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Published: Monday, 2/11/2013

The mystery of the myriad emails and the Kyrgyz Republic

BY TOM WALTON
BLADE COLUMNIST

The other day, I received 33 emails in my home computer’s inbox. Three were from friends or family. My Blade inbox received 27 more, and only two were from somebody I know or a Blade reader responding to something I’d written.

That’s 60 emails, and 55 of them I could have done without.

One email tells me that life in the fast lane is not good for my health, and that help is close at hand if I’ll just get in touch. Well, judging from the frequency of my medical appointments since I retired, life in the slow lane isn’t doing much better.

I’m told in another email that if I can get myself to the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., I can meet and greet Roza Otunbayeva, former president of the Kyrgyz Republic. Her excellency is no doubt delightful company, but Washington is an expensive plane ticket and I’d have to bone up on the Kyrgyz Republic. Like, where is it?

A think tank’s email informs me of a study that concluded Americans have a dim view of Congress and consider it a dysfunctional institution. I’m tempted to send a reply noting that the Pope is Catholic, the sun sets in the west, and bears go potty in the woods.

A tech firm wants to sell me new software that it says will help “publishers such as you” become more efficient. I’m flattered by the promotion, but I’m not a publisher and glad of it. Too much pressure.

Spirit Airlines drops an email on me every month informing me that none of my frequent-flier miles is about to expire. Considering that I have no frequent-flier miles with Spirit and to my knowledge have never flown with the company, the alert seems unnecessary. I must have opened an account with Spirit, but I have no idea when or why.

Reuters news service emails me an offer of a free trial so I can sample domestic news and sports coverage that will meet my needs.

Another email tells me I can sign up for an early bird discount for an April conference in Orlando guaranteed to improve operations at my manufacturing plant. Dang, I sold my widget factory as a small child. But I’d still be interested if they’d just move the conference to February. Who wants to go to Florida in April?

I also hear regularly — almost daily, in fact — from Walgreens, Staples, Best Buy, Coldwater Creek, Delta Airlines, Princess Cruises, eBay, Expedia, Wyndham Hotels, and a host of others from whom I must have once ordered something online. Even the Travelocity gnome keeps me in his address book.

Hold on a second, my inbox light is blinking. I’ll be right back....

It was Hewlett-Packard. Seriously. Trying to sell me more ink.

A remedy is available for my email overload. Most of these unwanted solicitors offer an “unsubscribe” option. It’s at the bottom of the email in a typeface that would fit on the head of a pin. Click it and eventually they go away.

But not always. I unsubscribed some time ago to an online floral service, but they just keep coming back. I wish they’d peddle their petals elsewhere.

In the face of all this, I was intrigued by a Blade story a while ago about something called Inbox Zero, a way to regain control of one’s inbox. Apparently the idea is that as each new email arrives, you deal with it at once rather than allow dozens a day to turn into hundreds a week — all of them demanding your attention.

If an email has potential interest — just not now — I’m supposed to move it into a folder. In my case, I could create a folder marked “Column Ideas” or “Correspondence That Irritates Me,” or maybe another called “Distant Relatives I’m Having Trouble Remembering.”

The object is to keep the inbox as free of clutter as possible by cleaning it out daily. Sounds fine in theory, but if I’ve got half a dozen folders tucked away, each of them full of stuff I didn’t want to deal with in the first place, what have I accomplished? Where’s the relief?

The folders just would sit there, mocking me. “Procrastinator!” they would scream. It’s true. I didn’t even get a birthmark until I was 10 years old.

So I’m not sure Inbox Zero is the answer. I’ll just keep using my old method. Not for nothing have the letters “DEL” worn off my delete key.

By the way, I looked it up. Kyrgyz is the official name of Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic in central Asia. Its capital is Bishkek. Never been there, but I’m sure Bishkek is lovely in the springtime.

I’ll be surprised if the Bishkek Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn’t drop me an email.

Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His feature, “Life As We Know It,” can also be heard each Monday at 5:44 p.m. on “All Things Considered” on WGTE-FM 91.

Contact him at: twalton@theblade.com



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