s never happened before with any of their other customers. Yep, I'm special. One technician gently suggested that I switch from ACT to Outlook. Apparently all of Christendom uses Outlook, but I don't want the hassle of changing programs. That's a little drastic. I’m gonna try downsizing first.

A good place to start: closed stores, outdated business contacts and friends from grammar school. Can you really call someone a friend if you have to crack open a year book to remember what they look like? I have a very close personal friend who left the business three years ago to start a tree farm; or so I found out when I called last month. I guess I should have called more often; or taken the hint when my Christmas cards were returned "Addressee Unknown."

The easiest to delete are the closed businesses. Restaurants come and go in New York so quickly, I'm not sure why I bother inputting them in the first place, but I really loved Mr. Leo's. It was a wonderful upscale soul food restaurant in Chelsea that served the best honey dipped chicken I've ever had. Sorry, Mom. I have a rule against eating messy food in public. That means no hot wings, no ribs, no barbequed anything. Part of it is ettiquette, part of it is vanity. I was taught that proper ladies don't sit at the table and knaw on a bone like a famished lioness in the wild. Food stuck in your teeth and sauce on your cheek doesn't make a good impression on the first date or the 50th. But self consciousness went out the window when I had Mr. Leo's Honey Dipped Chicken. That was the quintessential meaning of finger licking good. And finger licking, by the way, is not necessarily horrible on a date, depending on what you have in mind for dessert.

But I digress.

I was told that Mr. Leo's went out of business when Mr. Leo himself was robbed and killed leaving the restaurant late one night. I don't know if this is true or if it's just an urban legend among restauranteurs who don't use a bank courier to handle the days receipts. For all I know there wasn't even a real Mr. Leo, just some guy named Otis who had a great honey dipped chicken recipe and a dream.

Another place that stayed in my address book long after it closed was Dosanko's. It was a great Japanese restaurant that boasted an amazing ginger salad dressing, and served a better than expected fried chicken. It wasn't honey dipped, but it was tasty. If Mr. Leo's was number one, then Dosanko's was number one A. Sorry, Mom.

Two things are evident: I like chicken, but chicken alone won't keep a restaurant a float. Or, more accurately: if I like the chicken, the restaurant is doomed. This would explain KFC's continued success.

There are moments when sifting through my address book is like skipping through a mind field. In trying to get rid of the dead weight, I've come across actual dead people like Mrs. Franklin, my sixth grade teacher. Mrs. Franklin was one of those teachers who cared. She loved teaching and she loved us, her occasionally raucous class of 28 eleven year olds. She was a petite woman with auburn hair and a penchant for losing her glasses. She had two pairs: one for seeing and one for reading. When either pair slipped to end of her nose and she looked at you from over the top of the frames, you knew you were in trouble. She was like your mom and the principal all rolled into one. I heard through the neighborhood grapevine that she had passed away, but I didn't have the heart to delete her name from my address book. It felt like I'd be deleting part of my childhood.

Worse though, is coming across people in my phone book who I’m not sure about. Dead? Not dead? You can’t exactly call up and say, “Hey? Are you dead? No? Just checking.” I could just send them a Christmas card and see if it gets returned, but that doesn't necessarily mean dead. It could just mean relocated tree farmer.

It’s also a bit creepy calling people you think are alive, only to find out they've died. That happened once. I called an old aquaintance just to say hi and catch up, but was told she had died a few months earlier in childbirth. I was sad, of course, but also confused. Women don't die in childbirth anymore do they? Had my phone call been routed through the "Twilight Zone" and into the middle ages?

Apparently The Grim Reaper has also been hard at work, whittling down my address book. Between the two of us I'm down to around 3,500. Five hundred businesses and people who were once important enough to enter into my address book have been deleted. My Black Berry still takes over an hour to sync, but at least I've gotten it to stop crashing my computer.

My next project will be tackling the size of my My Space. As of last week I offically have over 1,000 friends. Give or take one or two, that's 9,995 people who I don't personally know. I hope they’re okay.

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