It all started innocently enough, as these things typically do. An old writer friend of mine from Chicago sent me an email commenting on the past week’s performance in our fantasy football league. I replied, as is the custom, with some witty if slightly mean-spirited retort. Then he replied, and I replied. He shot back and, well, the war was on.
Now, a full 146 emails later, there seems no sight of an ending. We are engaged in a war for which we have little passion but from which we cannot bring ourselves to withdraw.
I imagine some of the less literal-minded among you might see this as a metaphor of some sort. Sadly, that’s not the case.
What we have is two grown men, professionals under kindly definition, wasting large portions of their valuable time engaged in a battle of wills that could easily end were just one of them adult enough to concede. Tragically, there are no adults in this equation. The fact we’re both writers just makes issues worse.
To be fair, I did attempt to concede a week or so ago. I actually drafted a brief but clear concession email and hit the send button. Two minutes later, he replied with an email acknowledging my concession.
I, of course, responded to acknowledge his acknowledgment, and the battle was rekindled.
At this point, our only hope for conclusion is death or power failure. I’m not sure which I’m rooting for.
Not to come off as one of those cranks who blame technology for all life’s woes, but it is email that brought us to this. The immediacy, the convenience, the lack of postage: It all leads to abuse. It’s an ugly truth of human nature, that when things come easy, we tend to overuse them. It’s the same mindset that lead us to become a nation of fat people around the same time the fast food drive-thru came in vogue.
Email allows us to record our thoughts and send them immediately across the nation with no more effort than it takes to hit the “send” key. This is a tragedy on many levels. For one, few of us have thoughts worthy of recording. Fewer still have anything to say worthy of delivery at the speed of sound (or light, I’m not really sure which it is) through a billion-dollar fiber-optic infrastructure.
Email also lends itself to episodes like the aforementioned war of responses. In the days of postage, neither my friend nor I would have had the energy or budget to continue such a meaningless exchange past the first missive. Now it costs no more than the rate for a dial-up and a few seconds away from our game of Angry Birds.
Not that all contemporary correspondence confusions include such silliness and malice. Many of us have trouble ending even legitimate massage strings. For instance, you receive an email from Bob in accounting concerning the new policy for writing off corporate bass boat purchases. You respond with acknowledgment and kudos for Bob’s ingenious capacity for getting around those pesky IRS Maritime Recreation restrictions. Bob shoots back with thanks for the affirmation and a nod to your wiliness in having claimed your wife’s breast enhancement as corporate development. Then … well, you get the idea.
There are cures for this particular malady. I could always just refuse to reply to email, but that might come off as rude. I have considered marking all my email with a note at the bottom that reads NRR –No Response Required - but that could take time to catch on. Presumably, I could just unhook the computer and ignore the whole business. But one or two of the 150 emails I receive a day do require some attention.
So for now, it looks like my email battle wages on. At last count, I’m up one message. I expect a reply by mid-afternoon.