Apr 22, 2020

Survival Tips For When Your Email Goes “Poof!”

It happens to all of us and should be a felony. Or something

By Ed Goldman
Tell me this hasn’t ever happened to you and I’ll politely reply, “LIAR!”

You write someone a well-reasoned email, explaining in compassionate detail why you simply can’t accept his or her marriage proposal…how you come from very different worlds…how the momentary excitement you feel for each other would likely cool and eventually turn to active animosity…how it’s really your problem (not his or hers)…

You leave out, of course, how you can’t stand writing “his or hers” repeatedly but you’ll be damned if you’re going to write “they” or “them” when it’s clear you’re writing about only one person (him or her). 

Anyway, you then decide to locate an appropriate  song lyric about two people coming from different worlds. You take this last step because you’ve established with the other party that you’re an oh-so-sensitive type who cries when a leaf falls, baby cries or chai latte is too hot.  So you go to the top of the email and Google “different-world songs,” hit the question mark that takes you to a website that gives you the perfect lyric, highlight an especially poignant phrase and select “copy,” then return to your tortured, brilliantly constructed email and find—


No, no, no. Don’t start looking around in that “Rescued Items” folder. That’s just there to upset you. Face it, your florid breakup note is now toast. Consigned to the ash heap of your romantic history. Gone with the cyber wind. “Dead as the bulrushes round little Moses/On the old banks of the Nile,” as Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote (used here without permission).

Or, to be slightly more up to date, as dead as an annular ring nail (commonly used in siding, according to über carpenter Bob Vila, whose website will fascinate you if someday, for some strange reason, you find yourself shut indoors for several weeks).

Okay, the email’s gone. You forgot that with your computer, when you’re on your email page and you leave it for Google, even for a moment, your email page gets offended and runs off with Outlook. You’ve been, in current terminology, ghosted.

But all is not lost (though all of that stupid email is). The calamity of losing one of your masterpieces can be mitigated only two ways:

1. Prior to its disappearance, by having drafted and spellchecked it first as a Word document, then having copied and pasted it onto the email page. But then—and this is crucial—you would have to have remembered to save that Word doc, so if your email were to evanesce once again, you’d still have its content, and could re-copy, paste and try to send it.

2. After the email has hit the ether, by reconstructing it entirely from memory. I’ve had to do this a number of times—and after the first 74 or so, began to almost like the process because the new version seemed so much better to me.

In “The Garden of Eden,” a novel released long after his death—and quite remarkable for demonstrating that everyone’s favorite stereotype of machismo was willing to delve into the subject of a young, presumably heterosexual couple getting into androgyny—the protagonist’s wife throws the only manuscript of his novel into a river. As you can imagine, this doesn’t rank as a highlight of the marriage, whose fervor wanes soon thereafter. But the story ends with the protagonist sitting down and starting to rewrite his manuscript from scratch.

I found this strangely moving but also inspiring. Good writing, after all, is good rewriting. You don’t know how many times it took me to write that sentence. If you claim you do, you’re a LIAR!

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).