Sunday, August 1, 2010

20 days to Bar Mitzvah: mysterious Minnesotans

That's it. It's August 1, the deadline for RSVPs. If you have not yet sent back your attractive little response card, prepare to receive an email inquiring as to your intentions. If you're from out of town and have not yet decided whether to make the August 20-22 weekend trip to chilly San Francisco, expect your airfare costs to double in the next week.

If you are a member of the Brandeis Hillel Day School community and have not yet replied -- I saw the list, there are more than a few of you floating around out there -- I can only shrug my shoulders at you in utter confusion. Huh?

Actually, given our late August date, I can see how the invites, once prominently displayed on refrigerators and bulletin boards, may now be buried under a summer's worth of birthday party invites, dollar-off coupons and articles clipped from the local news offering showers of adulation for President Barak Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. This is San Francisco, after all.

Summer is a time of relaxed standards. After spending nine months getting Jawas out the front door by 8 a.m. five days a week, no one can be blamed for letting things slide for a few weeks during June and July. All I'm saying is that the Jawa's Bar Mitzvah is in three weeks. When you get that email, don't be offended and don't immediately hit "delete." Simply hit "reply" and write a single sentence outlining your intentions.

I estimate that each of the numerous discussions regarding seating assignments I've had over the past week with my wife has removed approximately 90 minutes from my ultimate lifespan. If you can't be convinced that a prompt reply is worth it just for the positive vibes of politeness it generates, then consider the added time taken from the end of my life as my logical-conclusion-seeking wife attempts to shove a square peg of 100% RSVPs into the round hole of reality, where about 20% of the people we've invited haven't yet responded by the "official" cut-off date.

A special note must be made for the Mystery Guest (or non-Guest), the master of brevity whose response arrived yesterday postmarked Minneapolis, Minnesota. Inside, the response card was blank, save for a check next to "cannot attend." Who is this person we will not see on August 21? Odds are good we will never know. Why will we never know? Because we didn't invite anyone who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"Maybe they were on vacation?" I suggested to my rarely stuck dumb wife as she held the response card in front of her face like an unsolved Rubik's Cube.

"So they thought to take the response card with them on vacation, thought to mail it, but didn't think to write their name on it?"


I tried to imagine how this happened. Were they in Minnesota for business? Did they spend three days at meetings fingering the response card in their pocket, reminding themselves during breaks to remember to drop it into the next mailbox they come across? Maybe they were visiting family, maybe for a wedding, a family reunion or another Bar Mitzvah, and while being drivin by cousins across Minneapolis they suddenly remembered the card and yelled, "Stop! We just passed a mailbox! I have to mail something!"

Or maybe mystery was the plan all along. Maybe we invited someone who secretly loathes us, probably someone I've inadvertently insulted or offended over the years. Honestly, it's hard to keep track. Our little invite, showing up on their doorstep with Godzilla peeking out from inside the envelope, reminded them of what an unpleasant thorn in the side it has been knowing us. "Well, here's a new standard set for nerve," they might have thought. "There's not much I can do, but at the very least, I can mail this thing from some weird address, unsigned. Then they can think about it for awhile." Maybe we're getting exactly what we deserve.

By "we" I mean "me."

Because not only am I the more likely of us to inspire loathing, I'm also the one more likely to have disorganized friends. Many of Sandra Bullock's friends are like her: efficient, inspired, neatly assembled, positive outcome-based.

As for me, I have a very long history of RSVP-challenged friends. Eighteen years ago, legendarily, we invited an entire peer group of mine, Guys I shared a foxhole with the first year I lived in Seattle, to our wedding. Of maybe a dozen guys, only one RSVPed. Why was he so different? Because he was already married, I was told by my not-old-enough-to-yet-be-amused-by-the-foibles-of-unmarried-men wife.

So this time, I will readily admit, our sense is that most of the unsolved guest riddles involve people on my side of the aisle. Even for my group of friends, though, the Minnesota Enigma sets a new standard.

Who could it be? I rand line-by-line down the list of highlighted names: the unaccounted. There were about a half-dozen names on there I could easily picture stuffing a response card into their carry-on and remembering to drop it off at the next mailbox, only to forget to add their name. I pored over the list; who would be in Minnesota?

"It's not Kathleen and Bill," Sandra Bullock interjected. They're the only invitees with a direct Minnesota connection (which is sort of weird, given that I once worked for a magazine headquartered in Minnesota and for awhile seemed to always be surrounded by very polite people with Scandanavian roots), and they alread RSVPed weeks ago.

Who else could it be? Who was in Minneapolis a week ago?

With 20% of our guest list unaccounted for, it's probably best not to dwell for too long on the Minnesota Enigma. There is far too much else to do, starting with the Jawa's slideshow, in which 13 years of Jawa-ness will be encapsulated in seven minutes of fades, pans and dissolves, hopefully including at least one photo of every kid who's at the Bar Mitzvah because I've been to Bar Mitzvahs, and nothing can make you feel more isolated than not seeing yourself show up at least once in the slide show.

I promise I will not be consumed by the Minnesota Enigma for any longer than necessary. Nor will I spend time wondering, on an individual basis, of the status of each unresolved RSVP. Just as an FYI, my lack of RSVP skills, pre-Sandra Bullock, were legendary. If I remember right, I actually once showed up late to a wedding I was in. Payback, man; it's not pretty.

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