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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: Cameron is running scared from the “empty chair”

Oliver Wright
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us