Adventures of an Early Gmail User 

Near the end of my last year in college in 2004 I was doing a lot of searching. For little things like a job, an apartment, a direction in life, oh, and a new email address. My trusty “dot edu” was to expire in a few short months, and my new email would be a part of my first real adult experiences.

My roommate’s techie boyfriend mentioned Google’s new service called Gmail. He said he had a few beta invites, and that they were hard to get.

Cool, I was in. And since I was going to be an adult and all, I chose a sensible name: JessicaL. “Jessica,” as in the most common girls name of the 1980s (and my own), plus my last initial.

Almost 10 years later, and I often tell people my email address with a sense of pride. If someone fails to notice the cachet of my simple handle within a service with more than 400 million active users, I will sometimes resort to pointing it out. Later, I remind myself it is technically not cool to point out one’s coolness. Sometimes it can’t be helped.

But the entertaining part of owning a simple handle is the misdirected email I receive. At least a few times a month, I’ll get what seems like a genuine email intended for some other Jessica out there in this world. And because I need to build up good karma (I tend to easily lose my belongings and enjoy when strangers return them to me), I’ve made it a rule to reply to these emails and let the sender know of a mistake.

Reading these notes can feel voyeuristic. It’s like a wrong number phone call, but if the person just kept talking. I’ve learned a new gargling recipe from Tanzy, and replied with polite condolences to someone named “Chilly” whose mom had just passed away. I’ve let Ralph know that, sorry, his infant son Luke was not learning to say my name yet, and told Brian that probably those words were meant for his girlfriend. I got a little impatient once when I landed on the group email for a family reunion and couldn’t seem to get myself removed, despite several “unsubscribe” requests.

Once, I made a friend, a Grandma stumbling her way through the Internet. We corresponded a few times as I tried to help her locate her granddaughter’s correct email. It was the digital version of helping her cross the street. Her granddaughter, Jess, wrote to say hi at the end, and Grandma sent me a photo of herself.

All of these episodes made me wonder recently—who is THE “Jessica,” owner of the coveted I wrote a very nice email to this mysterious Jessica a few weeks ago to find out. I figured she had to be working at Google at the time Gmail launched (just like @jess works at Twitter). Maybe, I imagined, she still lived in the Bay Area, and we could meet and swap stories.

But I got a bounce back. The email box was full at this time.

Jessica has abandoned her post. Sad. Wouldn’t it be great if I could get that name now?

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