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Michael Picarella: friendship and the digital divide

Picarella Family Report

Posted: March 7, 2009 1:25 a.m.
Updated: March 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.

My wife and I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years. When the two of us moved to Southern California in 2000, we left several friends behind.

It's tough to move away from good friends. You see them every day for years, and then one day you move hundreds of miles away and they're gone. When I moved to Los Angeles, I knew I'd have to pay a lot of money on long-distance phone calls and make a lot of trips up the coast to keep in touch.

For the past nine years, I've had little luck just getting those friends on the phone. I can't even get in touch with them via e-mail or social networks like MySpace and Facebook. And I've only once been back home see them, and that was for a wedding many years ago.

My wife and I work long days, we have a 5-year-old son who keeps us very busy, and we spend a considerable amount of the little spare time we have just trying to stay in touch with extended family (which is a must or they write us off). When we do get the chance to call our friends back home, we face the unlikely chance of reaching them, and the likely chance that they won't get the chance to call us back.

Nevertheless, I keep trying. It's become a mission of mine to contact a few particular friends who were among my closest buddies back home. To ensure my success in my mission, I asked family members how they keep in touch with special people who are hundreds of miles away.

"Well, it's tough," they said. "If they don't call us, we don't call them. We usually lose touch."

Three years ago, I called one of my closest buddies from back home and got a hold of his wife.

"Oh no, you just missed him," my buddy's wife told me. "He's always beating himself up, saying he needs to return your calls. I always tell him that you know work is crazy and that you know he has a family and new friends and no time to call you back, and I tell him that you totally understand ... I'll tell him you called."

I never heard from him.

Around the same time, another one of my closest buddies from back home returned one of my e-mails from two years previous.

"Sorry I'm just getting back to you now," he wrote. "I'm not one for correspondence. In fact, I really only keep in touch with my mom and dad and a few close friends and some old co-workers and some guys from school. Don't be offended if I can't keep in touch with you. I probably won't even respond to your response to this response. See ya."

That was it. And that's when destiny stepped in and provided the opportunity I needed to make real contact. I had to get a pacemaker installed in my chest to fix some heart problems. My wife e-mailed the news to friends and family, and I figured I'd certainly receive sympathy calls from my close buddies from back home, if not a visit.

Instead I got e-mails.

"That's crazy," one of my buddies wrote. "It's times like these that makes you cherish your friends."

"We can't believe you had to get a pacemaker," wrote the wife of another buddy. "We're just shaking our heads."

That was it. Two brief sentences each.

I spent the next year and a half trying to respond to those e-mails. I called. I e-mailed. I MySpaced. I Facebooked. Nothing. Last year, I ended my efforts.

Yesterday, an old co-worker of mine from back home contacted me on MySpace. He said he bumped into my good buddy and his wife (the couple who shook their heads when they heard about my heart surgery). My old co-worker said he asked the couple if they kept in touch with me. My buddy told him, "Mike doesn't call anymore."

Michael Picarella is a Valencia resident and a proud husband and father. To contact Picarella or to read more stories, go to His column reflects his own opinion and not necessarily that of The Signal.


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