My Email Problems Make Me As Sad As This Abandoned Mitten.

posted in: Day In The Life, Rant 21
This adorable, lost mitten is my soul. My soul! Photo: Wikipedia.
This adorable, lost mitten is my soul. My soul! Photo: Wikipedia.

On July 3rd, I received very few emails.

“Terrific!” I thought. “It’s so nice to know that people are taking time for the holiday! Perhaps I should do the same.” And off I went to do something I can’t remember, but I know it wasn’t email related. The next day, when I did a couple of habitual email checks on my phone, I still didn’t have any emails and that was still fine. “Phenomenal!” I thought again. “It is a holiday. No one should be emailing today in observance of our country’s birthday. Good job, everyone!” And then I went to sleep. 

By mid-morning on July 5th, however, I grew concerned.

“Well, how’s that?” I thought, and scratched my head. For a moment, I wondered if folks were just sleeping off the firework festivities. Then I remembered that I do not have many friends who are undergraduate students but lots of friends and colleagues who have to work for a living for Lord’s sake. It was very unlikely that most of the working world was sleeping off a hangover after four days off. And though it was possible that no one in the entire world needed or wanted to reach me… Well, that was depressing to think about so I shook it off. Could it be there was something wrong with my email? I refreshed my browser for the sixth time before I saw the error message:

“Unable to retrieve mail for [email address.] Too many messages on server.”

This confused me a great deal because I fancy myself as being pretty good about cleaning out old mail and zapping spam and all that. Besides, Gmail gives you a bazillion GBs, whatever those are. I poked around to try and understand what was going on and by “poked around” I do mean that I poked at keys and looked at the screen without understanding anything. I hate that I am hopeless at anything information-technology-related, not just because this causes me untold 21st-century anguish, but also because it would be so cool if I were good at all that! Don’t you just love a gal who’s a computer whiz? Like Penny on Inspector Gadget! But the sad truth is that I can sew and give killer lectures and write stuff and tell corny jokes but I cannot, cannot fix any problem related to an email server, a modem, or a website, ever. Have you ever truly gnashed your teeth? I have.

My last attempt to at least see where this alleged glut of emails could be hiding, I logged onto my main email address’s online mailbox. (Usually, I forward all that to my Gmail account and no, I did not set that up myself nor do I understand how it works and even writing that sentence makes me all itchy.) What I found when I logged onto that site made scream in horror, a la Janet Leigh in Psycho:

My email account contained 4,000 emails. Four thousand. Why?


That’s right. I had 4,000 blinkin’ email offers for Celexa, Viagra, Hot-SExy Ladiez, notices of Incoming Faxxes, etc. But 4,000?? Why? How? The only thing I could figure is that when my main email was configured to funnel into my Gmail, the Gmail robots caught all that spam before it got to my Gmail inbox but it stayed on the main email server and hasn’t been deleted off the server for years at this point and — oh, for the love of Philip Larkin, I don’t know!!

Hyperventilating is not a laughing matter, but I was having a little respiratory trouble or a hot flash or something. I emailed the customer service-like email address associated with my account and put “URGENT!” in the subject line. While I waited for a response, I bit off all my nails thinking about all the emails I wasn’t getting. What would become of them? Of me??

When the response came, I felt like bursting into tears. When you read what “Mark” suggested to me, you may cry, too:

“Hi, Mary: We can simply remove all that if you want, but I don’t really have an easy way server-side to retain anything unless you need to keep something with a specific string, or email address. I could also put them in a tarball and you could download them, rename them to .eml and open them in Mozilla Thunderbird. If this were my account though, I’d just setup POP3 in Thunderbird to download and delete everything and use spam filterer plugin to drop all garbage.”

What does that even mean, Mark? What does that mean?? 

What’s a “tarball”?? What’s a “.eml”?? And you’re telling me Mozilla still exists?? And it’s not your account, Mark! It’s mine! So don’t tell me about what you would do because you are an IT guy and you can hit a few keys and make, I don’t know, animated websites?? And another thing! I barely, barely know what a plugin is and I like it that way, Mark! I like it that way!

I tried not to cry as I stabbed out a reply email, telling this nice man that I didn’t know what he was saying at all — but I stopped. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t engage in this horrible, terrible “tarball” task he was going to try and talk me through. So, with a lead heart, I went to the inbox…and I started to delete things. I realize this is not a real fix; I’m going to have to talk to Mark eventually. But I figured I could at least clear some room so that my emails could come and go until that time came. I configured my inbox to show 200 messages per page; I did a search for any email with “Lexapro” or “Wedding Nite” or “Send MoN3Y” in it and deleted the pages and pages of emails those searches returned.

For now, I think I’m getting my email okay. But the spam keeps coming. Oh, it’s so awful. For every real email I get, I get four spams. And it’s at times like this when I think about the problems folks had in the old days and wonder if they’d trade with us. It would have really been lousy to break the handle of your only butter churn, you know? It would be a real drag to find a wolf got all the eggs out of the hen house again. And I know a problem with my email doesn’t involve trudging through the snow to slop the hogs, etc., but it is the worst.

Tonight, I’d choose the butter churn.

21 Responses

  1. Britiney
    | Reply

    Ugh! I’m shedding tears for you because stuff like this is the WORST! I know that on MSN you can turn up the strength of the spam filter, but I’m not sure if Gmail has that. I may investigate for you. In the meantime xoxoxo

  2. Jane
    | Reply

    You must have at least one techi-friend who can help you with a spam blocker. Call a friend.

  3. Kate
    | Reply

    This morning a texted a friend requesting someone set up a do not email option similiar to do not call. I hate that junk stuff.

  4. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I feel your pain! I changed to a gmail account because I got so many political emails after Obama was elected the 1st time. I let everything go to my comcast account & let important people know my new email address. Unfortunately, many people do not seem to be able to delete an old email address from their address book. Then I got my daughter to set up an message on my comcast account, telling people to please use my new address. I definitely did not want the political folks to find out my new address. Then this past election, I got careless & now I’m getting all those political emails in both accounts! Ahrgg!!! Why do they have to send 3000 emails per day asking for money? No one can afford to give them so much money! Just leave us alone–we’re depressed enough with how it all turned out & more money isn’t going to change things!

  5. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    PS Fortunately, our daughter who lives in the same town we do is a computer whiz & so is her husband, so they help us with the sort of issue you’re having. I didn’t even know it was important to delete old emails until I got a message from comcast that I had exceeded the limit! My computer education is lacking–I just kind of stumbled my way through figuring out what to do, but definitely missed some important aspects.
    Our daughter is out of town right now & our modem died. We got the new one & things are working, but we are anxious for our daughter to get back & check things out!
    Computer issues are scary!

  6. Donna
    | Reply

    Hi Mary, I totally feel your pain. My husband is an IT person, and we actually have huge arguments when he tries to help me, because he says something like what Mark told you, and I end up weeping!!

    Anyway, there are lots of Virtual Assistants out there who can manage this kind of thing for you! You should totally take that stress out of your life and pay someone to handle it for you. You might be surprised about how inexpensive it can be, and it will definitely be worth the price to rid yourself of the terror of dealing with such stuff — trust me, I know!

    Good luck!

  7. Kerry Leach
    | Reply

    I feel your pain! It happened to my husband and I one year while we were on holiday. Doesn’t help if it’s a company email address either (it’s our company) and then lo and behold I started receiving viagra messages . . . from myself!!! Although they’d just tweaked the address so that it looked like my email, there was a hidden addition.
    Since then we changed our provider (and like you I have no idea – just happily follow along) and apparently it’s now unlimited, so I can save all the family, friends, quilting, gardening and all sorts of favourite messages while happily deleting sexy Russian ladies who think they can help me be a better man. Considering I’m not a man it’s quite funny as I read, block the senders and delete forever!

  8. Robin Gabriel
    | Reply

    I feel your pain, Mary! I, too, am a computer ninkumpoop, but the one thing that really milks my goat, is the fact that I can’t roll a pie crust to save my life! I can do all kinds of sewing, embroidery and cut glass, but rolling a pie crust gives me hives. I’m lucky that I have a great computer guy that does house calls REALLY reasonably. Maybe you would like his number? Maybe he can roll a pie crust too? Hmmmmm! Let me know if you want his number!

  9. MrsB
    | Reply

    If you use Gmail yocssetnhjp Filters.
    I set up filters for objectionable words, Ed meds, etc.
    It cut the spam by 95%.

    It’s not hard . Really.

  10. Clark
    | Reply

    Did you rescue the lost mitten? 😉

  11. MrsB
    | Reply

    Oops…. Typing on tablet a mess. That first sentence should read You can set up filters.

  12. Kathryn Darnell
    | Reply

    Mary, I simply HATE computer issues, pure and simple. They should not occur to man, woman nor beast….especially women with a busy life. It’s like car trouble for a single Mom trying to get their kids to Little League practice! Hoping you get your social emails back soon and those spam invaders are destroyed forever. But until then this is a brief summary of your true blue followers. Susie thinks you are FABULOUS, Marge says you have a cunning wit, Patsy wants to sew like you, Gwen wishes you Happy 4th of July and 600 other women and gentlemen wish you great heath. That wraps it up. Go get your cup of tea and rest easy!

  13. Suzanne
    | Reply

    OK, so this is a little off topic but it made me feel good, so hopefully it will you as well. When you first brought up Philip Larkin, I had no idea who this was and went off to Wikipedia. And then some other sites, and then some more and thoroughly enjoyed my voyage. Months later my book group has decided to read “Devices and Desires” by P. D. James. In the introductory chapters we learn the main character (Adam Dalgleish) is a reknownd poet and appears to hold Philip Larkin in high esteem. And I just sat and smiled this little glowey smile–I KNEW who Philip Larkin was. Thank you Mary. And I’m reading a real, touch the pages, book.

    • Mary
      | Reply

      Suze, you’ll like today’s post. 🙂 xo mary

  14. Summer
    | Reply

    The great thing is that you could totally ditch the e-mail service with the unhelpful IT guy, and go somewhere else. I know, that involves you telling family and friends about your new e-mail address and getting lost e-mails when they forget and send to the old address. But change does come, as you mention. We can roll with it or keep churning away…

  15. Anita Brayton
    | Reply

    It takes a lot to bring me to tears and sobs but Intuit and my computer will do it every “undate”. However, I can’t bring myself to go old school except for a pen pal.

  16. Betty
    | Reply

    If you were here (or I were there), I would help you.

  17. Sarah
    | Reply

    If you don’t have a “Geeks on Call” service in Chicago, I’ll bet someone at the university tech site could get you in touch with one who could help you. Courage!

  18. Naomi
    | Reply

    OMG! Laughing AND crying!

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