Essay: On “just checking in”

I got two phone calls on Tuesday night. This is two more than I usually get during an entire week. The first was from a member of Matt’s family checking to see if we were okay.
“Yes?” I said, confused as to why the question was being asked.  He told me there was a shooting in a mall near Portland and he needed to know if we were okay.  I let him know that I was home and Matt was at work and thus probably fine.

He signed off with, “Well have him call me when he gets home.”  I assured him I would, wondering why that was necessary as I had just told him where Matt was and it was nowhere near any mall.
Later that night a former roommate called because she just heard the news.  “Are you okay?”  I assured her we were.
Um.  This is where I have a problem with everyone needing to be in touch on a surface level all the time.  20 years ago if there was a mall shooting, or other such tragic event here’s how the thought process went.  “Do I know anyone there?  Could they be at the mall in question/other such tragic event? Probably not.”  And then everyone would move on.
Because really, what are the chances of me being at a mall outside of the city in which I live? In the afternoon?  On a weekday?  I can say that people who know me well enough to have my phone number should realize that the chances of me being at a mall at any time of any day are so small they actually approach negative numbers.
I see this at work a lot.  I once had a parent call because the guy who drove her child to school for the daily carpool hadn’t texted her that her child had arrived safely and he did that every day and could I check to see if her child was there.  Well yes, where else would she be?  And, better question, why are you calling me
and not him and why do I need to humor your crazy?
Here’s the thing. Matt drives to work in a car every single day.  I come from a family with a history of depression issues and, though I’m fine now, I’ve had at least one episode of major depression in the past.  I’m also overweight.  Matt and I are much more likely to die from these three things (cars, depression, health problems brought on by overweight) than any random gun violence that might happen in the same metro area as us.  But no one calls and checks in with us every time there is a metro automobile fatality and that happens every single day.  Friends don’t call me regularly to check my mood or what I’ve been eating lately.  There is danger all around, but it’s not the danger you are thinking of.
It’s good that there are people who care about us out there, but I’ve come to believe that it’s ridiculous for people to constantly cast themselves in the dramatic role of “worried about friend because situation happened near them.”  What if we hadn’t been home?  What if I had gone to a movie?  What if we were staying overnight at a hotel*?  Would the thought process have gone, “Well, I can’t get ahold of them so they must be DEAD!!!”  Or would people have just gone on with their lives?  I suggest that it might be a bit easier to go through life assuming that the people you know are avoiding death and trauma on a regular basis.  If tragedy finds your friends and family you will know soon enough.  In the meantime let go of some worry.  And maybe, if you want to, call them just to
chat.
*We actually had plans to do that the next night, but the concert that was playing that necessitated the hotel stay was moved to March, so the mid-week in-town hotel trip was moved too.

One thought on “Essay: On “just checking in””

  1. I am such a worry wart that I do almost jump to a neurotic conclusion. This is usually about my dear spouse. He doesn't answer his cell, I jump to the worst, scariest, saddest conclusion possible (I tried to type it out, but couldn't actually have it in print.). It usually does involve a car, though. I can be honest, I figured with a decent likelihood that you were not in that mall. Interesting essay, as usual!

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