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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Tuesday, October 28, 2003
    E-Mail Trouble: A Cautionary Tale

    Herewith the transcript of an actual email from last week. Heed the warning.

    First, perhaps I should explain that my friend V. and I have a habit of emailing each other back and forth at work. One of our favorite things to do is to take one of the mass administrative emails that we're sent every day, alter it in some disrespectful fashion, and forward it on to each other. It's our act of revenge upon these useless announcements that pad our computer memories like foam packing peanuts.

    Original email:

    Please join us at a farewell reception for
    Sr. Vice President, [generic administrative title]
    on Tuesday, October 21

    etc., etc.

    I appended the following comment:

    Will there be food and booze? If not, forget it!

    and forwarded it on to V. At least, that's what I thought I did. Until I received the following response:

    Uh, no.

    I then looked at the address in the heading and realized that instead of forwarding it, I had hit Reply and sent it right back to the exchange administrator!

    I did the only sensible thing: looked her up in the Microsoft Outlook directory program, called her, and apologized. Fast. She was quite understanding about the whole thing: "We occasionally get these. I usually just send a little message back so that people know they went to the wrong place."

    "It was a joke, I swear. Just a joke," I explained about four times. I could tell she was amused about catching a doctor stooping to this sort of immature behavior.

    But the story's not finished: I sent the whole thing on to V. with this explanation:

    I'm an ass. I called to apologize, fortunately she was very nice about it. I meant to send it to YOU.

    And got this back:

    Hey, you made me laugh out loud. Not bad for a post-call Monday!



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