Rhodri Marsden: Boring emails that are the stuff of life

Unsurprisingly, my own collection of 23,549 emails over the same period is equally dull

Share
Related Topics

I always try to find meaning in things that appear tedious. I've spent hours studying the improvisatory skills of shopping channel presenters, and the way they talk at length about the merits of a pack of blank DVDs. Forced conversations in lifts fill me with glee, to the extent that I've wondered if I have the qualifications to become a lift attendant. But yesterday I stared into the true face of boredom, and it looked back at me, laughing, knowing that it would never offer me anything remotely interesting. I started reading Sarah Palin's email archive.

Why? Well, because I was asked to. Back in 2008, a request was made under open government laws by various US media outlets to gain access to Palin's work emails. Last Friday, some 1,000 days after the request, a 250lb stack of 24,000 pages was sullenly delivered by the state of Alaska. Which is a bit like a betting shop petulantly handing over your accumulator jackpot in bags of two-pence pieces. It was, apparently, "impractical" for the emails to be released in data form – the form in which emails, "electronic mails", originate – and far more convenient to wait for a printer to chug through 50 reams of paper. "Here you are," a note pinned to them might have read, "see how long it takes you to get through that lot."

Not long, as it turned out. The pages were scanned, digitised and placed online by MSNBC in a matter of hours; then it was just a question of crowdsourcing the task of trawling through them for newsworthy nuggets – one that was undertaken with relish by thousands, including me. In the event, I ended up reading seven emails, at which point I lost interest. I turned instead to MSNBC's search facility to look for specific words, one of them being "toilet", because I'm incredibly childish. It revealed an exchange between Palin and Erika Fagerstrom, the Executive Residence Manager of the Governor's House, about a malfunctioning toilet and Jacuzzi. Fagerstrom suggested that replacing the Jacuzzi might be a good idea. I'm sure you're desperate to know what Palin thought; well, she wasn't keen. "I think it would look bad to have a Jacuzzi ordered," she replied. "Somehow someone would find out and make a fuss about it."

How prescient. Had Palin obtained a new Jacuzzi and made a passing reference to her whirlpool bathtime thrills in a subsequent email, I'd be writing about Jacuzzigate. But she didn't, so I'm not. Even if she had, it would have been struck through with black marker pen during the 1,000 days it's taken for all the contentious stuff to be redacted. Like, for example, her email with the subject line "bullets", in which every word has been blacked out.

If a DVD box set of the recent Premiership football season had all the goalmouth action removed, it would make for spectacularly unrewarding viewing – and so it is with Palin's email collection. It's as gruelling as Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, and doesn't even contain the phrase "Slough of Despond" to perk things up. Unsurprisingly, my own collection of 23,549 emails over the same period is equally dull. On 3 August 2007, for example, I emailed my car insurance certificate to Wandsworth Council. Whew. (Two days later, in an angry email, I referred to a colleague as an "arse", but I'm not going to mention that here. I'm not stupid.)

The treasurer of Sarah Palin's political action committee, Tim Crawford, applauded the publishing of these political e-memoirs. "Everyone should read them," he said. Don't, though. Don't even read the highlights. It's just a few smileys, and the word "heck". And when the emails from her last 10 months in office finally arrive, don't read them, either. Just take away one lesson: the permanence and traceability of email. Embarrassing notes that you dash off thoughtlessly at work will inevitably come back to bite you – unless, of course, you have a formidable team in place to cover them up.

r.marsden@independent.co.uk

twitter.com/@rhodri

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform