On July 3rd, I received very few emails.
“Terrific!” I thought. “It’s so nice to know that people are taking time for the holiday! Perhaps I should do the same.” And off I went to do something I can’t remember, but I know it wasn’t email related. The next day, when I did a couple of habitual email checks on my phone, I still didn’t have any emails and that was still fine. “Phenomenal!” I thought again. “It is a holiday. No one should be emailing today in observance of our country’s birthday. Good job, everyone!” And then I went to sleep.
By mid-morning on July 5th, however, I grew concerned.
“Well, how’s that?” I thought, and scratched my head. For a moment, I wondered if folks were just sleeping off the firework festivities. Then I remembered that I do not have many friends who are undergraduate students but lots of friends and colleagues who have to work for a living for Lord’s sake. It was very unlikely that most of the working world was sleeping off a hangover after four days off. And though it was possible that no one in the entire world needed or wanted to reach me… Well, that was depressing to think about so I shook it off. Could it be there was something wrong with my email? I refreshed my browser for the sixth time before I saw the error message:
“Unable to retrieve mail for [email address.] Too many messages on server.”
This confused me a great deal because I fancy myself as being pretty good about cleaning out old mail and zapping spam and all that. Besides, Gmail gives you a bazillion GBs, whatever those are. I poked around to try and understand what was going on and by “poked around” I do mean that I poked at keys and looked at the screen without understanding anything. I hate that I am hopeless at anything information-technology-related, not just because this causes me untold 21st-century anguish, but also because it would be so cool if I were good at all that! Don’t you just love a gal who’s a computer whiz? Like Penny on Inspector Gadget! But the sad truth is that I can sew and give killer lectures and write stuff and tell corny jokes but I cannot, cannot fix any problem related to an email server, a modem, or a website, ever. Have you ever truly gnashed your teeth? I have.
My last attempt to at least see where this alleged glut of emails could be hiding, I logged onto my main email address’s online mailbox. (Usually, I forward all that to my Gmail account and no, I did not set that up myself nor do I understand how it works and even writing that sentence makes me all itchy.) What I found when I logged onto that site made scream in horror, a la Janet Leigh in Psycho:
My email account contained 4,000 emails. Four thousand. Why?
BECAUSE I WAS SPAMMED 4,000 TIMES.
That’s right. I had 4,000 blinkin’ email offers for Celexa, Viagra, Hot-SExy Ladiez, notices of Incoming Faxxes, etc. But 4,000?? Why? How? The only thing I could figure is that when my main email was configured to funnel into my Gmail, the Gmail robots caught all that spam before it got to my Gmail inbox but it stayed on the main email server and hasn’t been deleted off the server for years at this point and — oh, for the love of Philip Larkin, I don’t know!!
Hyperventilating is not a laughing matter, but I was having a little respiratory trouble or a hot flash or something. I emailed the customer service-like email address associated with my account and put “URGENT!” in the subject line. While I waited for a response, I bit off all my nails thinking about all the emails I wasn’t getting. What would become of them? Of me??
When the response came, I felt like bursting into tears. When you read what “Mark” suggested to me, you may cry, too:
“Hi, Mary: We can simply remove all that if you want, but I don’t really have an easy way server-side to retain anything unless you need to keep something with a specific string, or email address. I could also put them in a tarball and you could download them, rename them to .eml and open them in Mozilla Thunderbird. If this were my account though, I’d just setup POP3 in Thunderbird to download and delete everything and use spam filterer plugin to drop all garbage.”
What does that even mean, Mark? What does that mean??
What’s a “tarball”?? What’s a “.eml”?? And you’re telling me Mozilla still exists?? And it’s not your account, Mark! It’s mine! So don’t tell me about what you would do because you are an IT guy and you can hit a few keys and make, I don’t know, animated websites?? And another thing! I barely, barely know what a plugin is and I like it that way, Mark! I like it that way!
I tried not to cry as I stabbed out a reply email, telling this nice man that I didn’t know what he was saying at all — but I stopped. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t engage in this horrible, terrible “tarball” task he was going to try and talk me through. So, with a lead heart, I went to the inbox…and I started to delete things. I realize this is not a real fix; I’m going to have to talk to Mark eventually. But I figured I could at least clear some room so that my emails could come and go until that time came. I configured my inbox to show 200 messages per page; I did a search for any email with “Lexapro” or “Wedding Nite” or “Send MoN3Y” in it and deleted the pages and pages of emails those searches returned.
For now, I think I’m getting my email okay. But the spam keeps coming. Oh, it’s so awful. For every real email I get, I get four spams. And it’s at times like this when I think about the problems folks had in the old days and wonder if they’d trade with us. It would have really been lousy to break the handle of your only butter churn, you know? It would be a real drag to find a wolf got all the eggs out of the hen house again. And I know a problem with my email doesn’t involve trudging through the snow to slop the hogs, etc., but it is the worst.
Tonight, I’d choose the butter churn.