Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

Email Ennui

Iím thinking of declaring email bankruptcy. Actually, Iím thinking of notifying all my online debtors Ė hundreds of individuals and organizations whoíve sent me email lately Ė that Iíve officially been diagnosed with Email Ennui (French for boredom, pronounced ON-WEE). Being branded as the victim of a disorder with a French name will make me seem sophisticated and fairly high-falutin.í It will also give me a good excuse for not having answered most of those computer missives. This excuse will probably work with everyone except my mother, who has never been one to buy my excuses.

As Iím writing this, I have 729 unread email messages. Five of them are from my mother. Even though we speak regularly in the old-fashioned way, she still sends me a lot of email, including a great many recipes that call for using at least 25 ingredients. Iím pretty much a five-ingredient-or-less kind of person. But the poor woman is still laboring under the delusion that she can turn me into a good cook. She also forwards far too many mass messages that have probably invaded every inbox on earth. Most of these contain lame jokes, disproven urban legends or dire warnings of impending doom that Iíd really rather not know about.

Because my response rate on her emails has been unsatisfactory, my mother has taken to putting all of her messages in capital letters. Thatís every single word in all capitals. This is not good. The use of all caps in email, as you probably know, means the person is shouting at you. All caps in an email from your mother is even worse. Itís like having her use your full name while dragging you across the room by your ear while your kid brother laughs. Itís not a place you want to be. I am now actually afraid to open those messages from my mother, as I expect when I do that a virtual hand bearing a striking resemblance to the one that used to swat my backside will spring out of my computer screen and grab hold of my ear.

Electronic communication is a wonder, and I have become dependent on it. Iíve actually sat in my living room and text-messaged my children, who were in their bedrooms with the doors closed. This allowed me to avoid the exhausting (and usually unsuccessful) prospect of having to yell across the house, hoping to get their attention, or the even more debilitating process of actually getting off the couch and walking (how old-school that is!) several feet to their rooms. Why should I interrupt a perfectly good session of playing couch potato when I can make use of modern technology? If text-messaging doesnít work, I can always resort to calling their cell phones from mine. They, of course, will see that itís me on the Caller ID and refuse to answer the call. But at least I tried.

So, like I said, this brave new world of communication is an amazing thing. But it can also be an albatross around our Internet necks. And that gets me back to those 729 unread millstones languishing in my online inbox. I read recently in Wired magazine how copyright attorney Lawrence Lessig hit upon a novel tactic after spending 80 hours trying to clear out his email backlog: virtual bankruptcy. Just apologize profusely to all your email creditors, Lessig suggested, sounding sufficiently shamed and promising to do better in the future. Then simply wipe away all that excess email and start afresh.

I think Iím going to try that. Too bad it wonít work on real-world dollar debt. And it probably wonít work on my mother. My ear is already stinging.

~ †© Jackie Papandrew 2008 ~

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2008, (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]


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