Beware of fans bearing e-mail pitchforks
One of the unpleasant realities of writing a newspaper column is that you occasionally have to interact with other human beings. Having your personal e-mail address published each week means random people you’ve never met write to let you know how much of a scumbag you are.
I get lots of feedback from readers. Most of it I forward directly to the police department. But not all are angry threats. The responses I’ve received during my first year at the Sentinel have run the gauntlet, ranging from hate-filled rants full of bad words to hate-filled rants full of really bad words.
I’ve been called a mother so much that I should be receiving gifts this Sunday.
Take, for example, the response after my first column. I implied that I only got the job because I had photographic evidence of the Sentinel boss in a compromising position with a goat. This, of course, was not true. (It was actually a llama.)
That day, Managing Editor Laurena Davis received very angry calls from three readers who accused me of promoting bestiality. To her great credit Laurena defended me, letting the callers know that I was in no way publicly supporting bestiality, but rather I was simply more of a behind-the-scenes advocate.
After my column about big-box superstores, a disgruntled ex-Wal-Mart employee assumed I would be deeply interested in learning about her history with the company. Mistaking me for a real journalist, she provided me with a long list of grievances against her former employer, hoping I’d expose their alleged misdeeds. She ended her lengthy e-mail by asking me: “Do you care?”
Another column taught me that Twitter addicts are a little sensitive. After making fun of the social media platform, I received a boatload of negative responses, including an e-mail from a Twitter fan named Brittni that was very mean. At least I assume it was mean; I stopped reading it after 140 characters. Still the lesson was learned: Make fun of the Twitter people at your own risk. There’s nothing more dangerous than a narcissist who has a lot of spare time and an Internet connection.
Brittni isn’t the only one to have undergone a sense of humor bypass surgery.
A reader named Marilyn wasn’t pleased when I jokingly implied that my wife was always passed out and therefore couldn’t take care of our child. Judging by this actual quote from her e-mail, it’s safe to say that Marilyn wouldn’t want to be my wife. “I would probably take the child and leave you,” she wrote.
Fair enough, Marilyn. But to paraphrase Winston Churchill: If I were your husband, I’d help you pack.
At least she approves of my fathering skills. This is how she finished her message:
“I am hoping you will do the world a favor and not have any more children.”
Combine that with the friendly input I received from a reader named Graham — “You’re completely pathetic” — and you can see how I don’t get up early to rush to check my e-mail.
The piece that generated the most anger, oddly enough, was my column describing how asparagus is evil ditch weed. Some people seemed to take this personally. Judging by their response, you would have thought I called their mom a whore, when in reality, I was just making fun of a plant.
The asparagus people were even meaner than the Twitter users. I think they both should have to attend anger-management classes. Maybe afterward they could get together and tweet about asparagus.
Overall, most readers are very polite and know not to take me too seriously. Some people, however, aren’t smart enough to realize when I am making stuff up.
So, in that vein, I just wanted to conclude by reminding everyone that — as part of the stimulus plan — government officials will be at the corner of 12th and North Avenue today at 5 p.m. to give away $10,000 cash to the first three people who show up wearing a pink negligee while holding both a hot branding iron and a 1-pound bucket of sauerkraut.
Brittni, Marilyn and Graham, I’ll see you guys there.