It started one bright, sunny morning.
The kids had been dropped off, coffee consumed and a nail appointment awaited. Free as a bird and energized, I was ready for some much-needed self-pampering.
I walked into the salon and got assigned my favorite lady. As she gossiped about me to her Vietnamese co-worker, I was less concerned with what they were saying and more content knowing I’d walk home with a great manicure. Besides, they usually repeat the same stuff: She looks so young, already pregnant? She must be fourteen.
Oblivious to their chatter, I took in the relaxing moment, my phone turned down and on silent, to avoid ruining the beautiful, not yet chipped paint making its way to my nails.
Feeling on top of the world as if nothing could go wrong, I graciously tipped the nail technician, who muttered something in Vietnamese, most likely go back to school, and headed to my car.
Buckling up carefully so as not to ruin the perfection that now embodied my hands, I pulled out my phone and checked it for the first time that morning. And there it was.
Chaya Rivka added you to the group “TWS Ladies.”
My heart sunk. Pulse raced.
The vicious notification had infiltrated my phone, turning a perfectly decent day into a horrendous sentence for life.
I had been added to yet another Whatsapp Group.
It’s OK. Not all is lost, I tried to convince myself. But deep down I knew once that add button was clicked, I’d become an inmate for life. Attempting composure, I slipped my phone into my handbag, still careful not to ruin my nails.
But the gnawing reality that I’d spend the rest of my days sending emojis every few hours and replying lol daily made the manicures’ end seem nearer. I couldn’t risk being branded the new group snob.
The self-pity party came to an abrupt end. A car behind me rudely kept driving while I tried to reverse out. Perhaps if they knew my recent conviction they’d be more understanding.
Surely they, too, have been trapped by the laws of a WhatsApp conversation. Laws which for some reason don’t resemble those of real life. You’d think those two green checks would make one think twice before pressing send. But instead we’ve falsely mistaken them as a cover for the weight of our words.
Frazzled, I arrived at my lunch date fifteen minutes late. “What happened?!” My friend cried, not masking her concern. I told her the news, to which she responded, “You muted it right?” Short of ending our friendship right there, I gave her a look that read “Helpful advice only past this point,” after which I let her in on my felonious plan.
As I shared the details of what most would consider an unlawful escape, she shifted in her chair and looked uncomfortable. “Could you lower your voice?!” she snapped, nervous she’d be complicit in the crime. I continued in a tone that suggested I learned how to whisper on a helicopter surrounded by chainsaws.
“You can’t do that.” she whispered, barely audible. “You can’t just leave. It doesn’t work like that. What about all the others left behind serving their time? Do you really want to be the cause of the next so and so left the group? What about the awkward pause that follows? It will be scandalous.”
“I won’t be a Whatsapp Ghost” I replied boldly. That person who once mentioned they’d bring paper plates to dinner and now no one’s even sure they exist. Their contact details are in the list, yet they haven’t shown any sign of life since.
“That won’t be me”, I said staring her straight in the eyes. She could sense my defiance. And with that I picked up my bag and headed to the door, my nails no longer a matter of concern. I think she muttered something about her upcoming sonogram and needing help while her husband was away but all that would have to wait.
Back in my car I took a quick call from the pediatrician’s office asking for our new insurance info. I put the call on speaker and entered the email with the numbers. This was much easier than reaching for the new card currently located in my wallet. Perhaps there was hope for my nails.
“Ma’am when you’re ready.”
“OK, Member ID: 01675- Shifra sent an image to the group TWS Ladies”
Can’t what you had for lunch wait five minutes?!
But it didn’t stop.
“That looks heaven!”
“Is it gluten free?”
“Where is that ?!”
The notifications continued faster than I could swipe them away, and before I knew it I was grabbing the wallet out of my bag. Manually, I read the digits while the lady waited impatiently.
I’ll mute it for now I thought, pulling out at above average speed. But even after resorting to the inevitable I knew this wasn’t the end. A quick peek at the red light showed the mounting numbers next to multiple groups.
This will be the end of my already cluttered mind I thought. How can I separate important information such as don’t forget to bring your items for the model seder from Yenta’s monologue about why it’s OK for babies to sleep on their stomachs?
Pulling up to carpool I had a few minutes to catch up messages from my husband. A chat that often makes up for the areas Whatsapp lacks short. I opened it to find a particularly funny meme intertwining Trump and Game of Thrones. Before I could savor the moment, the same meme appeared on seven different groups sapping any joy initially derived.
“That's it. I can’t take this anymore! If one more person adds me to one more group, I am going to sever my ties with every human associated with that thread!”