I receive a fair number of strange E-Mails, most of which are routed for other people, but sent to me. Like the people trying to purchase an airplane in England or the homeowners trying to rent out their house using an agent. I understand these E-Mails are odd because they are headed to the wrong sender. However, today, someone I know took strange E-Mails to a level I could not fathom.
First, let me point out that I am a trained attorney. As a trained attorney, we are taught that original thought is original sin and repurposing any scrap of previously created material is a frontline option in any situation. It's not plagiarism, but expediency, since the law requires many tedious tasks to be repeated by various souls in all sorts of situations. So, I come from a perspective that you can reuse materials in a lot of ways. However, once you move from the professional sphere to the public sphere, I think you need to either give everyone something new or bring everyone together. If I have a tremendous, A-Grade story that I need to tell people, I want to get them together, so they can gawk over the wreckage of my life as a group and develop wittier insights and quips about my foibles.
This morning, I received an E-Mail from an old work acquaintance. It took me a few minutes to realize what our relationship was. Since we stopped working together, we never had occasion to speak. When we did work together, we did not have lunch, but exchanged more than pleasantries, especially later in the day, when the camaraderie is built by those who stay to the end. We were once friends on Facebook, but she unfriended me at some point in the past for reasons I neither know nor care about. I went to her grandfather's funeral out of respect, but did not invite her to my wedding.
Now, maybe it is because I am verbose or maybe because if I am going to reach out to someone, I give them a personal message, because if I don't care enough to give them a personal message, I don't care enough about them to write something impersonal. So, I read the E-Mail, asked about the family, let me know how horrible it was that she hadn't reached out sooner and how terrible it was to be working on a Saturday morning, but still had time to reach out to others. The E-Mail was then put aside as it was soccer morning and it takes a lot to move me away from a big game like Chelsea and Newcastle. (Big in the sense that I captained Eden Hazard for my fantasy team and needed goals to cement my lead in our league. Mission accomplished.)
About thirty minutes later, I get an E-Mail forwarded to me by a mutual friend from when we all used to work together. Since my real friend sent me an E-Mail with the same title as the E-Mail I received, my curiosity was piqued. Inside was essentially the same E-Mail, with the same structure. Now, I don't mean the E-Mails were written by the same person and had a style and tone which were consistent. But I mean, it was like she made up a Mad Lib form E-Mail and filled in the details that she knew about us, including a section to include our names in the E-Mail.
Aside from the greeting, I almost never reference someone's name a second time in an E-Mail or a letter, unless there is a specific point I want to make or on occasion, a stylistic touch to set up an especially funny and painful point. But on the whole, I avoid it, since the reader is almost always certain of their own name and if they aren't, my mentioning it in passing in a missive is not going to change their lives.
Below are some key sentences which I analyzed for consistency today.
"Hope all is well with you and your ______!" I received wife, while my friend received family, since she is married with children.
"I have said about a
million times I need to write to ______ and somehow I have not :(" My copy had my name in the blank, while my friend's version had her name. We both had the same emoticon.
"Here I am working on Saturday morning with not many disruptions and thought what a perfect time to catch up with friends :)" Word for word the same ending on both E-Mails.
Once I finished reading, I did the only responsible thing in my arsenal of tricks. I forwarded my version of the E-Mail back to my friend and asked if it looked familiar, since giving the game away up front is no fun for the reader. It was hysterical that our colleague thought she could send two people, who know each other well, the exact same Mad Lib E-Mail without getting caught on it. I want to be impressed by the gall of it, but I'm not. It's just awkward, though definitely gives rise to a great story about what not to do with people you know.
So, I sit here, Mad Lib E-Mail unanswered, but dissected and discussed at length to make sure the appropriate level of comedy is given to these cut and paste jobs, which might have been acceptable in a professional sense, but not so much in a personal sense.