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A Mailbag Story

By admin Published: December 10, 2008

So not long ago this man sends me an e-mail ...

and it has a movie question, and I research the answer and put it in my Dec. 4 mailbag column.

Then, on Tuesday, I find a message on my voice-mail from the guy, complaining that I haven't answered his e-mail. This happens sometimes. There's an assumption among some readers that all I do is answer mail, and that every letter is handled post-haste. Truth is, some letters don't get answered very quickly because they're not easily answered. Or they're asking a question that someone else asked, and I answered recently, but the new letter-writer hasn't seen the old question for any of a number of reasons. And some questions, I just can't find an answer.

Now, I didn't call this guy back right away because, well, on Tuesday I wrote a new mailbag and a HeldenFiles, and then rewrote the HeldenFiles, and spent a lot of time on the Jay Leno story, and was on the phone a bunch. I figured I would get back to him later in the week. So then I find this e-mail today:

Mr. Heldenfels: Please send me the name and email address of your supervisor so I can report you for failing to respond to my email question and phone call. You will save me a trip to the building to find out in person.

Now I am little peeved. Not Robert Prosky in "Thief" peeved, exactly, but peeved. My co-workers urge calm. So I e-mail this:

I have passed your note on to my supervisor, as well as a copy of this note.
I must say I am baffled by your irritation. Your ... question and my answer to it appeared in my Dec. 4 mailbag column, which is where I customarily reply to reader questions and comments. That was less than a week after I received your e-mail, which is unusually prompt considering how much mail I receive each week. In addition, the mailbag notes that individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

He replied to my reply. As follows:

I do not read newspapers. It would have been nice to get a quick email from you or your staff.

We'll pause a moment to laugh over that reference to "your staff." I am my staff. And while I do occasionally answer questions directly, I can't begin to do that with every e-mail I get.

OK, now let's get to where I am really peeved. A newspaper pays my salary. A newspaper makes it possible for me to answer this guy's question. He e-mailed me at my newspaper address. But heaven forbid he actually read a newspaper. No, we're just supposed to wait for his question and answer it immediately and bow and scrape while doing it -- or he will be offended. Good grief.

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