Sunday, September 03, 2006

The etiquette lesson

Pay attention, jackass!

My own family has provided me with quite enough junk mail already, thank you, so it was not a happy experience to discover that some stranger had added me to her distribution list. I figured it was a mistake based on a coincidence in last names. For a while I ignored it, but finally I had had enough. She sent out the “Kevin Archer” hoax to everyone on her list. That's the one that warns you about children dying from heroin overdoses from discarded needles in the playgrounds of fast-food restaurants. Yeah, right. This particular urban legend has been kicking around for at least six years. It's both old news and false news.

It was time to tell my unwitting correspondent about and to ask her to remove my name from her mailing list. My message was a bit acerbic:
How gullible do you have to be to believe an obvious Internet legend like fatal accidents with heroin needles in McDonald's playgrounds? While such places might not be the neatest in the world (and you should always check where your children are playing), no one dies of an overdose from a discarded needle. The actual danger from discarded needles is infection, but you don't find them lying around in many playgrounds. Stop worrying about microscopic possibilities. Do you carry steel umbrellas around to protect your kids from meteorites? You do know that falling rocks can kill you, right?
I closed with “please remove me from your mailing list.”

In return I received a very polite note from the person in question. She said I was included in her mailings by mistake and she promised to be more careful in the future. I wrote back and thanked her for her consideration. All was well. Or so I thought.

My inadvertent correspondent seemed like a very nice lady. I soon found out, however, that her children did not take after her. I had used the “Reply to all” in replying to her original message, as I customarily do whenever I send out a correction to someone's ill-advised forwarding of Internet chain mail. The first volley came from people I took to be the woman's son and daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law uses a signature block that says “Little Miss Attitude,” so I have to give her credit for truth in labeling. Her message was in an extra-large font and included a postscript from her soft-spoken spouse:
Don't know who you are... thank god for that!!
That was very RUDE!!!!
Next time you receive an e-mail that you perceive to be "nonsenses" "delete" and keep your rudeness to yourself! Lxxxx

Zeno, this is coming from Exxxxx
Watch your fucking mouth before you get punched in it!!!

Duly chastened, I thanked the couple for their wise counsel:
And to think I went to all the trouble to say “please” in the subject line.

You people have no business lecturing others on rudeness.

Thanks for your polite and considerate advice.
Other family members turned out to be just as polite, logical, and literate. Fxxxx declared:
That message cheered me up immensely, so I quickly chimed in with
Well said. I quite agree. Exxxxx's message was a perfect example.
I think Fxxxx is Exxxxx's brother, so he should know. Then Rxxxx weighed in:
I would like to let you know that I DO NOT appreciate you insulting my mother. Just to let you know, I pray to God that you and I don’t ever meet in person. That’s a promise…
That confused message deserved a cheery response to show I had understood the key point:
As it turns out, Rxxxx, your mother is entirely capable of speaking for herself without issuing crude threats and she sent me a nice note thanking me for the correction and the information. I do, however, congratulate you on your ability to write an e-mail message without obscenities. I also appreciate the promise that we will never meet.
The next missive came in the favored format of the calm and reasonable—ALL CAPS. Her last name indicated she was a sister or a spouse, but that's an irrelevant detail compared to the pithiness of her advice:
I have to admit, though, that I'm not sure how one takes one's life—pathetic or otherwise—onto an e-mail. Perhaps this is some new idiom that the kids are using today. The next sister (or spouse) was wordier:
I agree with what Lxxxx wrote. The delete button is on our keyboard, one click away vs having to type that nasty words from Zeno Ferox. Zeno could have handled it in a decent way but he chose for all of us to see what kind of person he is.

I know [the woman who forwarded the hoax]. She's a very very good person and she does not deserve to be treated that way. I am glad I don't have friends like Zeno Ferox.

We forward emails because we are concerned for our friends, whether is a hoax or not. For ppl who know its a hoax, consider the email a message saying “I care about you, I heard about this and I want you to be safe.” Or just ignore and delete.
This one fascinated me with its logic. It's okay to forward hoaxes and inflict unnecessary worries on people you care about, and you want them to be safe from imaginary dangers. How dare an unappreciative recipient of such a caring hoax offer a correction!

The death of irony

Not everyone who wrote me was upset. The original sender, after all, took my rebuke in stride and responded very nicely. Another person on the original mailing list also thanked me for the information and sent a separate e-mail asking Lxxxx and Exxxxx to stop using “Reply to all” if they were going to broadcast obscenities. This request set off Lxxxx all over again. Little Miss Attitude wrote that she was quite upset:
You can't speak for EVERYONE. So why would you send to all? Next time you have something to say to us.... please use ur same advise!
You tell 'em, girl! Who the hell does that person think she is, suggesting to everyone on the list that they keep obscene messages private? Loud and proud, honey. Loud and proud.

Update: 9/13/2006

A dozen days have passed since I kicked the rock over, but some critters take longer than others to get their bearing when exposed to the light. One more scathing missive has popped into my in-box, duly flagged by my mail program as likely to be offensive. I wonder whatever gave it that idea?
Im wxxxxxx mxxxxx, dont hide behind the computer. you want beef, be a man and expose yourself. if you think your half the man you think you are dont pick old ladies. though i know who the fuck you are, your joes son. in a few years, i'll be back to fuck your ass up- sxxxxx.
Oh, now I get it. This message is offensive in its lack of
  • capitalization;
  • apostrophes in contractions and possessives;
  • grammar;
  • ability to distinguish between homonyms; and
  • civility.
I would also ask why someone who says his first name is wxxxxxx signs off as sxxxxx, but I'm sure we could always find out from his rap sheet if it were necessary to do so. And since my father's name is not Joe, I wonder who the big genius plans to go stalking.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, my mom is the only one allowed to send me those horrible forwards, and usually she limits is to jokes that were actually funny the first time.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I recall the same sort of thing when I told my cousin that some falsehood about Target hating veterans wasn't true - someone else on her list responded to me very vitriolically, accusing me of working for Target and hating America. I responded once more, pointing out that I didn't work for Target and didn't hate America (I love that line, by the way: such a complete non sequitur and pathetic attempt to take the highest ground) - I was just a veteran who loved the truth, how about him?

Never heard back. From anyone.

But now I remember to correct my cousin on Reply, not Reply-All ... not that she sends me that many. Any more.

Anonymous said...

How about the logic of "if you think your half the man you think you are"? I can't decide if it's always true or always false.

Gadfly said...

I’m right with you. Here’s my recent blog on the subject.

Anonymous said...

I reply to these things by forwarding details of the Gullibility Virus. Hitting “reply all” adds to the enjoyment of the joke, as you found.

Anonymous said...

Bill Hicks, genius that he is, has a line for just this kind of occasion(especially considering the coarse language and vicious threats):

"You're christian? Then...forgive me."

Anonymous said...

Heh. My mother used to send me ULs, but I managed to turn her onto Snopes, and now she's pretty good about checking. She still sends me "inspirational" stuff, but my Mom gets to do that. ;-)

Zeno said...

Thanks for all of the comments. I guess it's nice to know I'm not alone in trying to stem the tide of nuisance e-mail, although it often looks like a losing battle.

I have, in fact, wondered what to do about whoever Joe's son is. I've decided to forward the threatening e-mail to the woman who sent me the original forwarded message. I think the bully must be her son, in which case she can clue him in that it's not Joe's son (whose situation seems bad enough, given that he's related by blood or marriage to these goons).

Anonymous said...

I work for a radio station and have to suffer the dual indignities of having a public persona that on the one hand attracts these forwards so that I can "help get the word out" while demanding I respond civilly to those that I would rather not.

My advice to "check Snopes" before doing the mass forward tango seldom gets followed, but at least I feel better having done my duty as a netizen.