March-April 2011

You’ve got MAIL*

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The other day I received an e-mail from a friend that included a mind-numbing, 16-line disclaimer along with her company’s web address, mailing address and new slogan. It said I was to ignore typos because the message was sent via BlackBerry. It also warned that the message was privileged and confidential, and insinuated that I might be prosecuted, or perhaps hunted down and beheaded, if I received the e-mail in error and forwarded it to anyone without authorization. Plus, I should have a nice day.

This for an e-mail that read, in its entirety: See you Friday night!

But it got me thinking: Maybe I should include a few disclaimers with my e-mails. They’d go something like this:

6:30 a.m. disclaimer: You have likely received this e-mail before the writer has ingested caffeine. Therefore, basic errors of spelling and fact should be disregarded. They are not evidence that the writer failed to pay attention in elementary school because she was worrying about whether her Farrah Fawcett haircut was feathering properly. (Note: Subsequent photographic evidence has proved it wasn’t. Not even close.)

7 a.m. disclaimer: If errors of spelling and fact persist, it’s highly possible the author STILL has not had her coffee. Avoid her at all costs, but if she approaches you, place a venti latte as far as possible from your body, avoid eye contact and slowly back away.

11 a.m. disclaimer: The author of this e-mail is currently checking Facebook or playing online Scrabble instead of working. And, frankly, she suspects you are, too, even if you are on a conference call using your “professional” voice.

12:30 p.m. disclaimer: The writer of this e-mail knows she should be at the gym instead of out to lunch. She feels guilty about it, so don’t start with her. Tomorrow, she vows to start eating low-carb and exerci—ooh, is that pie?

3 p.m. disclaimer: If you are a co-worker and this e-mail ABOUT you has inadvertently been forwarded TO you, please be advised that a malicious virus has invaded the author’s computer, creating its own e-mails—similar to when the machines turned against the humans in the Terminator movies. The author would like to assure you that she does not think you’re a control freak. Your stern notes admonishing folks to clean out the office refrigerator because you are not their “mommy” are perfectly reasonable and necessary. And, contrary to what her virus-generated e-mail might have suggested, your social life sets an exemplary standard that the rest of us can only hope to achieve someday.

5:30 p.m. disclaimer: If you are this writer’s aunt and you are wondering why your e-mails are not speedily answered, the author would like to advise you that your excessive use of emoticons—plus the dancing-teddy-bear banner you affix to the top of your missives—cause the author’s computer to freeze while they slowly upload. Please be advised that they inspire the exact opposite reaction you are aiming for, and that the author occasionally fantasizes about throttling your smiling purple teddy bears.

9:02 p.m. disclaimer: Dinner has been served, homework has been completed and the kids are tucked in bed. During the daytime, this is a drug-free workplace. At night, this is a work-free chardonnay household. Cheers!

Special thanks to Silver Spring resident Chuck Bieber for inspiring this column. Sarah Pekkanen’s second novel, Skipping a Beat (Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster), came out in February. She can be reached at