Saturday, October 3, 2009

Birthday Reminders

"How incredible that you remembered my birthday! And even my age.” I hear this constantly. My memory isn't so great; I just use my computer calendar's pop-up reminders. Then I either admit to people, “My PC reminded me,” or else I say, “How could I possibly forget?”

I choose the second response if the person's appreciation of my "thoughtfulness" might prompt them to gift me big on my own birthday. After all, I was kind enough to hit "send" on their birthday e-mail.

That's all I give out – e-mails. The computer replaces not only my memory but also hardcopy Hallmarks and presents. “Happy #38, Joe!” I'll emote on screen. “Hope you and the kids are celebrating at the beach house.” It doesn't matter if Joe is actually a childless hydrophobe; getting the birthday right always impresses.

Someday a computer virus may erase all my birthday reminders. I will then truly be up a creek without a birthday cake candle, because none of the 251 birthdays I store in my PC is actually written down anywhere. Some would be relieved to see me stripped of my system. On rare occasions, I receive this reply: “Thanks, but I didn’t need to be reminded of my age.” I reply back, "Don't be such a gerascophobe," thereby doubling my obnoxiousness by using an obscure word for "one who fears aging," when "baby boomer" would suffice.

I often try to talk people into using more electronic reminders themselves. “They'll transform your life," I say. "My computer tells me when to put out the trash, when to get the dog his shots…you'll be as grateful as he is.”

I love that birthdays give me a reason to e-mail someone I haven't contacted for a year even though I have absolutely nothing else to say. We have a nice time catching up, and this benefit is the bottom line. It’s how I justify relying on an impersonal method to fake the memory I used to have before computers made remembering stuff unnecessary.

I’d like to be a birthday fairy, flitting around rigging PCs to remind people whenever it’s that special day for someone they know. My desire probably stems from feeling as a child that my December birthday got lost amidst the holidays. Now I'm old enough to understand how a friend of mine says he often forgets to notice when it’s his own birthday. When I turn 90 I bet I'll forget, too. Then my computer will tell me, "Send birthday e-mail to Holly Love." What a nice surprise it'll be to get that e-mail, which I'll be sure to mention when I write back.