Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chain emails: Roadkill on the information highway

I love email. I really do. It’s truly amazing to think that I am able to keep up with family and friends all over the world on a daily basis.

But for all the things I love about email, I also have one bone of contention: chain emails. You know the ones I’m talking about…the ones that say “Answer these 40 questions and then forward your answers to 10 of your friends in the next 10 minutes and then something wonderful will happen.”

So I did the first time, painstakingly answering minutiae about my life, my favorite color, and my favorite brand of toothpaste. And when I finally finished I sat back and awaited my prize. An animated girl holding flowers walked out on the screen and blew kisses at me in the form of bubbles.

Whodawa? That’s “something wonderful?”

I don’t know about you, but when I think of “something wonderful” I’m imaging a gift certificate to my favorite restaurant, or a trip to a tropical island, or Ed McMahan showing up at my house with a ridiculously large check. So you can imagine that “bubble kisses on my computer screen” ranks pretty low on my “something wonderful” scale.

At that moment I made a decision: I would no longer take part in this silliness. I banned chain emails. As if chain letters in the mail weren’t obnoxious enough, now friends were filling my inbox with demands to forward to 10 people or all manner of chaos could unleash itself. My technique is terrible and swift: delete, delete, delete. And alas, I’m still here to tell my tale.

So last week, my friend (who will remain nameless because it was her email that spurred this column AND she knows I hate these chain mail things AND I believe she does this just to DRIVE ME AROUND THE BEND) sent me a chain email and I decided to fight back.

1. What is your occupation? Writer.

2. What color are your socks right now? Really? What could you possibly learn about my personality based on the color of my socks? They’re white, by the way.

3. What are you listening to right now? My head banging on my desk in frustration.

4. What was the last thing that you ate? If you must know it was a mixture of Twizzlers and pistachios. Together, they didn’t sit well the first time, but the horrifying truth is, I would eat them together again.

5. Can you drive a stick shift? Yes, and quickly. In fact, the last time I robbed a bank, I drove the getaway car and no one complained. I even nailed the tight corners.

6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My parole officer and he wasn’t happy with me. (See previous question.)

7. Do you like the person who sent this to you? I used to like her a great deal, but if she insists on continuing to ask what color my socks are I might just change my mind about her.

8. Cherries or Blueberries? Again, I’d really be curious to know how this answer will shed light on the real “me.” If I choose cherries, am I an “upbeat, happy-go-lucky kinda gal?” And if I choose blueberries, am I a “sad-sack Eeyore who doesn’t enjoy life?”

9. Do you want your friends to e-mail you back? No, but because I enjoy KEEPING my friends rather than enraging them, resulting in them gleefully deleting me from their address book.

10. When was the last time you cried? I started around No. 3 and haven’t stopped yet.

11. What inspires you? Inspirational things.

12. What are you afraid of? Another email like this.

13. Favorite dog breed? Any dog that doesn’t have the audacity to ask me if I was a color what color would I be.

14. If you were a color what color would you be? You’ve got to be kidding me.

15. What states have you lived in? The state of confusion over what the goal is of answering these questions.

See? It’s not hard. And it’s incredibly cathartic. The next time your email gets clogged with these silly emails, join me in my fight to return email to its pure original intention.

And when that sweet day arrives, I know I’ll be celebrating with Twizzlers and pistachios.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and writes in Winchester, Ore. She can be reached at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.


  1. I'm probably safer just continuing to delete this crap when it comes (& denying it ever reached me in the first place, if asked!) but your method sounds like fun so I think I'll try it next time - not with my sister, though, whose email address automatically sends out this garbage (she doesn't like it, either) of whom I am very fond - everyone else, watch out! Your sister's friend, Eleanor

    1. Thankfully, my sister, Peg, knows better than to do this to anyone. She is a peach that way. :)


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