Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Addressing the Situation

I've kept a computerized address book for years, since long before I actually got a Palm Pilot. When I'm working, I generally put all of my colleagues in my personal organizer because it's much easier to deal with than a contact sheet. Because I freelance, this practice has resulted in an address book with over 1,100 entries. All too often I spot someone's name in the book and I have absolutely no idea who it is. I have to look at the little note I've put in there, and even then I often don't really remember.

Recently, I switched from Palm Desktop to Apple's built-in address book. It's a pretty easy conversion, but any time you change this kind of software there are a few things that don't import exactly right and need to be adjusted. As I've been going through and fixing stuff, I realized that now that I'm syncing my Palm with the new application, my Palm Desktop file will remain untouched. So I can safely delete all those people who I haven't thought about in years, but the compulsive anally retentive side of me is still satisfied knowing that I have a record of them somewhere.

This has been an interesting process. I'm actually evaluating people I've known and deciding if I should "keep" them. If I haven't talked to you in more than two years and you don't have e-mail, you're definitely out. Then there are various celebrities who probably have no idea who I am anymore, but I've hung on to them in case someone might look through my Palm and be impressed. Yeah, 'cause that happens all the time. I suppose a better reason to keep them is in case I need something from them someday, but see above re: I was a PA for them five years ago and they won't remember me. Gone. If I don't actually remember who someone is, clearly they're out too. Then it gets trickier...might I want to send an e-mail to this person even though I haven't in forever? What's the harm in keeping them around just in case? On the other hand, what's the benefit? I thought it would be a depressing experience, contemplating long-lost acquaintances, but it's actually kind of liberating. There's something oddly comforting about accepting that some people are simply of the past and letting go of them. Besides, with the exception of a couple of people from high school for whom I only have outdated information for their parents, we're mostly talking about "that guy who subbed for two days on light board for that show." Or "that director who was a raving lunatic and could never remember your name even when she saw you every day." Hardly a big emotional experience.

Still, I feel like I'm doing a good job of eliminating clutter. I like eliminating clutter. Of course, electronic clutter is far less insidious than physical cutter, and given the state of my desk and my living room right now that's what I really should be tackling. So I suspect this project is really just another form of procrastination. Damn, I knew it was too good to be true.

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