Email Hall of Fame

It was exquisite, really. It had a kind of mathematical balance, an algebraic elegance, that made you sit up and marvel at its craftsmanship. In fact, the email I wrote to close the end of the week on Friday may be the best one I have written since entering the workforce in the late seventies. I can’t remember if they had email back then, but certainly it was around in the eighties. I don’t like to brag, but if they ever create an email hall of fame, this one should be inducted immediately.

The email started by laying out the two issues I wanted to discuss with the recipient, a client who was disappointed with the services my business school was providing. I laid out the issues, each of which had sub issues that I analyzed in a logical sequence. Each sub issue developed naturally and inevitably from the larger issue. The logic was flawless and led inescapably to the conclusion I wanted this person to reach. Even the formatting and length of the sentences matched, thus creating an effect of perfection and symmetry. It was like a stylistically arranged Japanese entrée or bonsai bush. Who could argue with that?

On a side note, I make a point with everything I write to align the right-hand margin of my paragraphs so that it is as straight as possible. I do not set the margins at full justification for the simple reason that if you justify both margins, unsightly gaps appear mid sentence. I can’t have that. It looks unattractive, like teeth in need of an orthodontist. Do you realize how much time that takes? If you’re lost, just note that I have a formatting compulsion on a par with Tony Shalhoub’s detective character, Monk (see Monk).

The pièce de résistance of the email was my taking the high road and recognizing the goodwill the recipient had acted with and the validity of her demands even though people on my end have been rolling their eyes for months. They have been doing so, because this person has given us every excuse to take the low road. What I’m saying is that, essentially, I treated her as if I were about to die that afternoon and would have to give account for my actions before God.

Lord, make me pure – just not yet!

St. Augustine (354-430 AD), The Confessions

This is not hyperbole, since also last week I had to go to the emergency room for dizziness and chest pains. It comes from a very low pulse rate, but when you’re lying there and the monitor goes off like a fire alarm because your heart drops to 35 beats per minute, your mind suddenly turns toward other things. This is a topic best left for another post, along with the margin business. I’ll combine them into one. Should be interesting.

What does your mind turn toward? Well, not those two issues with their logically argued sub issues. Nothing of the kind. In fact, those seem hardly worth mentioning let alone worrying about. What I found important was to recognize that the client had a point, that she was trying to do her best, and that she wanted the program to be a success for everyone involved. She wasn’t being unreasonable. She was frustrated.

I can’t change how other people feel, but I can treat them with grace and kindness tempered with the bit of wisdom I have gained from working in universities for decades. That work will end soon. I am retiring from the university in September. However, I have noticed something strange come over me. I feel as if I now have the ability to act more authentically than at any time before. Part of the reason may be knowing that they can’t fire me or pressure me to do anything I don’t want to do. I have nothing to lose.

Arriving at the end of a career gives you freedom to be yourself and spend time on those things that matter to you. Too bad I didn’t figure that out earlier, but I am a slow learner. I wonder if a similar freedom occurs before death. I can’t wait to write that email. That will be another one for the hall of fame. On second thought, I’ll wait, like Augustine, who asked God to make him pure, “just not yet.”

“In My Mind I’m Going to Carolina,” (1968) by James Taylor. Instrumental, Guitar Tribute Players.

Image credits: feature by Max. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”

4 comments

  1. For my three decades in the international chemical business, life was one long competition – against other companies, against other climbers in the company, against regulators, environmentalists, community groups, basically everybody. I always tried to be honest and ethical, but that did not change the white hot atmosphere of competition.

    I had no choice though. Family members to feed, kids to educate, investments to be made for retirement, water heaters to replace, you name it. I endured the stress because I felt I had no choice.

    In my subsequent 15 years teaching and working at Ursinus College, stress decreased in the sense that I had no interest in bidding for provost or president of the College, and working with the students was a pleasure. But I still felt competition with myself – to be better, to be more effective.

    Now, as a truly retired writer, my only real concerns are my children and grandchildren. I will always worry about them and this is natural. As my mother-in-law used to say, you worry about them cradle to gave – their cradle to your grave.

    I guess all of this is my way of expressing concern for your health, my happiness for you in your conga retirement, and my urging you to continue writing, as I plan to do.

    Oh, and let’s meet up at Ursinus College sometime when you are back this way, and have lunch. My calendar is open.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights