Who Is Calling Who a Schmuck?

By Michael Kaufman 

The other day I received an email from my brother asking if I have any local newspaper contacts. He lives in the state of Florida but comes up our way each year to teach ceramics at a summer camp in Sullivan County. After filling me in on some family news he explained that the kids at the camp have been raising funds for cancer research by selling their arts and crafts works on visiting day. They’ve been doing it for several years now and it has grown bigger each year. Visiting day is approaching and he thought the local papers might be interested in taking photos or otherwise publicizing the activity….assuming the camp owners would like to have it covered. 

I replied with the contact information for several writers at the Times Herald-Record.  “Great idea! They’d have to be schmucks not to like it,” I wrote. Just as I clicked “Send” I noticed that I had also inadvertently sent a copy to one of the newspaper people. I had pulled his name from my email contact list and placed it–temporarily I thought–in the cc field so I could copy it easily. But then I forgot to delete it. 

My first thought was that I hoped the writer understood that I wasn’t referring to him and his colleagues as “schmucks” should they decide to pass on coverage. I meant the camp owners…. if they rejected the opportunity for some positive publicity. But in order to get the gist, the writer would also have to read through an email full of personal references and names of people unknown to him before coming to the paragraph at the end which mentions the campers raising funds for cancer research. 

So I cranked out an email to the writer explaining the situation and he wrote back. “No problem.” It took him a little while, he said, but he had figured out what happened. He even liked the idea of covering the activity. I was relieved but this episode brought to mind an earlier email gaffe of mine, as well as one committed by someone dear to my heart. 

First, mine: I was working on a continuing medical education (CME) project with an expert physician from the Mayo Clinic. All communication and contact with him had to be arranged through his assistant, who liked to be called by his nickname. “Marty” (not his real nickname) was as friendly, polite and accommodating as could be….but that did not always mean we could reach the good doctor whenever we wanted. As project editor I was under pressure to meet certain deadlines and as one such deadline approached I began receiving nervous emails from the project manager. Had I heard from the doctor?  Had he reviewed the document? 

I replied that I was doing everything I could to keep things moving, including sending frequent reminders to “Dr. ___’s bobo Marty.” Just as I clicked “Reply all” I noticed that Marty had been among those cc’d on the project manager’s original email. Thankfully, Marty accepted my humble apology. 

But my all-time favorite email gaffe was committed by my wife Eva-Lynne when she worked for Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals. One day she composed one of her “honey do” messages to me but sent it instead to the head of medical affairs at P&G, who shares my first name. “Hi Michael,” she wrote. “Don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. If you have time, buy milk.  And I think we need toilet paper.” 

“Eva-Lynne, I really like you,” he replied, “but I’m not picking up your dry cleaning.”

REMINDER—Time is running out to answer our survey question. Please respond below or via email if you have not already done so:  Q: Is it okay to allow your dog to pee on a neighbor’s mailbox post?  Yes or No.

 Michael can be reached at michael@zestoforange.com.




8 Responses to “Who Is Calling Who a Schmuck?”

  1. LeeAgain Says:

    Speaking of email goofs, isn’t that how Linda Ellerbe got canned?

  2. david diness Says:

    it is not OK for my dog to Pee on a neighbor’s mail box post/

  3. Michael Kaufman Says:

    Linda Ellerbee was a pioneer of the email gaffe. She was fired by the Associated Press in 1972 after a message intended for a friend/colleague went out to multiple AP affiliates. She did not remain unemployed for long, however:The clever writing style she had shared with the world by mistake caught the eye of the news director of the local CBS TV station in Houston, who offered her the job that launched her TV career.

  4. BobGaydos Says:

    Geez, Michael, no! It is not OK for your dog or you to pee on anyone else’s mail box post.

  5. Jean Webster Says:

    No. No. No dog can pee on my mail box. It’s about 5-foot high in the post office! Yuk.

    But….here’s how we solved another doggy “delivery”problem. We share a lawn (summers on Ocean Point, ME.) with our neighbors who have a bigger house, four grown children, many many grandchildren who visit frequently. All families have dogs. No leashes. Not a lot of control, especially with their bowel-movements. Okay, the dogs, not the people!!
    We used to get pissed off (yeah, nothing to do with mailboxes) until John came up with a solution. We have a collection of old colorful lobster buoys (google that if you don’t know what it is), and every time we find a “delivery” we mark it with a buoy. Within a day or so, it is removed by someone next door. And, we keep our good relationship with the neighbors.

  6. CarrieJacobson Says:

    Yes, it is fine for a dog to pee on a neighbor’s mailbox post. I mean, why not? The neighbor is not eating dinner off the mailbox post. The mailbox post isn’t in the living room. So what does it matter? The rain will wash the pee off, anyways.

  7. Russ Layne Says:

    Hi, Mike,

    I, too, have been one of those ‘schmucks’ who inadvertently sent, in my case, a demeaning e-mail to someone intended for another party. Total embarrassment. To his credit, he transcended my faux pax. We are very good, congenial friends.


  8. Michael Kaufman Says:

    We are both lucky the other person was so kind. It was the email version of talking behind someone’s back. We should have known better.

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