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E-Mail Is a Bitch, and So Am I

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This weblog started as a place for me to "bitch about what is bothering me today." My first few posts fit the bill, but I quickly replaced the bitching with more reasoned writings about television, politics, the law, more politics, technology, and writing. After all, the Internet has enough people bitching on it that I need not add my voice to that. Then again, I really feel like bitching right now.

When I send somebody an e-mail, I expect them to respond. One day is nothing. Two days if you're busy, I can understand and appreciate that. Three days is rude, and anything beyond that is stupid. We're not talking about sitting down to write an essay here, some grand quest to prove to everyone that you do actually know how to spell, use grammar, punctuation, and occasionally capitalize letters. I'm talking about a simple "Sorry, I don't have any information about that." How hard was that? It takes a few seconds to read, a few to comprehend, and a few more to pen an answer.

Seriously, what is the point of having e-mail if you aren't going to use it? How can you ever expect it to be useful when you treat it with all the responsibility of a two-year-old? When the phone rings, you answer it. You wouldn't for a second think about letting it ring, figuring they'll just call back in a few weeks. And what the hell makes you think you're so special that someone who obviously wants something from you is going to find it acceptable that you made them wait days if not weeks to be blessed with your response?

This past week, I sent an e-mail to an executive producer for a TV show that airs on the SCI FI channel. I'm pretty sure I sent that on either a Friday or a Saturday night, and got a reply on Monday. That's fine, business and all that. I pinged him back, and within minutes got another reply. He was obviously sitting right there still dealing with his mail, and I appreciated him taking the time to help me out with something. But that's the rub, I appreciated him not taking a month to get back to me, something that otherwise should be baseline. It should be commendable that you answer your email within hours, not that you answered it at all.

On March 31st I sent an e-mail to a woman named Jennifer at an upstart production company. The previous winter, I had come across her looking for short film script submissions that her company was looking to produce and take to film festivals such as Sundance. Back then I had contacted her, and she replied promptly as you would expect, but I never got the chance to write something to send over to her company. Come back to March of this year, and I send her e-mail asking how her company made out on their search, and also let her know that I was curious what other projects they might have coming up. I fire it off, and then I wait.

No reply. No biggie, I think to myself, she's probably just busy. So I wait a week and then send off another message, reminding her that I had just sent her a message, an in case it just got lost or something, I repeated my questions. And then I wait.

No reply. This time I wait four months, and I'm getting pretty pissed off. There is no job in the world that takes so much time that you can't reply to your e-mail within four months. But I'm a nice guy with a very patient personality, so after four months, I sent off another short reminder of my past two messages, and this time I gently but sternly tell her how interested I am in hearing back from her. I send that off, and wait some more.

I think back to when she had originally popped up in this newsgroup I frequent, and I remember that a poster there had personally vouched for her, and her offer as being legit. Even said that her knew her personally. I go digging through the archives and dig out his e-mail address, and send off a message introducing myself, and asking if something had happened to the production company, such that I was sending e-mail to a dead address. I thanked him for his time, and then I waited.

That was four days ago, and even this fucking guy can't find his e-mail account if I strapped it to the business end of an ICBM and shot him in the face with it.

Earlier this week I finally got a response from a guy in the Democratic party that was trying to put together some letter writing campaign, some sort of director for my entire state. He's practically begging for help on a local political blog, so I send him a message asking for more information, and offering up my services as a writer if he has something for me to do. Naturally, I get nothing but static. It took another week of waiting and a second reminder message to get anything out of him. Now I'd like to point out that he apologized for taking so long to reply, saying that he was very busy right now, and I believed him. You hardly ever get sincere apologizes these days for anything, so I think this deal is fine, and the guy was a genuinely nice person.

This of course is not the first time I've had this happen, and I'm sure it won't be the last, but I am getting sick and tired of it. I don't know hardly anyone that has an e-mail address that doesn't read their mail, which means either I've the most unlucky man on Earth and found the only two people who just upped and stopped reading their e-mail (one home address, one business address), or the world is growing more crowded with assholes who just ignore people because they think e-mail is as serious as yellow sticky notes.

When people send e-mail to my ISP account, chances are I won't read that for 1-3 days because only one person ever sends me e-mail on a regular basis, and I see her litereally every single day. I just don't check it that often because there's nothing there. My gmail account on the other hand I respond to within minutes so long as I'm at either of my computers. I use the little notifier application that Google makes that sits in your system tray and tells you within a minute if you have new mail or not. When I get it, I answer it.

People don't care? Well screw them. When someone emails you, it isn't any damn different than a letter in the mail, or a telephone call. Don't agree? I have bills sitting in my gmail inbox that proves otherwise.
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Aug 12, 2006, 11:27:00 AM
Instant email notification would annoy me, other people have written articles on interruption and productivity, although it does arrive in thunderbird instantly if I do want to read it at some time.

Your emails probably ended up marked as spam and deleted without any notification. If my inbox is full up with hundreds of old messages I'll never respond to anything so I've started leaving it empty and keep things I've yet to do something with waiting... annoying me into replying (if it needs a reply) or ignoring it.

It's very easy to just ignore email.

Aug 12, 2006, 12:26:00 PM
I know your pain.

If more than one week had passed I would have tried to find a different way of contacting the person. Fax, snail-mail, or a phone call would be reasonable options. Of course, if this information isn't known it's a bit harder.

Sep 7, 2006, 5:51:00 PM
I enjoyed this page very much (Email is a bitch, and so am I).

It was also a source of relief to me that I'm not alone in being annoyed by non-responders.

I don't have access to a PC at work, and so all my emailing is done in my spare leisure time. I have always found the concept of electronic mail seriously cool and convenient, and sometimes forget that not everyone shares my viewpoint, or indeed likes using their PCs as much as me.

But still, getting someone to actually respond to emails I've sent is getting harder and harder. Remember, this is not necessarily a business environment I'm talking about.

The usual excuses upon meeting them face to face at some point in the future, are :

1) I've just been too busy. (subject changed quickly)

2) I forgot your email address.

3) I tried responding but your email doesn't work. Did you change your address ? Why didn't you tell me ?

If I do change my address, I go to great pains to inform everyone I know what the new address is. How hard is it for them to update whatever kind of address book they use ?

Oh well, thanks for the article, nice to know someone else cares. :)

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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.