…or a museum if you prefer.
Many years ago (eons in Internet age) I searched for an Internet name that suited me. Because I was into birding, I focused on avian handles. I tried “chickadee” but it was already taken in the places I wanted to join. I considered “painted bunting,” a bird I longed to see in person, but the name seemed a little suggestive. I finally settled on cedar waxwing because it was probably my favorite bird at the time, one I’d only seen a precious few times and one whose looks always made me smile. Cedar waxwings look like they are wearing cat-eye sunglasses.
Luckily for me no one else used the name “cedarwaxwing” or “Cedar waxwing” or even “waxwing” on any of the social media sites I was interested in joining. This continued for years, although I don’t think I was able to score a cedarwaxwing account at gmail. I did register a waxwing account there though and it has been my general email account since September 2004.
Over the years I have received a fair number of misdirected emails from people or companies that I had nothing to do with. Not of the SPAM variety, but genuine mistakes.
I have gotten emails from travel agencies with other people’s itineraries. I have gotten emails from personal trainers with complete workout instructions attached. I got an email thanking me for nominating a cyclist for an award.
I usually respond to the email and explain that they have the wrong email address. I rarely hear back. But recently I have had pleasant conversations with strangers concerning the mistake.
Elizabeth, for instance has sent me (thinking I am Kim and Jess) Easter, valentine, fourth of July and general catch-up emails. I responded each time, explaining I was not Kim and Jess. I never heard back until this year when I replied to the entire group, explaining that I was becoming concerned that Kim and Jess were not getting all the well-wishes. I immediately received an email from Elizabeth’s sister explaining that Elizabeth was not all that worldly when it came to emails. She promised to talk to Elizabeth and figure out Kim and Jess’ real email address. Elizabeth replied later, apologizing, but also saying she’d been using my email address for Kim and Jess for 10 years. That was Valentine’s day. I got another Easter email and just left it. Poor Kim and Jess.
In late February I received a confirmation of an order made by Kenneth of Swansea, Wales, UK for some light bulbs. Because there was no way to contact Kenneth by email since he used mine, I wrote him a letter and mailed it to him. I promptly forgot about it and was surprised, and touched that Kenneth sent me an email explaining the situation a couple of weeks ago:
Please accept my sincere apologies for the mix up when I used the wrong email address. You were very kind in taking the trouble to write to me.
Unfortunately, I mislaid your letter which had only now come to light.
I am a very keen birdwatcher, who, sadly has never seen a Waxwing. The bird has fascinated me since childhood so it seemed opportune to use it as an email address. You had beaten me to it with Google, so I added a “my…”. However, I recently bought a domain where I can use Wax.wing. I must have mixed things up when creating both the order and the separate history site. Sincere apologies again for causing you this trouble.
I hope you have managed to see Waxwings!
(In Wales, it is common to give your child two names, but use the middle one, hence I’m not known as Kenneth)
I replied that I’d forgotten that I sent him the note and that I had, indeed, seen cedar waxwings. I also sent him a photo of a cedar waxwing that stopped in my yard.
The day after I received Paul (aka Kenneth)’s email and while I was waiting to board a plane for Seattle, I received an email from “Jerry’s Rogue Jets, Oregon’s one and only mail boat tour, delivering Fun Since 1895!” I was confused since we were headed to Oregon as soon as we picked up our rental car and thought that perhaps Clare had booked a mail boat tour (whatever that is). I checked the invoice and saw that it was another case of someone using the wrong email address. This time it was a woman named Amy. Luckily her telephone number was also on the invoice so I called it and left a message. She replied with a text message about an hour later, just as I was boarding the plane.
Hi- thank you for the heads up on the invoice. Corrected. Sorry for the trouble. You are the original waxwing! I’m #26.
Some people would not bother setting people straight about email address mistakes, but I think it is the right thing to do. Not that you have to go overboard, but just because waiting for an email can be a pain. The replies I have received have always been pleasant and the people have always been thankful and I have had, albeit brief, conversations with these people with whom we share a love of one genus of bird.
I am sure I will continue to receive misdirected emails and I am sure I will continue to reply.