Identifying some of these nutcases is the first step to dealing with them

Staring at my computer screen the other day I realized; my inbox is a convenient organizing system for other people’s agendas.  A quick perusal of its contents identified several archetypes.  See if you recognize these.

Kay (not her real name) had sent me a question several minutes ago with an exclamation point next to it meaning this was an urgent matter.  The thing is, Kay always sends her email as urgent.  Years ago, literally, I thought ‘Well, if it’s urgent I should call immediately because this is clearly important and we should talk about this.’  The thing is, she didn’t answer her phone and her voice message recommended I email her instead.  That’s odd, I thought, and emailed her.  She got back to me the next day.  After this scenario played out the same way several times I resolved these messages really weren’t that urgent.  Talk about crying wolf.  At least though, her emails questions are somewhat comprehensive.

Stan (again, not his name) had sent me another email, his sixth for the day.  It was 9:30.  Each question was another drip in the bucket I knew from experience we would be filling for a day or two.  Apparently the bright, shiny object that is his current question is so enamoring he can’t see past it to the next, logical question and I refuse to try and predict what that question will be.  I’ve tried.  Anticipating the direction Stan’s mind will take is like trying to teach a fish to ride a bicycle.  Failure is imminent and you end up slippery, slimy and stinky.  It’s not worth the effort.  Speaking of effort, there’s Tommi.

Tommi is a lady (I made the mistake too) who apparently fancies herself a novelist.  Whereas Stan is a minimalist and woefully unanalytical, Tommi makes an attempt to ask every question and request every possible option regardless of whether it may ever be a part of the situation.  Her emails lack only the opening “It was a dark and stormy night.”  On the upside they can be entertaining with loads of if/then requests and “what if’s” to spice things up and send you down an unending rabbit hole.  I think occasionally she forgets where she’s going with a line of questioning (I know I have in reading them) so I’ve resolved to only replying within her text in a different color.  However, I will occasionally reply that maybe she should just call me so we can discuss.  I know this strikes fear in her soul but I try and calm her fears by promising I’ll summarize the salient points in an email after we talk.  Said points typically number about three.  For all her shortcomings, at least Tommi will actually put some of her own thoughts down.  Unlike “Buck.”

Buck (not his real nickname) has apparently never had a real, formed opinion of his own.  Buck’s emails come up just a smidge shy of saying “Yeah, what they said, can you reply to me so I can forward it back to them?”  Buck clearly sees himself as merely a conduit for information, an electronic middleman, whose role is the facilitation of information between me and whomever else has come to him for information.  Poor Buck’s cranium must be so vacuous it echoes even when he sends those cryptic emails.  His melon is a lonely place where no ideas, no information, no experience can take hold.  It’s a little sad really and not to sound patronizing but so often I find myself feeling like a cat shepherd, as if I’ve broken an old style thermometer and I’m trying to gather up the mercury.  I know it has to be done but I also know it’s toxic not to be dramatic but it could kill me.

Dealing with multiple agendas, multiple personalities and multiple situations can leave a person feeling like some sort of schizophrenic soothsayer.  You can’t enter their muck and their mire, you have to exhibit a discipline they clearly have never known and yet remain friendly, speak on their level and try and nudge them to better habits.  Some want to find a better way and with time may change their ways while some, who’ve been around the block, will never change.  They’ve convinced themselves they’re merely “playing the game” and you’d better choose your game piece and join their muddle.  It can be exhausting and frustrating and draining.  If only everyone conducted their business and themselves as you do, wouldn’t things be so much better, wouldn’t they be so much simpler?  Sure, it would.  But where’s the fun in that?

You may think I’ve gone completely off my rocker but despite the gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair in the previous paragraphs I view all of these characters as the sometimes obligatory spice of my normal work day.  I have to, otherwise I’d go nuts and swear.  Not that each of these reactions and approaches isn’t taken and effective at times.  And it might sound weird and completely out of left field but I find it always and eternally effective to try and treat these wayward email souls with love.  Believe me, I have a tough time figuring out how God made them this way and why in the world they were placed on or rather in, my path, but I’m always of an improved countenance when I choose (okay force myself) to see them this way.  So, I’ll continue to help, coach and accommodate all of them.

I don’t have much of a choice in the matter anyway.  It’s my job and it would be a pretty boring one at that if these numbskulls weren’t a part of it.

If you live in e-mail land, I’ll bet you have encountered these folks and more interesting types.  I’d love to hear about them if you’d care to share.  Call it therapy.

Each week I write about a few things we encounter in this old life.  Whether it’s craziness at work or at home our shared experiences bind us together.  If you wan to read more, click this to go to my home page.  Once you’re there, or here if you want to, you can subscribe for free.  Subscribing means you’ll get an email on Sundays with links to the week’s posts.  Please don’t worry, I never sell or share emails so you won’t get a bunch of junk.