The Weekly Essay

It’s Another Story.

Keep It On Ice.

While it’s a myth that no two snowflakes are alike snowflakes still come in a dazzling array of forms.

Ice is just ice. It’s solid water. It’s not going out of its way to be special.

 

If you fall in snow it gently cushions you.

If you fall on ice it will do as much as it can to break every one of your bones.

 

Snow floats and gently coats the world as it falls.

Ice just falls. It sticks, seeps into nooks and crannies, and pushes everything aside. Ice lets you know it’s arrived.

 

Most snowflakes form around dust particles.

Ice doesn’t need help from anyone.

 

A typical snowflake has roughly 180 billion molecules of water.

Ice consumes all. It has no limits. Do not mock ice.

 

Snow forms drifts that you can see.

Ice forms invisible patches. Ice doesn’t need to be seen and wants you to know that.

 

Lie down in snow and move your arms and legs out from your body. You’ll form a snow angel.

Lie down on ice. It will make you cold. Ice is going to do its own thing and doesn’t care what you want.

 

Snow is ideal for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding.

Ice is ideal for skating and hockey. Blades and bloodshed are how ice rolls.

The largest recorded snowfall in the United States in a twenty-four hour period was in April 1921 in Silver Lake, Colorado. It snowed 75.8 inches.

Ice is a really big fan of Ethel Merman.

 

Light snow is often called “powder”.

Ice doesn’t need any silly nicknames except in drinks consumed by grim men in dark bars, and even then it’s only known as “the rocks”.

 

All snowflakes are six-sided.

Ice only has one side: ice.

 

Snow is a good insulator and can be used to build shelters.

Ice wants you to die.

 

Some people have chionophobia which means “fear of snow”.

Everyone fears ice. Ice wants it that way and ice gets what it wants.

 

There are records of snowflakes as big as fifteen inches.

Ice will cover a whole lake if it wants to. You got a problem with that? Ice wants you to come out here and jump up and down and say that.

 

Snowball fights are a fun way to enjoy the winter outdoors with your friends.

Ice ball fights are how wars get started.

 

Snow only forms under very special atmospheric conditions.

Ice is just cold. If you need this explained to you again ice will cut you.

 

Winter snowfall provides more than three-fourths of the water that supports the climate of western North America.

Ice has been implicated in international money laundering.

 

Large accumulations of snow on mountains can result in avalanches.

Ice is directly responsible for avalanches. It taunts the snow into just giving up.

 

Scientists have found layers of snow at the polar regions that go back thousands of years.

Ice advises you to just keep moving and don’t ask what happened here unless you want to end up like Sonny Corleone.

 

Frosty The Snowman is a magical character brought to life by children and forced to leave town after an altercation with the police.

Ice runs this town. You cross ice and ice will put you in a woodchipper.

 

When snow melts it turns into fluffy kittens.

When ice melts it makes everything around it cold. Ice wants you to know that you will pay.

I Came, I Thaw, I Conquered.

So far this winter I haven’t had a cold, or at least nothing more significant than the sniffles that come from being out in the cold and stepping into a warm building which always seems to cause my nose to run. I’m not sure why this is. Even when it’s been really cold outside it hasn’t, as far as I know, been cold enough to freeze my sinuses, and even if it were I don’t think the temperature change is enough to cause such immediate thawing. If it takes the microwave at least five minutes just to get the frost off a small chicken breast I have no idea why the linings of my nasal passages, which should be a pretty stable ninety-eight and a half degrees Fahrenheit most of the time, can go from solid to liquid before I even have a chance to shut the door that divides the indoors from the outdoors. Some might think I’m inviting disaster by bragging that I haven’t been afflicted by the rhinovirus, or even the elephantvirus, the zebravirus, or the aardvarkvirus. That last one combines sniffling and sneezing with uncontrollable laughing because it’s the only known virus that has bunny ears, a pig’s nose, and a big floppy tail, but that’s another story. I’m not worried that talking about it will cause me to fall under the influenza, mostly because I’ve never been really superstitious, knock on wood, but also because I got a flu shot at the start of the season and I think my odds are pretty good even though the flu vaccine isn’t always one-hundred percent effective. It’s like the fall TV lineup: even with the best possible combination of what’s expected to work a few people are still going to get sick, but that’s another story. And I realize I’ve slipped from the common cold to the common flu even though they’re two entirely different beasts and could easily be distinguished at a distance if you could see them without a microscope. The common cold worries me even less because I have this completely unscientific idea that the reason I get at least one every year is because it’s always mutating and therefore one step ahead of my immune system, but this year maybe it’s gone into reruns and I’ve been able to head it off with some nasal streaming. And also at any sign of a cold I’ve started taking vitamin C even though I’ve never been superstitious, and I’m not sure why vitamin C, which is supposed to prevent the common scurvy, is always the treatment for a cold, although I think it has something to do with helping your nose thaw faster.

Weirdness Drives Me.

When it’s cold outside, and lately it’s been really, really, really cold outside, I like to sit at the back of the bus. Actually even when it’s warm outside I like to sit near the back of the bus, just because I’m weird like that, but when it’s cold sometimes I can find the seat at the very back of the bus that’s right over the engine so it’s nice and warm. That’s a good thing because I’ve usually been standing at the bus stop for a while, not to mention the three block walk to the stop. It’s also a bad thing because I know that getting all warmed up and sweaty is going to make the walk home from the bus stop worse than it would be if I sat in the chilly midsection of the bus, but better to be warm now and cold later than cold now and even colder later. And no matter where I sit as the bus gets closer to my stepping off stop I work my way up to the front. I always like to thank the driver and wish them a nice evening as I disembark because I think driving the bus is mostly a thankless job, unlike driving an electric streetcar which is a tankless job, and, yes, I really did go well out of my way just to make that pun because I’m weird like that.
Anyway the other day when I got on the bus there was already some guy sitting at the very back of the bus. He was sitting on one side, and it was kind of nice to know I’m not the only one who’s weird like that. When I sat down on the other side, though, I realized he was sitting on the engine side, so I made sure to give him a cold look. He stepped off only a couple of stops ahead of me but I still slipped over to his side and then had to rush to the front of the bus when we reached my stop. I was determined to get as warm as I could in the few minutes we had because, well, I’m weird like that.

 

The Law Of Averages.

The most popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, according to the Institute For The Study Of Stuff That Happens Annually, or at least that’s what I read in their bimonthly report last week. It’s also the most broken resolution, or at least would be if those people who still think it’s worthwhile to make resolutions bothered to remember them beyond mid-January. The only resolutions I remember are ones I made and then broke a long time ago, like my resolution to make notes of things so I wouldn’t forget them, and I even went to the extra effort of writing it down, but then I forgot where I wrote it down. And I’d think losing weight in the middle of winter would be an easy thing to do because I have a theory that in cold weather your body burns calories just to keep warm. After all it’s called “burning calories”. And consider this: have you ever seen a fat Canadian? Maybe you have, but there are also a lot of skinny Canadians, even though their national food is fried potatoes and cheese slathered with gravy, but that’s another story.
This year I’m doing something a little different and making a completely different resolution to get fat. In spite of the cold weather I suspect this’ll be an easier resolution to stick to, although I’m not doing it because it’s easy. If anything I see it as a challenge, and I do love a challenge, especially if it involves poutine, but the main thing is I’m looking to make a major change. Currently I’m not really skinny, but I’m not really fat either. I’m about average, and I’ve realized that pretty much sums up everything about me. If I ever commit a crime I imagine the description the eyewitnesses give the police will go something like this:

Police: What was his build?
Eyewitnesses: About average.
Police: How about height?
Eyewitnesses: About average.
Police: And his general appearance?
Eyewitnesses: That was average too.
Police: Okay, so we’ve got to put out an APB for someone who looks like everybody else.

Or maybe the police will say, “This guy’ll be easy to find. Anyone that average is some kind of freak.”

There’s nothing good about being average. There’s nothing bad about it either, though, which is part of the problem. Average people never accomplish anything, and they’re never anything major, except for Major Major in Catch-22, and Joseph Heller says, “people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.”

The other thing is, as I was contemplating this resolution, I remembered an article I read many years ago when the internet was still young and I was too, sort of, in an average way. It was by a self-described fat guy and he was making a case that being fat really has its advantages. It was easier for him because he was a guy and, let’s face it, from Henry VIII to John Belushi society has celebrated fat guys, although I hope we’re now moving toward a world where everybody, regardless of gender, can be accepted and even celebrated for who they are. Anyway, because this was before blogs and comment sections I sent the guy an email directly and told him I really liked his article and asked if he’d ever heard Allan Sherman’s “Hail To Thee, Fat Person.” He replied, which was a really exciting thing to me because he was a published author, a group I desperately wanted to be part of, and he was reading my words. He said he hadn’t heard Allen Sherman’s bit but that he’d look it up and signed off with, “Rock on, sexy fat brother!”
And I thought about replying to him and letting him know I wasn’t really fat but I didn’t. I felt like we’d had a moment, albeit electronically. I felt guilty about being mistaken for something I wasn’t but I also felt accepted, like I belonged. Even if it was only in someone else’s imagination I was still part of a group that was cool.
So now I want to do something to really be part of a group, and I invite everybody like me to join in. Come on, fellow average people, let’s do this!

Classic Christmas Quiz.

Source: Wikipedia

All of us are getting older whether we like it or not. Or so I’ve been told. Personally I’m not convinced that I’m getting older, although, to steal a line from Tom Lehrer, it is a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age he’d been dead for twelve years, but that’s another story.

One of the keys to staying young is to keep the mind active, or so I’ve been told, and one way to keep the mind active is to take a skeptical attitude to every silly notion you’re told. Another way is with puzzles, toys, and games. My mother-in-law, for instance, regularly does crossword puzzles and other games, and has given me quite a few books of crosswords and other puzzles which have kept my mind active, especially when I have to use my mind to figure out where I put them.

The Christmas season is also traditionally a time for toys and classic movies, so here’s a little mental activity: classic toy or character from L. Frank Baum’s Oz stories?

1. Tik-Tok

2. Stretch Armstrong

3. Slinky

4. Yo-Yo

5. Jellia Jamb

6. Tik-Tok

7. Mr. Potatohead

8. Weebles

9. Patchwork Girl

10. Colorforms

11. Jinjur

12. Kalidahs

13. Frisbee

14. Hammer-Head

15. Jack Pumpkinhead

16. Aibo

17. Gumby

18. Polychrome

19. Mombi

20. Creepy Crawlers

21. Kabumpo

22. Hungry Hungry Hippos

23. Toto

24. Triops

25. Mannheim Steamroller

Scoring:

22-25: You’re incredibly mentally active and also spend too much time playing with toys. How old are you?

18-21: Christmas is still your favorite holiday and the time of year when you make the whole family watch The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz.

15-17: You’re a master of crossword puzzles.

12-14: You know without checking how old L. Frank Baum was when he was your age.

6-11: You’re mildly amused by toys and think Oz is in the southern hemisphere.

1-5: You were banished from the growups’ table for playing with your food.

 

No Business Like Shoe Business.

The package landing on our porch was a surprise even though it was the holiday season. My wife and I weren’t expecting anything, having gotten every package we’d ordered, and, as far as we knew, anything that everyone we knew was going to send us had already arrived. Since it was just two days before Christmas whoever had sent the package was cutting it pretty close. And then I checked the delivery address and found it wasn’t for us. This wasn’t surprising. Our regular mail carrier regularly slipped our neighbors’ mail in with ours, and probably vice versa too, but I didn’t mind. Sometimes I’d put the mail back in the box and let it sort itself out and sometimes I’d walk to the neighbor’s house and usually I was early enough that they hadn’t gotten their mail yet, so I’d just slip what I had into their mailbox and if they had gotten their mail I’d still slip what I had into their mailbox and assumed it would just sort itself out. And on some occasions I talked to one of the neighbors, and older man. He’d look through his mail and say, “Well, this is crap, this is crap, more crap,” and then he’d thank me and we’d talk a little. And that’s how I learned he was ninety-two and his wife had passed away a year earlier, and one day he told me he’d just remarried and that his new wife was ninety, all of which I thought was the height of optimism. I didn’t ask but I assumed the wedding was a quiet affair, probably done at city hall without any fanfare. I didn’t ask because I preferred to believe the wedding was a big gala with a banner that read “Here’s To The Future!” and that as the happy couple ran to the limo that would take them to their honeymoon in, let’s say Poughkeepsie, the guests all threw nitroglycerin tablets.

Anyway the package was small and rectangular and heavy for its size. I thought it might be a fruitcake and that its intended recipient had left it on our porch to get rid of it, and I have heard stories of families that pass around the same fruitcake from year to year, which makes me think it’s fruitcakes passing fruitcake, and I’ve never heard of anyone passing a fruitcake on to a complete stranger. The fruitcake theory was further bolstered by the name of the company on the box which was something like Rjujsjnk, which I thought might be Dutch, and if there’s one thing the Dutch are famous for it’s pastries that can be used as building material, and if there are two things they’re famous for the other one is using “j” as a vowel. And also Van Gogh, windmills, dams, funny hats, being extremely blonde, tulips, dairy products, a pretty decent system of government, and Amsterdam where you can wander through the red light district and then walk purposely to a cafe where you can sit and smoke a spliff the size of your head in a desperate effort to forget what you just saw a woman wearing lingerie in a glass booth do with a chicken, also wearing lingerie, but that’s another story.

The odd thing was the delivery address wasn’t our street. As I said, normally we got the neighbors’ mail, and it was only a couple of blocks over which, I guess, is still the same neighborhood, so still neighbors, just not anybody whose house I’d normally walk to. And since it was dark and cold I really didn’t want to walk so I threw the box in the passenger seat and set off into the night. It was supposed to be an easy mission, but it was a part of the neighborhood I wasn’t used to. I made a couple of wrong turns and had to backtrack a few times, and then, once I found the house, I couldn’t find the right number. This was mainly because it was dark and I couldn’t see the house numbers on mailboxes or on the houses themselves, but finally I got the right house. I thought about leaving the package in the mailbox and letting it sort itself out, but I could see people in the house through their big front window where they were gathered around their nice big Christmas tree, and they’d seen me, and I thought it would look weird if I left something in their mailbox. So I went up to the door and knocked. A woman answered and I handed over the package.

“Oh, thank goodness!” she exclaimed. She’d been tracking the package and knew it was misdelivered but didn’t know where and she was afraid she’d never get it.

“Well,” I said, “enjoy your fruitcake.”

“Oh, it’s not fruitcake!” she said. “It’s some special shoes I ordered for a Christmas event.”

And that’s when I noticed that she and her husband and children were all blonde and if there’s one thing the Dutch are also known for it’s wooden shoes and I got out of there in a hurry when her husband yelled, “The chicken’s ready!”

 

The Christmas Play.

Like a lot of professional actors I first trod the boards in a school Christmas play. It was second grade and the play was the idea of Mrs. Knight, one of the greatest teacher’s I’d ever have. She had a Master’s degree in education which, surprisingly, did not interfere with her ability to teach. She encouraged us to use our imaginations and challenged us to think. She told us “There’s no such thing as a bad word,” and I said, “Holy shit!” because semantics is heavy stuff when you’re seven years old. She kept us apprised of current events in science. We built a papier-mâché solar system that stretched from one end of the classroom to the other and read about Jacques Cousteau’s undersea expeditions. She was also a big fan of Star Wars, which had just come out the summer before, and thought we should put on a Star Wars-themed Christmas play.

The plot was pretty straightforward: Darth Vader decides to steal Santa’s beard which, we learn, is the source of all of his magic power. It’s the beard that allows Santa Claus to fly around the entire globe in a single night, delivering toys without setting off alarm systems or getting shot. That amount of power would also presumably make rebuilding the Death Star a lot easier. Grounded on Christmas Eve Santa is desperate until Luke Skywalker makes a dramatic entrance and announces that he’ll carry the toys in his X-Wing fighter, or maybe the Millennium Falcon which, let’s face it, has a lot more cargo space, and deliver them, thus saving Christmas and giving Santa’s beard a year to grow back.

It was all very simple and observed the Aristotelian unities. It would be filled out with a few Christmas carols, accompanied by our music teacher Ms. McKraken on the piano. There was, I think, a subplot about Santa agreeing to help Han Solo pay off some debts to Jabba, but that ended up on the cutting room floor.

I was cast as C-3PO, because Mrs. Knight recognized that robots and British accents were a specialty of mine, but also because that’s who I’d been for Halloween so I still had the costume. And I was pretty excited because I’d never been in a play before, and it didn’t bother me that I only had one line. At least I had a line, unlike R2-D2 who didn’t even have a single beep and could easily have been played by a cardboard box. And, in fact, that’s what R2-D2 was: the smallest kid in the class inside a cardboard box. And I did try to expand the robot roles by writing a duet for C-3PO and R2-D2. I gave it directly to Mrs. Knight, since I didn’t have an agent at the time. She liked it but it too ended up on the cutting room floor, or maybe in the trash can over by the coats, since it did nothing to move the main narrative forward, but that’s another story.

My one line was “R2 and I will shoot the toys down the chimney with our laser guns.”

It was so clumsy and stilted it could have been written by Lucas himself, and then there were the logistical issues. Even if a blaster could be refitted to shoot toys instead of high energy photons, in less than twenty-four hours, C-3PO could barely hold a gun, let alone shoot one. Still, the theater always requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, and on the big day we took our places on the stage and almost everyone delivered their lines on cue.

It wasn’t stage fright and I didn’t forget my line. I just forgot when I was supposed to say it. Fortunately Ms. McKraken was there to give me a gentle nudge. I said my line. Then, as we all went into a rousing chorus of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, I looked out over the audience and, like so many who’ve been in Christmas plays, realized that was where I belonged: in the audience.

From The Workshop.

From: SC/Kringle Enterprises (501(c)(3) Non-Profit)

To: All Household Members Ages 4-9

Item Request/Delivery Information Form SW-2017

Thank you for your participation in the annual operations of Kringle Enterprises. It’s your continued belief in the services we provide that make what we do possible.

We have tried to respond to numerous complaints that we send out this form earlier every year by finding a balance between seasonal events. We apologize if you feel you are receiving this is too soon.

The purpose of this form is to facilitate an accurate and equitable distribution of requested items. In order to provide you maximum satisfaction we request that you please fill out this form as accurately and thoroughly as possible. If additional space is needed you may use the back of the form. Once this form is completed please use the attached sheet to list your desired items. Additional sheets are available on request or may be printed from our website (under construction).

For reasons of efficiency any and all minor infractions committed during the standard grace period of January 1st-November 23rd have been waived. Please limit your responses to the appropriate time frame.

  1. During this period have you done any of the following:

(a) Shouted

(b) Cried

(c) Pouted

The reason we ask this question is to determine whose behavior has been inappropriate or not consistent with the standard guidelines set by the recognized guardians and whose behavior has been commendable.

In order to optimize our travel arrangements to your city, township, or geographic region this question is more important than any other. We ask that you answer this question as accurately as possible and will be performing secondary reviews to ensure that it is correct.

  1. Your residence is best described as:

(a) House

(b) Apartment

(c) Trailer

(d) Other (please specify)

If you answered (a) House please answer the following additional questions. If not you can skip to question #8

  1. Does your house have a fireplace?

(a) Yes

(b) No

If you answered (a) Yes please answer the following additional questions. If not you can skip to question #8

  1. The type of fireplace your home has is:

(a) Wood-burning

(b) Gas-powered

(c) Electric*

(d) Other (please specify)

*If your home has an electric fireplace without a chimney you can skip to question #8

  1. What are the exact dimensions of your home’s chimney? Please note that if any of the items you requested exceed the specified dimensions they may not be placed in the standard delivery area but may be left elsewhere in the residence or outside.

 

  1. Is your fireplace traditionally lit during the expected delivery period?

(a) Yes

(b) No

 

If you answered (a) Yes please answer the following additional question. If not you can skip to question #8

 

  1. What time in the evening is the fire usually extinguished? For reasons of efficiency and safety we ask that you answer this question as accurately as possible.

 

  1. During what times do you expect to be asleep? In order to avoid possible conflicts resulting from chance encounters we ask that you answer this question as accurately as possible. Contrary to some reports we do not keep records of when individual customers are active and when they are dormant.

 

  1. Have you or do you plan to leave out the following during the expected delivery period:

 

(a) A glass of milk, cookies, and carrots

(b) A beer, cookies, and carrots

(c) A snifter of brandy, a pastrami sandwich (rye bread only), and carrots

(d) All of the above*

*While we try to be as fair as possible the response (d) does increase the possibility that customers will receive most of all requested items.

The final question is purely optional and is only included for informational purposes.

  1. Has anyone personally told you there is not a Santa Claus? If yes this person would best be described as:

(a) Close to your age

(b) Older than you but not a teenager

(c) A teenager

(d) An adult

Please be aware that answering this question will in no way reflect upon you although the penalties for the responsible individual may be a lump of coal, limited driving privileges or difficulty obtaining a driver’s license, or a reduced credit score.

Thank you for assisting us in maximizing our customer experience by filling out this form. We request, as always, that your behavior remain consistent with the guidelines set forth by the appropriate guardians for goodness’ sake.

 

Alternative Thanksgiving.

It has been celebrated as a federal holiday every year since 1863, when, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

Wikipedia

November 25th, 1864

It was even worse than last year. I know every time my family gets together we fall into certain patterns, but that never makes it easier. This time it was even worse because just getting to my parents’ house was such a pain. I thought I’d carriagepool with my younger brother and his wife, but they went up early so that fell through. Then I thought I’d beat the traffic by setting out at dawn, which was such a great idea everybody else in Richmond had it at the same time and the horses were nose to tail, stop and trot, for miles. Finally I got there a little after ten in the morning and my older sister came out already holding a glass of blackberry wine and when she hugged me I could tell it wasn’t her first one. She asked me how things were going and then didn’t wait for an answer and ran back into the house to tell everyone I was there.

I should have known I’d be walking into an argument in the foyer, the way my family is. It’s just what it was about that threw me. My kid brother had this crazy idea for a new way to cook a turkey, leaving the feathers still on and roasting it in the coals of a fire. Well, it sounded pretty stupid to me, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that the neighbors tried the same thing last year and burned down their stable. But I didn’t want to side with my father either. So I said it had been a long trip and I needed to visit the outhouse and slipped out. Well, there was a line at the outhouse: two of my nieces, three cousins, all four of my brothers, and my sister was already in there getting rid of some of that blackberry wine. So I went back inside to see what was going on.

In the parlor my mother was putting together some kind of monstrosity with dead leaves and dried berries that she said she was going to put in the middle of the table.

“Where’s the food going to go?” I asked.

“Well, we’ll move it before we eat.”

I was going to ask why she’d bother to put it in the middle of the table if she was just going to move it again but decided against having that discussion, so instead I sat down and leafed through a broadsheet that was handy.

“The other men are organizing a game,” she said. “It’s some new sport called foot-ball. You should go and join them.”

Well, she knows I’ve never been athletic, but when I protested she got put out with me and said, “It’s your Uncle Wilkes’s idea. You know you’ve always been his favorite. You really should go and do it just to please him.”

FINE.

Well, when I came back in my sister just cackled and toasted me with another glass of blackberry wine. All my mother could say was “Don’t get any blood on the carpet,” and my older brother kept telling me to stop being a sissy and just put some salve on it. Then Aunt Gerda said pinch the back of my neck and tilt my head forward and Uncle Wilkes said no, put pressure between the eyes and lean back, and then my cousins got into it so there had to be a family brawl about that. A day later and I’m still bleeding. So much for the salve.

Then I tried to head off another argument about who’d have to chaperone the kids’ table by volunteering, but my father cut that off.

“No, no, I want John seated here on my left. After I sent him to that fancy and very expensive school so he could waste his time studying the dramatic arts and oratory he should be well-equipped to deliver the traditional Booth family prayer of thanks.”

Traditional since last year, he means. Then my kid brother kicked me in the shins which I know was his way of saying “Don’t start anything”. I kicked him twice as hard in the shins which was my way of saying, “I wasn’t going to,” and then kicked him again to say, “Hurts, don’t it?”

All this might have been a little more bearable if my sister had let me have some of the blackberry wine.

I swear I’m going to get that Lincoln for making us do this.

Netiquette Lesson.

Even though it’s become deeply entrenched in our lives the internet is still a relatively new thing and not all the rules of netiquette are completely worked out yet. And, like regular etiquette, they’re not even necessarily universal. For instance my spell-checker used to automatically capitalize Internet, because I guess it was a proper noun and now it’s not anymore, although in German the rule is that all nouns are capitalized because even when they’re not shouting Germans like the emphasize their nouns. Or maybe they consider all nouns proper, which is nice for the nouns, but I think I hear the verbs grumbling. It’s not even necessarily a universal rule that if you’re typing in all caps, or even several fedoras, and using only uppercase letters you’re shouting. There are lots of reasons why someone might be typing in all uppercase letters. Maybe the Caps Lock key on their keyboard is stuck, or maybe e.e. cummings used up all the lowercase letters. Maybe they’re speaking  Kashubian, which is the only remaining Pomeranian language, and if you’ve ever been around Pomeranians you know they can only bark in all caps. Netiquette is also always evolving. For instance, do you know what the netiquette used to be regarding those business networking sites that send you an email at least three times a month telling you someone you met briefly at a conference would like you to join their network? If you said, “Um, were they once considered polite?” you’re absolutely wrong. They’ve always been even more obnoxious than going into a Star Trek discussion and talking about Zachary Quinto as the guy who directed Three Men & A Baby.

There’s really a point around here somewhere that I will get to eventually, and it’s this: rules of grammar and etiquette and even netiquette are naturally flexible and vary depending on the situation and the person. Having said that here’s something I think should be an inviolable rule: if you reply to someone’s email you should include their original email in your reply. This is especially true if you’re replying to them from an account that’s different from the one they used to contact you initially and that they’ve never used before. And it’s even more true if your entire email consists of this:

Yes I can do that.

Although I now realize I’m being unfair in saying that rule should be inviolable. After all we all make mistakes, to err is human and to forgive is something that rhymes with “human”, I guess, so let me clarify: if you make the mistake of sending a terse reply with no context or identifying information from a different email account so the person you’re replying to can’t find any record of ever having contacted you don’t get upset when that person asks if you can provide a little more information. Don’t imply, or outright state, that the person is stupid for asking you to remind them what the conversation was about. Don’t suggest, or just say, that it’s only been a month since they contacted you and they should remember the details.

It’s a pretty simple thing to ask and really stems from what should be the underlying rule of all interactions: think about the other person’s feelings, and remember that there’s a person on the other side of the computer screen. And also you probably shouldn’t share petty grievances, even in a vague way, with total strangers, although there’s gotta be some flexibility on that rule because to air is human.

 

%d bloggers like this: