The Bailing Trend: Christian, Are You Guilty of Skipping Out on Commitments?

My friend lives in Toronto’s hipster west end, I on the eastern edge of buttoned-up midtown. To see each other, especially when both of us are swamped with work and family commitments, we flex the muscle of careful planning and muster herculean effort. However, several weeks ago, we planned to meet rather spontaneously for coffee on a Monday. She would be in my neck of the woods.

For a fleeting moment, our friendship had the gratuitous gleam of convenience.

Then she moved our meeting spot 15 minutes further from my house. The gleam faded, and I bailed. “Today has run away from me,” I texted the day before, “and I don’t think I have time tomorrow for coffee. I’m sorry, because I’d love to see you.”

It was true that I had gotten unexpectedly busy and hadn’t originally factored an additional half hour of driving into my week. It was also true that I counted on the solidity of our friendship to survive my one-off flakiness. And while I offer these as reasons, no doubt they might also be considered excuses.

“Bailing is one of the defining acts of the current moment,” David Brooks wrote recently in his column for The New York Times. We are a culture of “ephemeral enthusiasm,” readily and indiscriminately saying yes to invitations because we know we can “back out later.”

“I’m struck by how many people are quick to bail and view it as an unproblematic act,” Brooks muses. “They argue that we all have a right to control our own time and achieve mastery over our own life. Bailees have a duty to understand that sometimes other people are just too frazzled to follow through on their promises.”

Busyness has become the reason (or excuse) that no one can fault. When we bail, as I did, we blame our tyrant schedules. As Brooks points out, the smartphone makes it easy to renege on our commitments. “Bailing … is as easy as canceling an Uber driver,” he says. One text, shot effortlessly (and facelessly) over a phone network relieves us of burdensome commitments we thoughtlessly make and come later to regret. Bail unto others as they bail unto you.

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