We all know jerks, right? We see them every day - at work, at school, at home, while commuting - everywhere. Their omnipresence is second, only, perhaps, to God Himself. There have been numerous stories that I have read on the Internet where people have written about their encounters with jerks. There might definitely be a similar account of the story that I’m about to share at some other place in the interwebs with a less-than-flattering portrayal of the jerk in question - Me. But this is not that story. This is about the other side. The Jerk’s side.
I had set up a meeting (over email) for today with someone I really wanted to speak with. An Internet startup founder in Singapore. We had confirmed the date, time and the place earlier in the week. We were to meet at 4pm today.
Mistake 1: I had taken it down in my calendar as 4.30pm.
Learning 1: Don’t even trust yourself with the simplest of tasks if a more reliable alternative is available. In this case, I could have easily used the Mail client (on my iPod) to create a calendar event from the email itself by clicking through. (they auto-detect dates in the email and prompt to add it to your calendar). Instead, I chose to do it manually and made a mess of it. Most people get this right, though. This might still be useful for others like me to keep in mind.
So, I left my house at about 3.50pm knowing it would take me 30 minutes to reach there. I’m generally not very good at making appointments on time. So, I was pretty happy with myself that I was going to make this one on the dot. Soon, I was on the train and was a making a mental note of what I’d be talking to her about.
People who know me personally know that I don’t have a smartphone. I have a Nokia Asha (suffice it to say that it is a not-so-smart phone). I have always convinced myself against buying one with the strong belief that I have little use for it. What not having a smartphone means is that when I’m outside, I’m basically cut off from the Internet unlike 72% of the people in Singapore.
Mistake 2: I wasn’t connected to the Internet and I hadn’t given her my handphone number (while I had hers)
Learning 2: When you don’t have the means to be reachable always. (which has come to be expected of you these days in Singapore, at least), you need to take an extra step to make sure there’s a workaround for the other person to reach you at any time by some way. In this case, I should have simply given her my handphone number.
I reached the place at 4.25pm (early, in my head). As soon as I got in, I sent her a text saying that I had come and if she could message me when she came in, we could find each other and talk. I stood in the line, bought a coffee, continuing to look around from time to time to see if I could see any sign of her. I couldn’t find her. I walked around a bit, couldn’t find a place to sit, so went out and stood for awhile.
I decided to give her some time before calling. It was 4.45pm soon. I was starting to think that maybe she had forgotten about the appointment. I decided it would be best to call and check. If she had indeed forgotten, I could at least leave. I called. She didn’t pick up. Again, people who know me well, might also know that I don’t trust myself at all. (Paranoid parrot, the human-version) I thought maybe I had written down her number wrong. While I was naively trying to recall (from nothingness) if the last digit was 0 or 6, I realized that Starbucks had free wireless and that I had my iPod with me - so, I could probably check if she had left me an email about a possible change in plan. I got the password from a Starbucks staff person and connected.
Mistake 3: Considering she only had my email, this is probably the first thing I should have done on reaching.
Learning 3: Be less of an idiot. Your coffee can wait.
Had to wait a while before I could finally see my email. There were two emails from her:
One at 4pm saying she was at a McDonalds nearby as the Starbucks was crowded and that she was waiting for me.
Another at 4.20pm saying as she hadn’t heard from me (at all), she made out that I was probably not going to come and she had decided that it’s probably best for us to not meet at all.
I was dumbfounded. Looking down the thread, I saw that we had planned for 4pm and realized my folly. It slowly started to sink in as to what a jerk I had been (at least in her head). I felt really bad. I wrote to her immediately (5pm) apologizing and seeing if she was still around and we could meet up. She didn’t reply.
I waited for 30 more minutes and wrote again, expressing the same emotion that I am trying to convey through this entire account - of remorse and utter foolishness. I finished by saying that I would be happy if I could get a chance to meet her again at a time & place that suited her but if not, I would understand. She didn’t reply.
And that’s the way it stands now. She’s pissed off and understandably so. I can totally empathize with her when I put myself in her shoes. I have had similar-ish experiences in the past but never before have I regretted this much - It’s possibly because I hadn’t met her before and her only impression of me is.. well.. this.
My feeling of regret is only partially assuaged by the fact that it was a honest mistake and I was actually quite keen to meet her. I also bought a $10 picture postcard while I waited from someone who promised the money will reach deserving hands. Hopefully, that’ll replenish at least a part of my lost karma.
I respect enterpreneurs (makers/creators/founders) and certainly had no intention of wasting her time. (I told her this) Unfortunately, what had to happen happened. It seems unlikely that this meeting might happen at all. We’ll see. Hopefully, I have learnt my lesson, won’t repeat this again and the world will be one jerk less.