Dear Big Administrator of Big University,
Today I got your LETTER. Wow, an actual printed and signed letter, on letterhead, sent by U.S. Postal Service from you to me. Nice watermark.
You couldn't have known that the mail guy in my department office would put your letter in someone else's mailbox and then the 'wrong' person opened it, realized the mistake, and eventually put the letter in my mailbox. Fortunately, whoever mistakenly opened the letter did so quite cleanly, so your letter was still fairly pristine when it got to me, but it was slightly delayed by its unexpected detour to another mailbox. That's OK, e-mail can go astray as well.
Also, it was worth it because, when I saw the letter had been opened, I showed the mail guy the slit in the envelope, hollered "Omigod, the check is gone!" and totally freaked him out (before confessing there was no check and I was just being a jerk). That was the most fun I had today, which is sad, I know.
You also couldn't have known that I seldom look in my mailbox anymore. When I do get physical mail, most of it is junk mail. It is quite miraculous that I glanced at my mailbox this week, when I wasn't expecting anything interesting. In fact, even once I saw that there was something in my mailbox, I almost ignored it, so sure was I that it was not important.
Oh well, some legitimate e-mail gets caught by my university's spam filter, I've been known to delete legitimate e-mail without reading it because I thought it was spam, and other e-mail I may accidentally overlook if it arrives with tens of others. Correspondence by letter and e-letter can go astray.
So, you couldn't have known the perils of sending a real letter to me with your important request. The problem is, though, that your letter says that you value my awesome expertise and wisdom and therefore want me to do something for your University on a particular date, but you did not first check whether that date was OK with me. Alas, it is not. I have another commitment on that date. Perhaps there is a reason why the date is more important than the person (me)?
Anyway, one of these variables is going to have to change, and your letter does not seem to provide the option of changing the date, so I think that means I will have to decline your request.
I thought about discussing this with you, but, although I searched far and wide in your beautiful letter, you provided no e-mail address. Of course I could easily look this up, but am I right in inferring that your preferred mode of communication is by letter? Should I send you a letter on my university's letterhead saying that, unfortunately, I cannot come to your university and share my awesome wisdom with you on the specified date? And then I will wait for your reply by mail? And then, after you write to me, I will write back expressing my further regret? Maybe we will be pen pals!?
I can sort of see why you, a distinguished administrator, thought it would be more formal and respectful to send me a paper letter on letterhead, even if e-mail would have been totally fine with me, but the lack of any contact information is a little strange. Wouldn't further communication be more efficient if we dispense with the parchment and quills and shoot each other some informative e-mails? Or are you tired of only getting junk mail in your mailbox, and are hoping that I will write back, on paper, by mail?
I don't know, but I have a feeling that your ability to take the time to write, print, sign, address, stamp, and mail a letter to me might have something to do with the fact that you have an administrative assistant. And I also think that my inability thus far to reply to your letter, by mail or e-mail, has something to do with the fact that I don't.
If you read this blog and know that I am writing this post instead of writing to you, that would save us both a lot of time. Otherwise, I will drop you a line.. somehow.
6 months ago