Reply All

Kenny and I are fans of 60 Minutes, the CBS news show that airs Sunday nights and I always got a kick out of Andy Rooney.  His pleasant rants about things that annoyed him reminded me of my grandfather, Paul Parrott.  Papa was a bit more acerbic but no less opinionated or hesitant to say what was on his mind, regardless of potential impact.  Years ago when my step-father, Joe went to ask him for my mother’s hand in marriage, Papa, perhaps feeling that opportunities for his divorcee daughter might be few and far between, interrupted Joe’s heartfelt declarations of love with a terse: “Take her my boy, she’s yours!”

I watched Andy’s swan song on 60 minutes and laughed when he expressed gratitude to his fans and immediately followed that by asking them to leave him alone when they saw him in public.  I was sad to hear of his death and after listening to an NPR tribute that highlighted some of his many complaints I began thinking of my own pet annoyances.

EmoticonsI have mentioned my love/hate relationship with the computer and cyber protocol and so it continues.  I bought something for the first time on Ebay last month and, typically, did not bother to read the instructions for bidding.  Kenny was out of town and unable to help me navigate but he gave me his password–he is a constant wheeler-dealer–and I went looking for a cheap Swiss Army watch.  I bid on 5 watches, thinking that when one hit I’d drop the other bids.  After winning the auctions on 3 of them I realized that there is no delete button on bidding.  Once you’re in, you’re in.  Kenny called the next day from the road where he’s touring with Bob Seger and wanted to know why I’d bought 5 watches.  I did manage to get out of two of them but now I’m the proud owner of 3 Swiss Army watches, 2 of which are identical.  I blame the computer.

One thing I do love and appreciate though is email.  I don’t particularly like talking on the phone and email is direct, expedient and saves time–lots of it.  But there are aspects of this useful tool that I find problematic.  For instance: it is never a good idea to send messages that contain any emotional content by email.  They don’t translate and are easily misinterpreted.  I have offended several people without knowing it because I didn’t use an emoticon to clarify that what I was saying was said with love.  This annoys me.  Emoticons annoy me; I refuse to use them on principle.

However, easily the biggest annoyance in my mailbox is those messages from the users who routinely hit “Reply All’.  I’m not referring to what I’m sure is the original intent for this option–to let everyone in a particular group know what one is bringing to the potluck so that we don’t all o.d. on casseroles made with mushroom soup.  I am talking about the folks who want us to know their schedules, their pithy responses, their immense gratitude, whatever–regardless of whether or not we need or want this information.  For me the epitome of overuse of this feature occurred when Lily was still in elementary school and the office sent out a field trip reminder to every family in the fifth grade.  There was no request for chaperones or for any form of reply but at least 20 parents let us all know whether they would be interested in accompanying the students.

I have been associating this type of behavior with the general human disconnect that the age of technology has brought us but it’s easy for me to be disparaging because of my own ineptitude in this arena.  My kids have a hashtag on many of their tweets called #typical Ashley that refers to something I’ve said or done–like referring to the facebook wall as wallpaper.  Apparently I am consistent enough in providing them with material to warrant a hashtag.  I should be flattered.  But I do seriously believe that more than ever we want to be heard, to matter and exist in the minds and hearts and lives of others.  And many of us are left wanting.  Maybe it’s a stretch to extrapolate this kind of meaning from the obsessive use of “Reply All”.  Maybe its just an overactive, misguided desire to be helpful, to cover every possible base, to be practically–and fully–understood.

But just in case there’s a deeper longing involved: I want to be more mindful in my interactions, to look people in the eye, to listen without interruption or distraction, to avoid flipping the topic to me.  In this day and age when “friends’ can number in the thousands, I want to be personal as much as possible.  I suppose you could call this a resolution.  Happy New Year and may our paths cross often in 2012.

25 comments to Reply All

  • Cindy Gray

    its not just you… I’ve worked as my mother says “on computers” for about 25 years, its gotten entirely out of control. I don’t “get” Twitter and retweets and the @ thingies, I can’t tell who said it and who is commenting on it. I do like emoticons, some are pretty creative. I was trying to expand your blog so that I could ‘read more’, but right next to it it said ‘reply all’, I didn’t want to click that cause at that point I wasn’t sure I had anything to say, so I didn’t want to ‘reply all’ to all of your readers…then I caught on… What happened to you on ebay is how you quickly go from being ebay buyer to ebay seller! And, finally I think what you said about people wanting to matter and searching for signs that they do is spot on. Hope to hear and see you soon!

  • “Happy New Year and may our paths cross often in 2012.”

    They just did, and undoubtedly they will again. May you and your family enjoy a serene 2012. In the meantime, thanks for your engaging, thoughtful — and yes, personal — blog posts, Ashley. They’re always worth reading.

    P.S. As Cindy suggested above, why not sell your extra Swiss Army watches on eBay? Offer a certificate of authenticity (“This watch was worn by Ashley Cleveland…”) and perhaps you’ll earn a handsome profit! (Insert smiley emoticon here…or not.)

    • Where did we cross paths? I think if I tried to offer authentication people would just say who??? My son Henry calls me a pseudo-celebrity because I’m a Grammy winner no one’s ever heard of. Love your cyber name–or is that handle? No that’s cb jargon. As usual, I’m confused.

      • No, I meant that our paths just crossed here, on your blog. Having lived online for over 30 years, I tend to overlook the distinction between “virtual” and “physical.” Sorry. And “handle” is just fine. In fact, early online users borrowed that term from CB culture anyway.

        “Pseudo-celebrity”? No way. You’re as un-pseudo (perhaps even anti-pseudo) as they come, which is why your album “God Don’t Never Change” (for example) is so profoundly moving and so unceasingly stunning.

        Looking forward to hearing “Beauty in the Curve,” and hoping that you’ll perform in Hawaii someday. In the meantime, please tell Henry that Auntie Disorientalia says he ought to mind his own business. Oh, I don’t care…I’m inserting an emoticon here: 🙂

  • Diane

    Love the blog – I don’t like to talk on the phone either. I much prefer e-mail, but alas, it seems like most people like to talk on the phone, but I refuse to do Facebook or Twitter.

    It was a pleasure to finally get to see you in person at Discovery Church in Elk Grove, California, and as a bonus to get to meet your mom!!! I hope our paths cross again, as I would love to see you sing more than 5 or 6 songs! Happy New Year to you and yours!

  • Sean MacNair

    Just read your blog for the first time. Two-edged sword, this Internet is; I feel the disconnect from real-life people sometimes, but on the other hand, it gives me a chance to tell one of my favorite singers how much I appreciate her music. (That would be you.) I’ve only seen you in concert once, with Rich Mullins. You whacked your son Henry in the head with your guitar and had to stop the whole show, and now he’s calling you a pseudo-celebrity. Boy how time flies.

    • Hi Sean–hilarious about me whacking Henry–I forgot about that–but now I remember–trying to get him to recover quickly, which only made him howl louder. That was such a great tour–I also remember having all my clothes stolen and also Henry’s Power Rangers out of our “tour van” (Rich certainly knew how to ride in style…). I cried over that on stage–in Oklahoma, I think, and shortly after that received a box of new clothes–purchased at the Disney store (I kid you not). Time does fly–thanks for stirring up a great memory.

  • Vince

    Those Reply All’s drive me buggy, too. But what drives me buggier (my wife would say it’s just a short putt, but I digress) are the people that cause those Reply Alls.

    When someone is sending an email to 94 of their closest friends, the 94 addresses should NOT all be in the “To:”. They should be in the BCC, and the “To:” should be their own address. That way everyone gets it, everyone doesn’t see everyone else’s email address, no one has the opportunity to forward it with everyone’s email address, and Reply All comes back to only the original sender.

    Wait, is this a music blog? Well, then, I LOVE your music. It’s indescribably delicious. It is, in fact, ineffable.

    You’re pretty cool, too. At least you sound like you are, we haven’t had the chance to chat. Let’s do that sometime. Let us know when you’re coming through DFW airport, we’ll come say Hi. It’ll be worth it, I promise — we’ll bring chocolate.

    • So do you lurk in DFW Vince or do you live in range? I tend to fly Southwest only these days because they happily take my guitars and bags without a fuss–which puts me at Love Field. Glad you like the music and hope that people take your advice about properly addressing emails.

      • Vince

        I live in range. The TSA eliminated any remaining desire to lurk in an airport, and there wasn’t much to begin with. (I remember a video scavenger hunt from less than 15 years ago where one of the tasks was to get a picture on a plane, and a couple of the teams were successful. Those were the days…)

        I’m waiting for 2014, when Southwest can fly anywhere out of Love. Right now, flying anywhere out of the five-state region requires a stop, and I loathe stops.

        Remember, “Threshing Floor.” It’s calling out to you and Kenny to re-record.

  • David

    I don’t know if artists like fans talking about the distant past, but I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your contribution to the Goners back in the late 80s. I saw 3 or 4 shows with that lineup, which had such amazing energy and cohesiveness on stage, thanks in large part to you. Glad to hear of your solo career, and hope all is well. Thanks again.

    • Hi David–
      The Goner tour was such a career highlight for me–I never really knew if I brought much to the table there so thanks for the good word–I owe John Hiatt a great debt of thanks for including me–though I see the tv footage from the tour once in awhile and wish I’d had the sense to see a hairdresser. Thanks for commenting.

  • Ron Barry

    Ashley,
    As always, you’ve hit the nail on the head with a sledgehammer and an Acme anvil. I, too, prefer e-mail over a telephone — once I’ve deleted the 20+ pieces of spam that come in daily. At least you have the satisfaction of knowing that your music touches many (and no one more than me) as personally as it is legally possible to be touched. And that hasn’t changed since “Big Town” and “I Could Learn to Love You” first kissed me ears! Can’t wait for the next record, and thank you for continuing to be the most genuine musician alive. Ron B

  • Hear, hear, Ashley…I concur…I relish moments with human friends sitting at an actual dinner table sharing a real meal and laughing/crying out load within touching distance of each other….not unlike many of our ‘in the round’ nights at the Bluebird…wouldn’t trade those for any amount of technology:) Happy new year!

  • JoannaDee

    Thank you for being so honest and real yet “fun” in your music. I have always enjoyed doing the GOOD old hymns (some 1570 songs need to stay in 1570) in a new way, but I could never get past the memory of the screeching sound my Grandma always made on “pow’r” when singing “Power in the Blood” in church. Thanks to you the message of the song matches the style. AND I don’t cringe.

  • Rick Mills

    Well said.

    Be.

    Rick Mills
    Ontario, Canada

  • HI Ashley,
    I just read your blog. Great thoughts. For a time, my dad bought each of us Salvation Army watches. We showed up to a restaurant and laughed when ordering we each had almost the same watch on.
    It would be great to meet you one day. RC did my website and Tamara R. the photographer said that I have your spunk. Well, maybe not as much. My New Year Resolution is to write more and play my guitar better. I have listened to your music from your very first CD and often sing your songs in concert.
    I love your song “You are There.’ “When I can’t lift my head …. ”
    The music business is really frustrating but thank the Lord for the serenity prayer and others working on being real and transparent.
    You are both.
    Thank you so much for your voice and your music.
    I pray you and Kenny and your family have a blessed Christmas!
    Lisa Fenstermacher

    • Hi Lisa–
      Thanks for writing–and singing my songs! Yes the music business is frustrating–I had to crash really hard before I learned to keep the business and the music separate–I was losing my love for the thing that was so precious to me. Happy New Year! May you have many opportunities to be heard.

  • meant to write “Swiss Army Watches” not Salvation Army…. duh

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