So I’m a little obsessed with email. I can’t help it. It’s replaced the phone, the backyard chat, the gossipy coffee break in my world — especially since I started working at home again.
I look at my inbox and the higher the numbers, the happier I am. Even if it’s only the Word of the Day sent by Merriam-Webster, it makes me cheerful. Even if I already know the word or have no interest in learning it because I’d never use it or need it, still: Somebody at Merriam-Webster thought of me today. (As you can see, I have remarkably low standards; this kind of attitude, I’ve found, is key to a life of pleasant surprises.)
On the other hand, I want to die when my mailbox is empty. Not even those felonious twits who cook up badly written entreaties to send large amounts of money to my bank account, since they’re so simple and trusting in that disarming Third World way, are pestering me today. What kind of loser am I, anyway?
Always, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking — no, hoping — that there must be some nefarious reason for my empty mailbox. Surely it can’t be because no one wants to get in touch with me. Surely not.
All it takes is a casual remark from a friend about an email I should have gotten, but didn’t — and I’m hot on the trail of an Email Breakdown Conspiracy. This explains everything! I’m fortunate enough to be told that I didn’t get one email — but who knows how many other significant, priceless emails I’ve missed and don’t know about? Does this explain, I wonder darkly, why I was once again overlooked for a Pulitzer, a MacArthur, a National Book Award?
My friend Hope, who told me about the email I should have received, forwards it to me. Yes, there’s my email address right in the middle of the other CCs. No, I didn’t get it when I should. This is proof!
“Did you get that email I sent about the movie we’re going to?” Donna asks me.
“No, I didn’t,” I say excitedly. More proof! “I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with my email. I’m not getting lots of things.”
A lawsuit, I’m thinking. Should I file a lawsuit? God only knows how many invaluable emails have gone astray — ruining my career. Rejections seem to come through pretty quickly, I’ve noticed. But think of all the acceptances that have clearly gotten lost in the e-ozone. Gmail’s in big trouble now.
“I know I sent it,” Donna says. She opens her email account on the computer and pokes around noisily. “Oh, that’s funny! I wrote it, but didn’t send it.”
“Are you sure?” I ask disappointedly. She’s sure.
But, still, I think. I definitely missed that very important email about schedule changes for our Tuesday-Thursday yoga class. I have proof of that. I’m building my case. It just may take longer than I thought.
Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker