My recent column about the diminishing returns of contacting old friends through e-mail (Inbox, Oct. 8) drew some correspondence from someone...

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My recent column about the diminishing returns of contacting old friends through e-mail (Inbox, Oct. 8) drew some correspondence from someone who emerged as the rule’s exception.

Hollywood veteran Sam Longoria wrote to tell me his own romantic tale. A violinist at Renton High School, class of ’72, he developed a crush on a beautiful cellist but never had the guts to make a move. After 27 years he found her through an alumni site, and wrote her a note.

They’ve been married for four years, and Sam is directing a monster movie in the tropics this winter. And he wouldn’t be so blissful, if not for e-mail.

But as they say, your results will probably differ. Bet on it.

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Reader Sandy Kalata seems to have a better grasp of reality. She is trying to contact friends from the past and would prefer to do it by e-mail. But she is “having one heck of a time finding e-mail addresses without paying money.” So where does she look?

For the answer, we should first go to Sam. He found his honey through a classmates site, for which he paid a small fee. He would tell you it was a worthwhile investment. Isn’t $30 a small price to pay for what happened to him? Because nothing is really free, you need to determine if the fee is worth making the connection, if you really want to talk to this particular person that much. Usually you can pay a month’s fee and make enough contacts to last a year.

The first step to finding someone is always the general search. Results will vary. You will always have better results from an uncommon name. And it depends on the person’s occupation. Journalists are easy to locate, since our papers always make us put our addresses online. A candlestick maker might be a bit more difficult to locate.

I’ve issued a general search for some people with no concrete results, but if I pay a fee I can get varying combinations of address, phone number and e-mail. I’ll cop to doing this a few times, but it feels like spying.

Information on the Web is public, but buying something like this — even if it is a “public” record — feels a bit greasy.

It would be easy for people like Sandy if there were a national e-mail directory, but spam nipped that idea in the bud early on.

And the chances of developing such a directory are right up there with meeting and marrying a cute cellist named Christy you met online.

There are other reasons why contacting old pals online is destined to fail. Many e-mail addresses listed online are old or unused. You can be sure that a message has missed its mark if it is returned, but the reverse isn’t always true. And a classmates site has no guarantees. I’ve never signed up for one (not with my real name, anyway), but if I did I would never offer my primary address as a contact point.

It’s too bad there is no foolproof way to do this, as contacting old friends by e-mail is a comfortable, noncommittal way to re-establish contact. You don’t have to deal with initial reactions; if it’s not positive, the direct contact would make you both uncomfortable.

Comfort and convenience aren’t always possible. Sometimes results count. Today, the surest thing is still the telephone. If someone isn’t listed, chances are you know someone who knows someone who can track the person down. They may see you coming, but there is a better chance you’ll get there.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at