October 4, 2013
Here's an idea for a sad movie called "The Drafts Box."
In this fictional tale of a tragic misunderstanding caused by the real-life perils of email, a woman (we'll call her Hope) writes to the lost love of her life (Buster), telling him she'd like to give their relationship another go.
She presses "send." Waits for his reply. Months pass. No answer.
Hope is hurt and angry — he could at least acknowledge her email, the jerk! — but she figures Buster has moved on and she should too. She marries someone else.
Then one day, Hope runs into Buster. She still carries a flame and a grudge, but before she can lecture Buster on his poor email etiquette, he says, "Why didn't you answer my email?"
Hope looks puzzled. She hasn't heard from Buster since the night they broke up.
"What email?" she says.
"The one in which I told you I still loved you."
Hope's eyes widen.
"B-b-but," she says, "I sent you an email saying I still loved you. You're the one who never answered."
Thunder cracks in the sky above Hope and Buster.
"OMG," Hope says. She begins to weep. "My drafts box. My drafts box. My email to you must have gotten stuck in my bleepin' drafts box!"
"And mine to you, my darling!"
Hope and Buster embrace in the rain.
And when they get home — to their separate homes — they discover that the emails that would have reunited them are indeed trapped in the chamber of horrors known as the drafts box.
The star-crossed characters in "The Drafts Box" could just as easily be a boss and an employee. Or two friends.
More than once I've discovered emails to my editor still in my drafts folder. No wonder he thinks I'm always at the gym.
A friend who picked me up at an airport not long ago remarked, with just the faintest edge in her voice, that she had to look up my arrival time.
"But I emailed it to you," I insisted.
She insisted I hadn't. I told her I surely had, and then began to wonder: Had I hallucinated that email?
I found it in my drafts box. I sent it to her, just to show I wasn't lying.
The dangers of the drafts box also lurk in the smartphone.
Just this week, a friend mentioned an email she'd sent, via phone, about our dinner engagement. I swore I'd never gotten it. She discovered it in some smartphone netherworld, accompanied by the word "Failed."
The email junk box (aka the junk folder or spam folder) is another source of grudges fermented in the ether.
Whenever I remember to check my junk mail, I always discover something, from a friend or reader, that makes me feel guilty.
I've learned that the word "Congratulations" can trigger the Tribune's spam filter, which is useful if the message comes from a Nigerian prince who wants you to send him a check, but not useful if the note is a nice one from someone you'd like to acknowledge.
Every so-called advance in communication creates new failures to communicate. Witness Facebook.
"So there's your Facebook Message inbox," reports a colleague, "and then there's this other, little-noticed tab called 'other.' It's where spam messages and messages from people you are not Facebook friends with go."
Like most Facebook users, he was unaware of it for a long time. When he finally checked it, he discovered messages that he would have answered if he'd known they were there. The people he ignored probably felt as disgruntled as Hope did by Buster's failure to respond to a message he never got.
As for Hope and Buster, it's too late for them. But their star-crossed fate offers lessons for the rest of us: Check your drafts box. And your junk mail box. And your "other" box on Facebook.
Or ignore it all. That's a valid choice too. Just be prepared to live with the consequences.
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