Email Hell: Welcome to My Nightmare

If there’s one thing that drives me batty in my professional life, it’s receiving an excessive number of bad emails.  Life is short, my time is limited; please don’t make me sift through blank/vague subject lines or 10 MB emails that only have one record I need to view.

While the vast majority of employees generally understand email etiquette, as with anything, a few people ruin it for everyone.  In all of my professional years, there are three types of senders who are the bane of my corporate existence:

1) The person who either doesn’t “get” email or is playing dumb to shirk responsibility
At a prior job, there was a guy who worked remotely – we’ll call him Sage.  Sage was one of the most charming men you would ever meet. When he visited on-site once or twice a year, he’d make a point to chat with everyone in the office, and he’d always chuckle pleasantly at your jokes.  Once a year he’d have a cake delivered to the office for all of us.  Great guy, right?

Well, the problem with Sage is no one had a freaking clue what Sage did all day, let alone all month.  All we knew was it was impossible to communicate with him – email was like a Jedi mind trick that left you baffled.  You’d send him an urgent request regarding one of the facilities in his region, and he wouldn’t respond.  If you didn’t already know the abysmally low success rate on him returning a voice message, you’d give him a call, listen to a smooth, baritone voice tell you he’s not available while a soft hint of Barry White music plays in the background, and you’d leave a message that he would likely delete.  After a couple of days, you’d re-send the email, with a “2nd Request: In Need of File from XYZ Facility” type of subject line.  Still nothing.

“3rd Request: Urgent! XYZ Facility Will Not Get Paid W/O Receipt of File. Please Respond.”

Finally, usually after the 4th request, he would decide to respond.  In his reply, he’d say simply, “File is attached.”

There would be no file.

You’d immediately respond with “nothing is attached,” and get no response.  You’d simultaneously call his phone, and get the Barry White.  After banging your head 50 times against the keyboard, you’d start the dance all over again until the dude with the smallest market in the network became the last market to be finalized for the month.  This happened every month.  No, nothing was done about it, because the head honcho adored his charming ways, and the higher-ups just thought he was a face-to-face guy who didn’t “get” email.  He collected a paycheck doing this routine for about 10 years, until new management discovered he couldn’t locate his clients’ locations on a map with the radius of a block.  Sage, wherever you are? You are a smart, smart man who made a lot of money doing a lot of nothing. I’d like to think you were really CIA, and this was your cover job.

2) The person who doesn’t know what Snopes is
I really, really hate forwards (with the exception of an occasional dog-related forward).  I have historically received a few different annoying forwards from a handful of co-workers to my work email…from their work email.  Don’t they have something productive they could be doing? Anyway, I’d get the “WOMEN! AVOID BEING ABDUCTED BY A CRAZED GUY HANGING OUT AT WAL-MART” forwards that give a fake story about a serial kidnapper, and list weird tips on how to avoid him.  I no longer inform the sender that they are sending misinformation with a link to Snopes, because that usually pisses them off.  I also avoid snarky responses, like “Tip #10: Don’t Shop at Wal-Mart.”

I’ll also get the fake “So and So is Dying of Cancer and Their Last Wish is to Carpet-Bomb the Internet with Chain Mail.”  Really? Of all the shit someone can wish for, someone wanted that? I don’t think so.  Dude, you can meet Michael Jordan, or rent out Disneyland…do you really think someone wished for a vague email with 900 nesting levels?  If there is ever even a grain of truth in these, the person mentioned in the email died 10 years ago, and their wish was for everyone to mail a letter with a rose petal to a dictator demanding peace on earth or something.  Somewhere along the way, the “I Pay it Forward by Clicking ‘Forward’” crowd got the message and decided to slacktivate it.

Of course, I’m more forgiving of the Dying of Cancer forwards than the “I’m grabbing your ankles while being dragged to hell” people who send you the sweet message about love and hope and promise and pegacorns and ends with, “forward this to 20 of your friends or you will be damned to a lifetime of poor health and loneliness.”  First of all, I’m not your friend.  Second?  I so want to reply to those people with a cutesy-maudlin story that ends with, “if you forward any email to even two of your contacts ever again, you will be cursed with dandruff and DefCon Sriracha-level diarrhea for the rest of your life.”

My final emailer is a class of their own:

3) Ted.
Every office has at least one Ted.  Ted is the guy or gal who Gatlin guns your inbox with “urgent” requests, cc’s your manager on even the most mundane of emails, always chooses the wrong spelling of a word, and finds the most space-inefficient way of providing you nothing useful. For example, you see this in your inbox:

! Ted Gatlin        Not at Desk                      4/22/2012, 9:15am      355KB

You open the message:

This message is high priority.
From: Ted Gatlin
To: You
CC: The COO of Your Company
Subject: [no subject]

I am considering leaving my desk for five minutes to go too the bathroom, but do not want to negatively effect you’re project.   Please advise.

Sincerely Yours,

Ted Gatlin
Specialty Specialist
ABC Company

“When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
And he’ll win the whole thing ‘fore he enters the ring
Theirs’s no body to batter when your mind is you’re might
So when you go solo, you hold you’re own hand
And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
And if you fall it won’t matter, cause you’ll know that your right”
- Fiona Apple, from her 1999 album, When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king
What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight
And he’ll win the whole thing ‘fore he enters the ring
Their’s no body to batter when your mind is you’re might
So when you go solo, you hold you’re own hand
And remember that depth is the greatest of heights
And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land
And if you fall it won’t matter, cause you’ll know that your right

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: The information contained in this message may be privileged, confidential, and will likely put you on the No-Fly List. If you are not the intended recipient, or an employee, or federal agent, you are about five minutes away from having a man dressed in black rappel down the side of your building and kick in your office window. If you have received this communication in error, please unplug your computer, take it to the parking lot, pour gasoline on it, set fire to it and go Reservoir Dogs on it with a crowbar. Then take a high-powered magnet and shuffle your feet on carpet all the way to the server room.  Upon entry, touch everything and unleash the sweet, sweet power of your magnet. The sender does not accept any responsibility for any loss, disruption or damage to your data, computer system or IT department that will occur in this process. Cherrio!

I initially thought it would be great if we got all of the Teds to work together in one company, but that one company alone would break the internet and send us back to the stone age. Someone would do an archaeological dig hundreds of years in the future, locate an exchange server and discover that the last five minutes of our civilization as we know it was recorded with the following string of emails:
! Ted Gatlin       Welcome to the Gatlin Company!       4/22/2012, 9:15am     355KB
! Fred Phalanx       I Can’t Access Email!!      4/22/2012, 9:15am     1MB
! Ted Gatlin       RE: I Can’t Access Email!!       4/22/2012, 9:15am     1MB
! Tommy Gun       Re: Welcome to the Gatlin Company!       4/22/2012, 9:16am     400KB
! Ted Gatlin       Re: Re: Welcome to the Gatlin Company!       4/22/2012, 9:16am     400KB
! Fred Phalanx       WHO ATE MY KRISPY KREAM?       4/22/2012, 9:16am     1MB
! Ted Gatlin       RE: WHO ATE MY KRISPY KREAM?       4/22/2012, 9:16am     1MB
! Jane Gun       RE: RE: WHO ATE MY KRISPY KREAM?       4/22/2012, 9:17am     1MB
! Em Sixteen       RE: RE: RE: WHO ATE MY KRISPY KREAM?       4/22/2012, 9:17am     2MB
! Em Sixteen       Policy on Food [PLEASE SIGN]       4/22/2012, 9:17am     2MB
! Jane Gun       Pics from Grand Opening :)       4/22/2012, 9:17am     50MB
! Fred Phalanx       FW: Pics from Grand Opening :)       4/22/2012, 9:17am     51MB
! Em Sixteen       Policy on Email [PLEASE SIGN]       4/22/2012, 9:18am     53MB
! Fred Phalanx       CANNOT SCAN SIGNATURE!!!       4/22/2012, 9:18am     75MB
! Fred Phalanx       HELP! Can’t work new phone       4/22/2012, 9:19am     75MB
! Em Sixteen       Policy on Phone Usage       4/22/2012, 9:19am     2MB
! Fred Phalanx       FW: Policy on Email [PLEASE SIGN]       4/22/2012, 9:19am     76MB
! Jane Gun       FW:FW:FW:FW OMG SOOOO CUTE!! :P!!!!!<3 :D       4/22/2012, 9:20am     200MB  
! Tommy Gun       Taking Girl Scout Cookie Orders       4/22/2012, 9:20am     50MB

We don’t want our world to be sent to the stone age, right?  Right?? Let’s all do our part and not be a Ted. Besides, you don’t want us to go off the grid before you put that Girl Scout Cookie order in.

Image: David Castillo Dominici /