There’s so much I like about email: first is the fact that its name derives from both my first and last initials. I’ve been sending E.E. mails since I licked my first stamp and envelope on a note that I arduously composed as a kid to my grandma and grandpa to thank them for my birthday gifts. And I can see that younger self right now using my tongue as much in the labored writing of the thank-you note as in the gluey fun of licking the stamp. Email is also, of course, the wondrous vehicle for Darian to deliver my little “letter” to all of you simultaneously on this Monday morning at just about 7:30am.
But nobody would confuse the old-fashioned personal letters we mail by post with what we now send as “Email” or, to be precise, “Electronic Mail.” OK, I admit that the “E” is not technically connected to either “Elliot” nor “Engel” as I indicated above. But it did just give me a gratuitous opportunity to plug my alliterative name, as if any of you reading this ever needed reminding of it.
But, oh my, never would I have dreamed, even as recently as a few years ago, that I could write my little essays every other week and receive written responses from you, my readers, within seconds when Darian forwards them to me. Many of you who read the essays don’t give an instant reply. But some of you do. And just the fact that you are able to do so if you wish still astounds and delights me.
In fairness to all the centuries of unhurried mail until this twenty-first one, who of us didn’t take advantage of writing out in slow, meticulous penmanship a letter in which we complained bitterly to family, friends, lovers, or coworkers about actual or—more likely—perceived slights against us from them. Having spent a long time writing the unwise, angry missive, we usually felt much better about the whole overblown situation. We then reread our intemperate letter and often wisely decide to rip it up immediately or just put it in that special dead-letter bottom drawer of our desk where it remained to amuse ourselves only.
And if you were as unlucky as I was, when this Electronic Mail potential arrived on the scene, you too might have once again written one of those same unwarranted, emotional responses, but this time, temporarily befuddled by the newfangledness of email, you accidentally hit SEND.
“Oh, no—NO!!” you cried, as I did, hopelessly searching for the “RETRIEVE THAT LAST EMAIL!” button.
Fortunately, my one and only such rash blunder was sent to my sister. When she received my accidentally-launched Electronic Unkindness, she didn’t waste time with a written reply; instead, she instantly picked up the phone and lovingly laughed at me for my typical kid-brother reckless, mindless response. With her older and wiser nature, she ended my “cursive’ writing style once and for all. Thanks to her, we were immediately best pals again. In my spiritual geography, my sister is Philadelphia: the birthplace of Brotherly Love.
Returning to my fondness for email, I still remember being charmed when I first received my personal email address at The Apple Store and saw that it would always utilize that very lonely typewriter key: the @. I was never one of those people who had needed to type a note to others informing them that I had just purchased three pairs of socks @ 89 cents per pair, and so my “@“ key had been as silent as my “^” one.
But now, dear readers, I hold a great fondness for the powerful “@”. It is the magic symbol that connects you with us via firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Please believe me when I say that, no matter what your need or question, we are always waiting there eagerly — “@ your service!”
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