Each feast I get the same eid greetings on my mobile phone that everyone else probably receives. Some fervent sms messages convey profuse greetings and wishes of health and happiness expressed in elegant prose, but alas sent without a signature.
At first I used to reply to these messages by asking the sender who he is in order to thank him, but usually found myself confronted with an angry response for not recognizing his number, which is extremely embarrassing, as if he had come to visit me during the eid and I asked who he was.
That’s why I decided that every time I receive such a message, I’d respond by thanking the sender profusely and expressing my deeply-felt gratitude without necessarily knowing who he is just to avoid having to respond to the usual “Didn’t you get my message? which always really implies “Why, then, didn’t you return my greetings?
Other voice messages fill up my voice mail with equally heartfelt greetings and wishes for health, happiness, progress and success again with no mention of the messenger’s name.
In such cases too I used to call, this time, not to find out who it was (for most people consider their voices – like their telephone numbers – to be unique indicators known to all) but to return the greeting hoping to be reminded of the person’s identity through the conversation. Sometimes the person would slip and mention his name, but in other instances, he’d be more cautious, in which case the conversation would begin and end without me having the faintest clue who I’ve just greeted so fervently.
Other types of greeters like neither voicemail nor text messages but insist on speaking to you directly on the first day of eid, which you generally prefer to spend in peace with your family, avoiding the obligation to free yourself up to answering mobile phone calls.
Some of those who prefer direct contact deal with these calls as formal written correspondences which they begin as follows: “To our great literary figure, our heartfelt greetings to your venerable self and to your family.etc without giving you a chance to put in a single word edgewise. And he would end the call with a signature of his name preceded with a very formal “sincerely yours . It’s only then that this conversation would start with you thanking him for the gracious greeting, to which he would respond by saying that it’s the least he can do followed by inquiries about my health and the health of my entire family whom he would mention by name to assure me that despite never having met them, he knows them one by one.
The last type of eid greeter is the one who goes overboard in conveying his best wishes and when you express your thanks and gratitude, he nails you: “Do you know who I am? he asks. If I say that I don’t, he gets angry and asks if I’ve forgotten him.
Embarrassment sets in once more and usually there’s no other way of getting out of it except through the face-saving battery failure excuse.
But there’s also the other type who calls to greet you, and after you greet him back, the conversation ends on a good note without him mentioning his name at all.
I therefore seize this opportunity to send my warmest greetings on the occasion of Eid El Fitr, whether they sent me an sms or voicemail, whether they revealed their identities or not, and whether I knew who they were or not.
Mohamed Salmawy is President of the Arab Writers’ Union and Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram Hebdo.