Is my great aunt hinting that she wants me to call her?
June 23, 2006 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Is my great aunt hinting that she wants me to call her?

I recently got married and received a card in the mail from my great aunt and uncle. The card had a check in it and on the check my great aunt wrote their phone number. She wrote a nice short congratulatory message in the card and made no direct mention to please call. Maybe she wrote the number on by habit or if the bank had a problem? They are nice people, but I have only seen them 3 times during the past 12 years that I can remember. I've never talked to her on the phone before and I'm not much a phone user. So, do you think she is hinting that I should call her? If she is, should I? I will send a thank you note no matter what, but I'm just not into phone conversations with people I barely know. I don't want to ask my mother because she will say call no matter what because it's her aunt that she has a different relationship with.
posted by disaster77 to Human Relations (26 answers total)
It's kind of up in the air. I'd call, regardless.
posted by cellphone at 9:27 PM on June 23, 2006

Speaking as someone who considers the telephone a mortal enemy and thus can totally identify with your reluctance, I think you should call, just to be on the safe side. If I were you I'd probably force myself to. You may have to navigate your way through an awkward conversation, but at least once it's over it's over.

Was there anything in the card that could even be vaguely construed as "please call"? "Keep in touch" or something like that?
posted by Kosh at 9:37 PM on June 23, 2006

I would just send a very nice thank you note. Spring for a Hallmark card, not the 1.99 ones. She'll notice.
posted by Jada2929 at 9:43 PM on June 23, 2006

Does anyone know their schedule well enough that you could call while they're out and leave a voice mail? Time the thank you card to arrive around the same time.
posted by acoutu at 9:43 PM on June 23, 2006

Call her. She gave you a check. Heck, give me her number, I'll call her.

Older relatives love chatting on the phone, and also tend to expect a little personal attention when they send cards or gifts.

Even if you barely know them, this is your chance to get to know them better before it's too late.

Sorry if I sound like your mom.
posted by SassHat at 9:57 PM on June 23, 2006

Call. At the very least you're related
posted by RufusW at 10:43 PM on June 23, 2006

If you cashed the check even though you hardly know them, then you can also call to say thanks even though you hardly know them.

Of course, your great aunt and uncle want you to call. That WAS the purpose of the number on the check. It's obvious. Geesh.

Give them a call. It will make them very happy and the conversation most likely won't last that long. And it's the polite thing to do.
posted by bim at 11:12 PM on June 23, 2006

Send a thank you note, but why not call and say thank you too? Maybe you're not much of a phone person, but if you've been a member of society long enough to get married I daresay that you can call someone and engage them in chitchat for a few minutes. Obviously you getting married is the big deal, so I'm sure that will be the topic of conversation.

You question reads as if you're making some momentus decision. It's not. The worst thing that could happen is that you have an awkward five minute call, the best thing that could happen is that you could make a connection with a family member you never really got to know well.
posted by apple scruff at 11:18 PM on June 23, 2006

I know a ton of old people will pre-write telephone numbers or drivers license stuff, etc. on checks if that etc. is whatever their primary grocery store likes to get on the check.

But yeah, just call, it's not like you have to know anything or have some extensive relationship. They aren't testing you.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 12:11 AM on June 24, 2006

While I'd second what most others here have said, namely "how bad can it get?", I'd also like to point out that you not wanting to call is a sufficient reason for not calling. If she had a desire to call you, she probably could call you herself (I'm assuming here that she has your number). If this is mainly about following protocol, you could just write a thank-you note.
posted by Herr Fahrstuhl at 4:40 AM on June 24, 2006

Why shouldnt you call her?
posted by lemonfridge at 4:56 AM on June 24, 2006

Dude, call your Aunt, for crying out loud. Old people have the best stories.

Who knows, your phone call might just make her day, and how cool would that be for both of you?
posted by friezer at 5:31 AM on June 24, 2006

I'm completely phone-averse, and I absolutely understand. If you do decide to call, here are some suggestions from my forays into calling old people I don't know:

Take the offensive! She's unlikely to recognize your voice or remember why you are calling. Don't say "Hi, this is Jane..." and expect her to pick up the conversation. Say "Hi Great Aunt Betsey! This is Jane, I'm Mary and Bob's daughter, I got married last month. I'm calling to thank you for your thoughful card and tell you how much it means to me."

The more direction you have over the conversation, the less weird it will be. Don't allow the conversation to run on forever and get awkward, either. When you can't deal with it anymore, just interrupt with how great it was to hear from her and thank her again but that you really have to go.
posted by miagaille at 6:10 AM on June 24, 2006

If a non-customer comes into my bank to cash a check one of our customers wrote, we have to call the customer to verify they wrote it before we can cash the check. Perhaps your Aunt has a similar type of "smaller" bank, knows the procedures, and she's just being thorough so you don't have issues. Of course, she may just want you to call her!
posted by cyniczny at 6:26 AM on June 24, 2006

If you feel awkward calling her, maybe you could see this as an opportunity to learn how to be less awkward. Knowledge like that will serve you well.
posted by amtho at 8:28 AM on June 24, 2006

Whether she's asking you to call or not, call. When I got married, I got a few small checks from a few great-aunts. I don't think I called, but I wrote & struck up a communication that went on until they died. Got to visit one great-aunt, and heard some fabulous stories from the other. Life is short. You'll be old one day. Call.
posted by clarkstonian at 8:37 AM on June 24, 2006

She wrote it by force of habit as a phone number on a check used to be required by merchants for them to accept. I guess to track you down if you bounced it, but seems to me you would not use a real phone number if you were the bouncing type.

She is not asking you to call. Call anyway. A few days after you cash the check. You can always hang up. Even abruptly if necessary. She may have a great story to tell you or three.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:59 AM on June 24, 2006

Yeah, call her. As much as you don't like the phone (me too) at least you have something to talk about: the wedding. It'll pass really quickly.
posted by gaspode at 9:53 AM on June 24, 2006

I am very very phone adverse, but, yes, call. Thank her, then move the conversation on to your mother -- you can get embarrassing stories about your mom being toilet trained or something if you are lucky.
posted by Rumple at 10:12 AM on June 24, 2006

Who knows, your phone call might just make her day, and how cool would that be for both of you?
posted by friezer

Exactly! 2 or 3 minutes of your day just might be the highlight of her week. My grandmother is 100 years old and lives with my wife and I, so she isn't alone, but she lives for the phone calls from distant family who take just a minute or two to give her a call. Old people get down in the dumps and feel like a burden, but a simple act of kindness like a short phone call does wonders to boost their morale.

My grandmother has outlived half of her children, a couple of the grandkids, all of her lifelong friends and spends a lot of her time remembering how good life used to be and the pain she endures now. Those phone calls from across the country never fail to bring her back to life and the effect lasts long after the call ends.

I'm not a religious man, but I do believe there is a special reward ahead for those who take a couple of minutes to brighten the day of an old person.

Go ahead and give her a call, you'll be glad you did. It would also be nice of you to just drop her a card every couple of weeks just to let her know someone cares. You'll be in her shoes someday.
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:15 AM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

I more-or-less intentionally broke off communications with a handful of distant relatives by simply not responding to gifts/cards/etc. (I didn't get any checks, but if I did, I wouldn't have cashed them.)

People will gasp in horror and shake their heads in dismay, but I don't regret it one bit.
posted by trevyn at 11:02 AM on June 24, 2006

This is pretty silly. The question was whether the great aunt was hinting that they should call. The answer is, clearly, no. Your personal opinions on the joys of calling old people have nothing to do with it.
posted by reklaw at 12:05 PM on June 24, 2006

I would go with those that say she wasn't dropping a hint. Asking for a phone number on a check is so ubiquitous now that it is probably just a habit. I'd think that if she had wanted to angle for a call she would have written the number in the card, not on the check.
posted by nanojath at 12:49 PM on June 24, 2006

I think that because the phone number was on the check, instead of in the note, it was not a request to call her, but rather she wanted to make sure you wouldn't run into any snags cashing the check.

Now I'm going to give some unsolicited advice. Write a good thank you note, and don't worry about not calling. As to thank you notes, I will give you the Miss Manners standards for a good one. It should not start "Thank you for the blank." Think something more chatty and conversational. Thank you notes should be actual handwritten letters, though short ones (3-5 paragraphs is plenty), with news about whatever you think they might be interested in about your life, and also expressions of interest in how they are and hopes to see them at a future date. You can mention something you heard about your Aunt from your mom that would be appropriate for you to comment on (her health, her interests, hobbies, or a recent vacation).

All of this is to express the ties that bind you as the receiver to the gift-giver and return the fondness that motivated them to send you a gift in the first place. It can be more difficult to accomplish in situations where perhaps familial duty is what you perceive to be the prime motivater, but it can be done. And you might discover you have more in common than you realized.

Of course you still have to mention the gift they gave you, and refer to it in glowing terms as generous, lovely, just what you always wanted, or something of the like, but it's not the be-all and end-all of a good thank you note.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 1:05 PM on June 24, 2006

Would she be happy for a call? Probably. Was she sending you a secret signal to call? No, she was making sure that you'd be able to cash the check. But send a really nice thank-you note, and be chatty about it.
posted by desuetude at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2006

By all that is holy, don't call. You will only confuse your aunt into thinking you are someone that cares. I try to never call anyone, it only encourages them to call me. Of course if it was a big check none of the above appllies.
posted by zackdog at 8:56 PM on June 24, 2006

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