The Zen of spam

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I was just about to make a dreaded phone call this morning. I hesitated to dial the number of a city bureaucrat—and wait to be transferred to her line to leave a message on her crowded voicemail (which she is known to take up to seven days to respond to)—because my e-mail somehow got routed into San Francisco city government’s brand new spam-catcher.

Now I’ve been sending a variation of this same e-mail to this person on a weekly basis for the last three years—I generally send it on Sunday night—so naturally I was somewhat taken aback at this, the first time ever that my message did not go through. But I guess I shouldn’t complain. This spam-catcher is superior to some of the other ones that my e-mails have no doubt encountered, because this time, I was notified that my e-mail did not go through. Evidently, the city’s software now thought my weekly message (and its 8 attachments) was spam.

Momentarily forgetting not to take these things personally, I tried sending the e-mail again—surely it would recognize my familiar sending address this time. No go. I got the same return message. Then I tried sending the message from an alternate address that I occasionally use when I have to mail these documents from another computer besides the one at home. At that point, I got nothing back—no message. Zero.

So, I wondered, does that mean my e-mail finally got through? Or does it mean that the spam-catcher got sick of this particular message and didn’t even bother to notify me that it had been scooped up and deposited into e-mail never-never land? While unnerved to discover that my original e-mail was judged to be spam, I felt doubly frustrated at not knowing whether my third attempt—from a different domain—actually went through or not. I reluctantly resolved to dial the phone, as that e-mail represents a couple of hours of my time and is expected by its recipient.

Checking e-mail often has a therapeutic effect on me, so before getting up from my chair, I hit the Send/Receive button, just to make sure that no urgent e-mail had been on its way as I mulled over the timing of my call and daydreamed that the intended recipient would simply pick up the phone and answer me.

And then I saw it. She had just e-mailed me back. “Hi Jackie, Got the photos—thank you!” It looks like the third time was the charm. I’m still mystified at why the alternate domain worked, but that my home domain—which no doubt is in her address book—did not. But hey, no time to worry about it now; lunch break is over and I’ve got deadlines. This will have to wait till next weekend.

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