Monday, February 9, 2015

The worst thing ever . . . sometimes isn’t

Above and below, Chase Bird enjoying the sunshine on his fur on our enclosed back porch.
Winter temps return this week.

I’ve just about lost all hope for the new job. I am supposed to hear something “in short order,” but who knows when that will be or what I’ll be told?

Anyway, that’s not what I’ll write about today. Instead, I want to write about something that happened last week: one of my worst OCD fears came true.

I go through spells when I read and reread emails or comments that I write before hitting the “send” or “post” buttons. I fear that I will write something completely inappropriate or to the wrong person. So the way to keep that from happening is to check, repeatedly, compulsively.

What would be so bad about writing the wrong thing? I could hurt someone’s feelings. I could insult someone. I could make myself look bad to someone else. I could say something untrue. In my worst-case scenarios, I could suffer horrible embarrassment that would last forever, lose my job, lose a friend, be sued, or end up in jail (I know—sounds way out there, but that’s how OCD works).

So last week I received an email in my work email account from someone whose opinions and words I included in a news article. He wanted to clarify for me something that he had talked about. He didn’t ask me to change anything or do a clarification. I should note that he also complimented the article.

I wanted my editor Mark’s opinion on this, so I forwarded the email to him, told him what I had in my notes, and asked if I should respond in any way.

Did I say I forwarded the email to Mark? Oh, no. I replied to the email that the original man sent me. With the message to Mark.

When I realized what I’d done, which was almost immediately after I hit “send,” I said, “Darn!” The word I said wasn’t really darn, but it had four letters. My co-worker Amy started laughing, saying, “Something must really be wrong if you said that, Tina.”

My other co-worker Matt and I tried to figure out a way to retrieve my email, but it basically can’t be done with the mail servers we have.

I was beside myself. I thought I would never be able to face this person again. While I hadn’t said anything critical of him in my email, it was still worded for my editor, not for the person in question. I was afraid he would call. I was afraid he would never trust me as a journalist again. He would tell everyone else not to trust me.

After stewing for a few minutes, I decided to just face it head on. I sent the person another email, apologizing for sending him one meant for Mark. I told him I was very sensitive to getting things right in my articles and would discuss it with Mark when he got back to the office Monday.

Fairly quickly, I heard back from this person. And it was not a big deal to him. He further complimented me on being fair and accurate in my portrayal of his viewpoints.

I’m still embarrassed about what I did. I still wish I hadn’t done it. I will probably be extra vigilant for a while before I hit that “send” button, though for all my checking, I still made a mistake. That is a lesson to not let the checking get into the compulsive range.
But the worst that I had imagined didn’t happen. And I have the feeling that if the worst did happen, I would handle it. After all, why would I suddenly stop being able to handle life? I’m far from perfect, but I do successfully handle most things eventually.

Just remember: sometimes what we imagine will be the worst thing ever really isn’t.

Have you ever hit “send” too quickly?


  1. sounds to me like you gained some respect!!! that he appreciated and somewhat agreed with your opinion!!

    i do this with text messaging all the time, always receiving back the ????? text!!! no sure i have ever done it with an email. but that would be nothing but luck l)

  2. i think you did the best thing possible in re-responding to that man immediately and apologizing. and i'm glad he saw the professionalism in you.

    i did something very unprofessional once - attempting to respond to a woman at work who had been venting about an executive's behavior. i sent a 3 word 'insult' directly to the executive in error (thinking about him, i put his name in the "to" field). it could have cost me my job, but i scrambled, apologized, the woman and i covered with a misdirect to another situation that i was commenting on. it was awful, and i vowed to never be so careless again.

    1. wow. even now, so many years later, i'm feeling ashamed all over again.

  3. Good for you, Tina....."it's" rarely as bad as we imagine. Oh, I've hit "send" too quickly many a time!

  4. Yes! I really messed up a few weeks ago.

    We often host visiting artists and performers in our home, because we have this rockin' downstairs that provides a private suite with a view. It saves them money, gives them a nice place to stay, and it's fun for us to meet such interesting people.

    We were contacted by the new director of the arts center, asking if we could house two couples who would be performing at their monthly poetry reading. I said yes, of course, and invited them to stay for the whole weekend, not just on Thursday night as requested.

    Unfortunately, I had already promised the house to my sister and her boyfriend (we will be out of town at the time).

    So...I had to e-mail them back and tell them their guests could stay only on Thursday night, and not through the weekend as I had initially promised (and promoted!). I was SOOOO embarrassed, and I didn't get a response for a few days. When I did, it was very nice, and not a problem, but I felt terrible. The new director and his wife are lovely people whom I want to get to know better, and I really, really wanted them to know I'm not usually this flaky!

    I doubt you'll make the mistake again, just as I doubt I will ever double-book our spare rooms. Oh, well!

  5. Oh, Tina, you are NOT the only person who has done that. I've done it, too, when answering viewer reply letters back when I was working at the station. And it had a similar ending (fortunately I didn't say "that weirdo just wrote again -- what do I say THIS time!") I'm so glad it wasn't a bad ending for you -- maybe that will help a little if the situation evolves again. Which I hope it NEVER does!

  6. I have hit SEND too quickly but I have also been the recipient. An old friend of my mom sent me an e mail that was very obviously meant for her boyfriend. It involved the use of shower heads. ahem

  7. Oh , I've sent emails to the wrong person. Since all my emails are personal it can be funny. You did the right thing to hit this incident head on. You did the right thing.

  8. Oh yes I can SO relate to this fear. There was a time period that after writing checks to pay bills, I would rip open the sealed envelopes before I mailed them just to double check that I didn't write anything offensive or even illegal! So many wasted envelopes and wasted postage! I'm glad it worked out for you. I have found that many times, things don't end up being as bad as I thought they would be if they came true.

  9. Oh I know that sinking feeling so well. I accidentally sent a text to my boss that was meant for my husband. it was a new boss, and I hadn't met her yet. Fortunately, it wasn't anything bad - just telling him I was headed to the neighbor's with the boys. But I was so embarrassed!


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