Early adopter gmail problem

I received a really weird email last week, that really baffled me with its mix of slightly aggressive, very revealing, and somewhat sexual content. I wasn’t too worried about it though, since it obviously was yet another case of mistaken identity: my gmail address is a very simple and sadly confusion-inducing “lastname@gmail.com”.

You have to understand: in my country, my family is the only one with this last name. My grandfather immigrated here from Austria early in WWII, got his name mangled in a particular way when he was naturalized at the end of the war, then bestowed it to his kids — and that’s it. Now that my grandparents are both dead, there’s just a handful of us; mostly guys, because the women changed their name when they married.

So when I got a gmail address in 2004 as a young “woman in tech” in a startup, I was mostly thinking that I needed a wallet-name yet gender-neutral address, and mostly concerned with getting the right username before my dad, brother, or cousin could snatch it. Hence my poor foresight and my decision to grab the simplest address: my surname and nothing else.

You see where I’m going. It so happens that the Surname people are a much larger crowd in the US. Over the years, I’ve had to tell numerous senders that they were writing to the wrong person. I now have a boilerplate email all ready for that; it gets tedious scrounging up the right tone and politeness to inform people of their mistake every time.

But this time, the email was so odd, so packed with sensitive information — some of a sexual nature — that I felt the boilerplate was too pat. Perhaps I also wanted to be a little more terse than usual, and convey in some fashion the bemusement I’d felt when opening the wayward email.

To: this guy’s wallet name email address
You have sent this email to the wrong email address. Sadly, several people
with the same last name are mistaking my email address for theirs.

You might want to be more careful about who you send this information
to; this was a very puzzling email to receive. Please correct your
address book and send this to its actual recipient.

I thought that might be the end of it… Although a friend had advised me to add “please don’t contact me again” in the email, I’d chosen not to, mostly out of curiosity. I thought I’d bust out the phrase later, if/when I felt it had become necessary. Still, I wasn’t expecting a response, or at least I thought that if I got one, it would contain something like an “oops”: an apology of some sort.

From: dude’s wallet name email address
This e-mail was for John. This is the address Gary gave me.

Gee, thanks for stating the obvious, dude who made a mistake!

Clearly, I had underestimated the mansplaining ethos and the ability of grown men to behave like 8yo boys when caught doing something, anything, wrong. I thought of using the boilerplate in response, but now I’d become properly irritated.

To: irritating dude
Sure, someone gave you this address so you used it. But it’s not John’s email, it’s mine, and Gary was wrong about it. I’m a totally different person in a totally different part of the world, and it’s my email address. This week only I’ve received email from Sally Mae regarding loan payments sent in error to me instead of a certain Brad who I assume shares my last name, email from you to a John who I assume shares my last name, and email from a learning institution confirming the registration of a certain Pat who I assume shares my last name to an online food handling course. This is not to mention being bombarded with emails asking me to confirm my subscription to email updates and comment threads for blogs I don’t follow, and commercial harassment from vendors trying to convince someone else to please please please buy their wares. I guess you see my point: this is my email address and no one else’s. Please tell Gary he got it wrong, and maybe he should tell John too, who might be the one who got it wrong. It would be nice if at least one or two people stopped mistaking this address for theirs.

Thank you for your attention.

Aaaah, that felt good to get off my chest.

Yet the relief is short-lived: I still have to tell Sally Mae, %&$#ing Sifundo, and that learning institution that they, too, used the wrong email address.

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