The trouble with email…

0743, 23rd January, 2021

Take your eye off the sky for a moment and it will transform from boring flat grey into something spectacular.

With temperatures well below freezing, it was tempting to ignore the sudden transformation, but eventually I have to do my rounds anyway, filling the bird feeders and dumping ice from the bird baths.

The ice castle groweth!

Having declined Grant’s offer to go shopping with him, I used the option of changing my mind, thinking a brief car trip might engender some enthusiasm, which was decidedly lacking this morning.

What exactly made me think of email, I don’t know.

But up came the thought: “what is actually so great about email, anyway?”

Obviously, it’s a wondrous means of immediate connection which is completely taken for granted by anyone some 30 years younger than me.

But I was perfectly happy before it arrived. Writing letters was something I quite enjoyed and between the writing and the posting thereof, you had time to re-read and make changes. Or you could decide to tear the damn thing up.

Email is too immediate. Especially if you tend to be emotional. It’s much like having a live argument, except that the person on the other end has the option of dismissing you with a simple click.

Then you’re left guessing. “Did they read the whole thing? Did they misunderstand something I said? What did I mean?…”

When we got email at work, I was so foolishly optimistic.

“Everyone will be up to date all the time, because they will get the latest in their email.”

Well, yes. Assuming they bothered to read it. Some weird idea that appeared to be. Mostly they used the Internet to transact personal business.

“But at least they will read messages from other supervisors”, I thought. “We are a team!

Oh, what a fool. But a fool that didn’t give up easily.

We had managers for everything and you could never catch up with them because we worked shifts. But with email: “Brilliant! I’ll get answers!”

What I finally got, from my section head, was a terse message to tell me not to bother emailing her anymore, because she wouldn’t read it.

The ultimate put down. How to motivate your staff.

Apparently, I was very annoying. She eventually told me I should consider leaving the station. Which I finally did when the manager in Seattle told me he wanted me! And would wait while I took my dad on a promised vacation.

Email got me into trouble because I’d sit down at my PC, steam issuing from my ears about the latest bit of stupidity I’d been embarrassed by, and I’d message the person I either thought was responsible or who I thought most likely to sort it. Actually, I suppose I just copied in everyone. Might as well piss them all off!

Interestingly, though, it was actual letters that caused more trouble. I had a reputation for being able to write and one time when morale was particularly low, I was prevailed upon to write to our CEO. One of the junior managers was persuaded to hand deliver the letter and she nearly lost her job over it. Which would have been devastating to me.

But I can’t remember that it did a bit of good, except the satisfaction that local management were ticked off.

One of the most useless of my current possessions is a ring binder which is full of email copies that I sent out between the beginning of 1999 and May 2000, when I finally left JFK to take the equivalent job in Seattle.

Periodically, I open the binder to a random place and have a chuckle, which is possible, all these years later.

At the time, I was frustrated and stressed like a flag in a cyclone. Only the impossibility of my situation would have prompted me to sell my apartment and transfer cross country with my little cat. When I said I was going, everyone thought I was kidding.

They had thought I was kidding when I said I was going to Lagos for the weekend too. Equally mad, in a different way.

Most of those old emails wouldn’t make sense to anyone now. Mostly, I can remember the circumstances described and I don’t know if that is a good or a bad sign!

There is one email that will give you a general idea of what my working life was like, back in 1999. I’ll just offer a portion of it as you may find it amusing. I was contacting the manager responsible for allocating PC’s and telephones:


Having ejected me unceremoniously from the Admin. office, I have been told that I am now to be moved into the coat closet behind the supervisor’s office. I believe some reconstruction has to be done first, which requires major sanctions, so I doubt it will happen this century. (Quite honestly the place is such a hole, I can’t see why they would bother trying to improve it, but I think they want to be able to pile more rubbish in there with me) Anyway…I don’t suppose anyone told YOU?

The coat closet did indeed become my “office”, not that anyone respected it as such. The supervisors used it as their lunch room and a place where they could surf the Internet when I wasn’t there.

The term “hostile work environment” comes to mind.

Really I should have sued those people for emotional stress!

My job, largely, caused my spine to disintegrate, not just the work, but the fact that I sustained two bad falls on their property. However proving the case would have taken a lot more energy than I had, so I took early retirement and never looked back.

When I began to think of retiring, I became very emotional, thinking that if I was not an active employee of that company, I would be “nobody”, which in many ways is true.

But I am quite happy being that nobody.

3 thoughts on “The trouble with email…

  1. After reading that clip from your e-mail, I think I woud love to get a hand on that e-mail ring binder … that may be very interesting reading material 😄.
    I’ve enjoyed your story so much, I almost forgot to look at the pictures … but I did in the end and they are beautiful!

  2. Dear Carolyn – I love reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, life and cats. I, too, am a major cat lover and at one time had seven cats (three were strays I adopted in my neighborhood). Now I’m down to two cats and they bring me great solace during my solitude of this pandemic prison of mine. I could really relate to your blog “The trouble with email” and chuckled as I read it. Beautiful photos too! By the way, there is a minor typo in this blog: “ Take your eye off the sky for a moment and it will transform from boring flat grey info something spectacular.” I believe the word “info” should be “into.” Thank you for sharing your stories!

Leave a Reply