Our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder.
Our ad music is by Build Buildings.
PJ: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m PJ Vogt.
ALEX GOLDMAN: And I’m Alex Goldman.
PJ: We were supposed to take this week off.
ALEX: We were?
PJ: We were.
PJ: But. . .
ALEX: We love our jobs?
PJ: No. Email Debt Forgiveness Day is this week.
ALEX: Right. It’s on Saturday.
PJ: It’s on Saturday.
ALEX and PJ: April 30th.
PJ: We sounded like monster truck voice for a second.
ALEX: Saturday. April 30th
PJ: That’s like a very old man doing monster truck voice.
ALEX: No a very old man doing monster truck voice would be like “Saturday. April 30th.”
PJ: That’s like an old man’s dad doing monster truck voice. Okay. So to observe Email Debt Forgiveness Day which as everybody knows is April 30. And as everybody knows is the day where if you’ve been putting off some email and you feel bad about it, you can just send it without getting in trouble for however much time has passed. It’s like you just sent it immediately. And we, actually, on our website we have an explanation of Email Debt Forgiveness Day. So you can just include a link in your, in your overdue email, you can include a link to our explanation and then people will know what’s going on. And they won’t be mad at you.
So, in honor of the holiday, Reply All producer Phia Bennin went out and found a bunch of people who are planning to send emails that they’ve been putting off and we talked to some of them.
PJ: Hey Phia
PHIA: Hey guys.
PHIA BENNIN: Yeah, so we got in touch with three people who wrote in and each took one of them, called them up and heard their story. Alex, you want to start us off?
ALEX: Yeah, so, I got in touch with this guy. His name’s John. He lives in Plano, Texas. And he has an email that he’s wanted to send for a very long time and he tried to explain it to me.
JOHN: What I have to do to do this is explain to you pretty much like the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life. Essentially, the, the email that I’m neglecting to send was an apology to kind of straighten out what I should have done, you know, maybe 14 years ago.
ALEX: So, when he was a senior in high school, John met this girl that he really liked a lot. He lived in Lubbock, Texas at the time and she lived three hours away.
JOHN: So I, I lie to my parents and I tell them that I’m staying the night at a friend’s house and I drive the three hours to her house to meet her and we have an amazing time. Her, her mom invites us instead of going on a date on her own to go out with her and her dad and her mom gets, like, hilariously drunk and she’s like adorably embarrassed by it. And from there we. . .I had a hotel that I got so just, we got to hang out really late. We watched Amelie and it. . .yeah it was great. It was fantastic.
PJ: So what happened?
ALEX: Well, at this point they were sort of really dating, even though they were long distance. They were talking all the time on instant messenger, they were talking on the phone. But John started to feel really conflicted about the relationship.
JOHN: We had gone further in our relationship than, than my, my religious parents and, and background would have wanted me to. And so, I was sort of faced with this, this moral dilemma where I liked her so much. And being around her was like the best feeling thing in the world at that time. But, on the other hand, I was just overwhelmed with, with guilt of, of you know. . . .I’m doing things I, I shouldn’t do in, in this relationship and then it’s time for her to have what for her was I think her junior prom. It could have been senior prom. And I was supposed to go with her as her date. What happens is that she calls me and she hears me telling her that I have to work. And that I can’t get off. And that as she keeps telling me, “Just come when you can. Come when you can.” And she goes with just some friends and she’s dateless at her prom and she keeps calling me and asking me are you going to be able to make it and I said, “Oh, I’m trying to but I. . .my boss is keeping me late. And so I never show up all night at any point.”
JOHN: And, yeah, like I said, it’s the worst thing I’ve probably ever done. I was sitting there alone by myself on a, on a little pull out sofa telling her that I was stuck at work and literally, just tears streaming down my face. No, it was terrible.
JOHN: Yeah, and I, I sat there all night just by myself called, she would call. I would answer. I would talk to her and apologize profusely. Hold back the tears until I hung up the phone.
ALEX: And then, not too long after the prom, she said, “Hey, I’m coming to Lubbock. I really want to see you.”
And he said, “I don’t know how my girlfriend would feel about that.”
ALEX: Not because he had a girlfriend.
PJ: No, I know.
ALEX: Just because he was panicking.
PJ: It sucks cuz it’s so much worse than the truth.
PJ: Oh, but he was also like a senior in high school.
PJ: So he wants to send her an email apologizing?
ALEX: So, he is now married. He recently found her on the internet. She is also married. And he just wants to send an email saying basically, like, “This is why I did this thing. It’s not because you’re a jerk. It’s not because I didn’t like you. It’s because I was like a dumb kid and I didn’t know how to, how to deal with this.”
PJ: I bet she’ll really appreciate that. I think that’s like a really nice thing to do.
ALEX: It is so funny that you say that because when I did the interview, I was listening to him and I was like: I don’t know what I would do in this situation. Like I don’t know if I’d want to get that email.
PJ: Why not?
ALEX: Because in a way it’s like, it’s 14 years ago. I’ve moved on. Maybe I forgive this person but maybe I don’t.
PJ: But he’s not asking for forgiveness. He’s just saying like, “Here’s why what happened happened.”
ALEX: Right, that was sort of why I leaned toward doing it. Because like, like he, he held all the cards basically and now he’s just sort of like giving them all back to her.
PJ: Yeah, as long as that’s what. . .as long as it’s just like I want you know that like the world is not as random and as cruel as I made it look. Cuz now she has to live in world where, like, this like formative experience of being in love, she was betrayed. Versus like this formative experience of love didn’t work out because somebody had like religious beliefs that conflicted with that love. Like, that’s, that’s such a better world.
PJ: Ok so Phia, you talked to somebody.
PHIA: Yes. So, we got an email from a guy named Ameen. He has his own message that he’s been meaning to send for a really long time. And when I first read Ameen’s email about it I thought it was just like. . .so weird and adorable.
PHIA: So, Ameen graduated from college last year. But when he was in college he used to always go and study at this one desk in the library. And the reason he liked that desk was because it had like etched into it all of these different weird phrases and sentences. It was like, “Satan and meth make one great apple pie.”
PJ: “Satan and meth make one great apple pie?”
PHIA: Yes. So, it’s all these like weird things and so he’d like work and enjoy them.
AMEEN: And one day I noticed something interesting on the desk. It, it, it just read–and this is totally different from everything else that was on there–it said, “Love, dishonor, marry, die, Cherish perish, never cry. I am looking for a guy.”
ALEX: That’s intense.
PHIA: Which is actually lifted from David Rakoff’s book. . .
PJ: The. . .his last one?
PHIA: His, his, yeah, his last book.
PJ: That book’s really good.
PHIA: And so Ameen went home, spent a couple hours thinking about it. Went back to the desk and scratched into it, “May not be the one you seek, though not meek I must repeat, this form of language is rather neat, intriguing in fact but I must admit defeat. I can not rhyme even for a dime.”
ALEX: That’s nice.
PHIA: And so then a couple days go by. Ameen waits. And on the desk is then scratched, “Faster than birds, better than mail, table top scribblings, could work in hell. Drop me a line, nearly any time. onethousandbrimes@gmail.”
PHIA: yeah. I don’t know, I think it’s kinda trying to rhyme? But so, that’s what Ameen sees on the desk.
AMEEN: And I, my first thought was, “Oh my god. I’m not clever enough to write something in response.”
PHIA: You thought, “One time is as much as I can do?”
AMEEN: Yeah, right, I, I thought I could just be like a one hit wonder with these things. And, every time I would load up my browser and load up Gmail and try to send it I’d just go, “uuuhhh.”
PHIA: So it’s been a year and he hasn’t emailed it.
PHIA: Because he was just like, “God, that one rhyme was so hard I can’t do another.”
PJ: He doesn’t have to send them a rhyme at this point. . . .
ALEX: Yeah, he doesn’t have to rhyme.
PJ: They’re, they’ve, they’re breaking into prose.
PHIA: Well, since then he got a girlfriend, like he’s in a relationship now. And so he’s like not hoping to romantically connect with the person on the desk but he’s still just like so curious who it is. So, i talked to him this morning. He said he was going to write. He wrote.
PJ: And. . .
PHIA: Here’s what he wrote.
AMEEN: “Correspondence by email, quite faster than a snail. Of desk scribblings embedded by nails. Apologies are in order. My lackluster rate of response has brought me to the border of almost insanity and opportunity to connect is all I ask. So happily taken I cannot mask a keen interest in your ability to rhyme. Hurry, we are almost out of time. It is the year 2016 heading towards the month of May. I hope this reaches you before Email Debt Forgiveness Day.”
ALEX: Nice little plug.
PHIA: And then he included the link to Email Debt Forgiveness Day. And then. . .
PJ: And then. . .
PHIA: He got an autoreply from Gmail saying that the account doesn’t exist.
PJ and ALEX: Ohhhh. . .
AMEEN: I know. So I spend all day, after I sent you that email, saying like, basically like texting and Facebook messaging everyone that went to my school asking if anybody knew about this desk or if they wrote this or wrote that. And after like six or seven hours I, I get no real response. I’m just like, uh. So my girlfriend comes back home from so I ask her about it and she’s like, “Oh, yeah. That was me.” I was like, “What?”
AMEEN: Yeah, she was like, “Yeah, that was me.” I said, “What do you. . .
PHIA: Oh, my. . .
AMEEN: . . .mean that was you?” It was like, “Yeah, I, I, I, I am onethousandbrimes.
PHIA: Oh my God.
AMEEN: “You never. . .” she’s like, “I didn’t want to make the email because I got anxious and then I met you. And then it all kind of turned out so. . .”
PHIA: Wait, what, wha. . .did she?
PHIA: Did she know, did she know it was you?
AMEEN: No, she had no idea. And I could not imagine her doing that in a million years.
PHIA: Oh, my God.
AMEEN: Right. Right. And it just, I, oh I was so freaked out by it when she told me.
PJ: And this is real?
PHIA: I know. When Ameen first told me this I was like, “This is crazy. Too good to be real.” But I have looked into it for an intense amount of time and every direction I looked this seems to totally check out.
PHIA: Did you know she used that desk?
AMEEN: No. I had no idea.
PHIA: Is this changing your view of the world? It kind of feels like it should.
AMEEN: I mean, I mean naturally I’m not very. . . I’m not super into fate, but it’s. . . I don’t know man. This is. . . if it is a coincidence, this is like an infinitesimally small chance of this happening.
AMEEN: Like up there with winning the lotto.
PHIA: You can never break up.
AMEEN: We’re destined for life.
PJ: That makes me so happy.
Alex: Yeah that’s great.
PJ: That’ll set me on like a nice course for today.
PJ: So, I also spoke to somebody. A listener named Mackenzie. Unlike the people you guys talked to, she actually had a lot of emails to write, not just one. We got on the phone and I think almost immediately one of the first things she said is just that at the end of February, she lost her job.
MACKENZIE: So, on the 26th I got that call that I had lost my job. And, then, on the 28th was my birthday. And then on the morning of the 29th I woke up and found out my mom had died. That. . .
PJ: Oh, my God.
MACKENZIE: . . .on my birthday, that night.
PJ: I’m so sorry.
MACKENZIE: Oh, yeah, so between those two things there was a lot of outpouring on, like via Facebook and just like emails and, and calls from. . .and messages from friends extending offers of support and, and condolences and it was just so overwhelming. Just everything.
MACKENZIE: . . .that had happened. That, and I know, I know in my heart that no one’s like, “That Mackenzie is such a jerk and hasn’t replied to my sincere condolences of her mother’s death.” But I feel so bad that I haven’t, I haven’t emailed them all back.
PJ: Oh, my God. Wait. . .
MACKENZIE: You know. . .not even all of them, but just certain ones that were really touching and meaningful. I just couldn’t emotionally get it together. But now it’s been so long that I, I feel dumb.
PJ: Wait. Since your mom died?
MACKENZIE: Well, I mean it’s so, you know, the emails have been sitting there now for over a month and I feel weird being like, “Thanks f. . .” you know.
PJ: Oh, my God. It hasn’t, it hasn’t been long at all.
PJ: It really hasn’t been long at all.
MACKENZIE: Yeah. It, it feels longer than it has been.
PJ: I mean, you’re being really hard on yourself.
MACKENZIE: Yeah, I guess so. I, you know, being in. . .a stereotypical millennial I, I fear all contact and. . .
PJ: Me, too.
MACKENZIE: So I tried really hard to stay on top of it.
MACKENZIE: And so, just, you know, seeing those emails still in my inbox just, it makes me feel guilty every single time.
PJ: So, wait. So do you think like, do you think you’ll really use the holiday? Like can you see yourself sending an email and being like, “Hey, I know things are big right now. I was worried I wasn’t going to email people.” Like, do you think you’ll use it?
MACKENZIE: It’s like a good deadline in my head that I, on this date I will send that email. And I love the idea of Email Debt Forgiveness Day so much that I also like the idea of spreading the word.
PJ: That’s awesome.
MACKENZIE: I remember when I listened to the first podcast about it, I was like, “Oh, it’s not just me.” It’s not just problem that I have.
PJ: That makes me so happy. That makes me so happy that it’s useful. All right. Happy Email Debt Forgiveness Day. When it comes.
MACKENZIE: Thanks. You, too.
PJ: Thank you. Bye.
PJ: Thanks to Mackenzie and everybody else who wrote in to let us know which emails they were planning to send. And congratulations to anybody who managed to send one. It can be really hard. You should go easy on yourself. Also, we’re trying something different for this year’s Email Debt Forgiveness Day. If you participated and if you’re a Gimlet memeber, then on Saturday go to emaildebt.club where you can get this thing we made. It’s kinda like a girl scout merit badge, but for Email Debt Forgiveness Day. There’s this artist we like, Mickey Zacchilli, who makes patches. We had her make one just for this. Again, the website is emaildebt.club. It’s free, if you’re a Gimlet member. If you’re not a member and you want to be one you can sign up there. And we’re just going to have this open for a week. So if you want one make sure to let us know by May 8th.
One last thing. When you sign up, use the email address you used for your Gimlet membership. It’s very important. Okay. Happy Email Debt Forgiveness Day.
ALEX: Reply All is hosted by PJ Vogt and me, Alex Goldman. The show’s produced by Tim Howard, Sruthi Pinnamaneni and Phia Bennin. Our editor is Peter Clowney. Production assistance from Mervyn Degaños. We were mixed by Rick Kwan.
Special thanks to Logan Williams, Mary Ratliff, and Martin Svobod and Daniel Gould.
Matt Lieber is a weekend with good weather and no plans.
Our theme music’s by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder and our ad music is by Build Buildings.
You can find more episodes at itunes.com/replyall.
Our website is replyall.soy.
One more thing. Couple weeks ago we told a story on our show about our landlords, the website Genius, and an incident involving a broom closet. Genius dispute the facts of that story and they asked us why we didn’t just come up and ask them about it. And you know what, they actually have a point. So, Genius, we’re sorry. We should have asked you about that. It won’t happen again.
We are taking next week off to work on some episodes we’re very excited about. We’ll see you in two weeks.
Thanks for listening.