If we’ve ever worked together, you know three things about me:
1. I drink coffee. Lots and lots.
2. I keep random, but interesting, sometimes slightly offensive, tchotchkes in my office (i.e. the donkey that dispenses cigarettes from its butt).
3. I write the best out-of-office messages ever to come across your computer screen.
I really don’t remember when I started doing these things. They just became natural habits in my unnatural habitats. Well, technically the coffee started when I was young. But, the tchotchke thing started as soon as I got my first permanent desk. From there it evolved from trinkets on my desk to hanging a disco ball over it. Although with the new job and several office locations, the decorations are currently in flux. And, the out-of-office message was born out of a joke and perfected in my last job – as I was always out of the office.
I wish I had actual samples to share, but they included lines like, “Don’t be sad because I’m out of the office. I’m not.” and if I was on vacation, I’d quote Madonna’s Holiday. They were subtle and funny and my colleagues really enjoyed them. At least that’s what they told me.
As this week marks my first vacation since starting my current job, I decided to write a toned-down version of my out-of-office message, you know, to test the humor waters in academia. This is exactly what I wrote:
Greetings,Thank you for your message. I’m currently out of the office on holiday. I will return recharged (and with an amazing tan) on July 2. If your matter requires immediate attention, please email XXXXX XXXXX at XXX@SSS.RRR. Otherwise, I look forward to returning your email upon my return.
Mari de Armas
Super subtle, right? I even put the funny line in parenthesis so they wouldn’t mistake it for fact and send me position papers on how the brain reacts to skin damage or the political disposition of the sun.
The plan was to have this message automatically reply to an incoming email from within the organization. Only I flubbed the rule and sent the above message as a reply – to every single email in my inbox.
I suggest you go back two spaces and re-read the last sentence. Go ahead. I’ll be right here when you’re done.
That’s right. Everyone I had ever exchanged emails with got my stupid out-of-office message because it attached itself to every single correspondence we’d ever had. Some people received 30 emails. Others more than 300. In the latter category was my boss.
I suggest you go back two spaces and re-read the last clause.
The time between setting the rule to making it stop took about 23 minutes. During this time I was on the phone with a friend and colleague, who expertly walked me through this situation like a poison control operator.
“Mari, what did you do?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know, I put the thing, and oh my God, I think I’m going to throw up my lower intestine.”
“Okay. Get a bucket, then sit down by your computer and delete whatever you did.”
I laughed. I cried. And this morning, I apologized.
Most importantly, I swore never, ever write another out-of-office message again. Not even a serious one.