E-mail: The Perfect Distraction

by Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Recently, I sat at my desk, committed to adding 2,000 words to my mediocre American novel manuscript, but I just wanted to clear out my e-mails before getting started.

The first one asked me to save newborn buffalo, but I didn’t want to think about their wobbly little legs, shattered in a stampeding frenzy.

Then Amazon suggested, based on my previous purchases, that I might like to order John Stossel's Politically Incorrect Guide to Politics, except what Amazon doesn’t know is that Stossel kind of gives me the creeps.

I could have read a joke about $7 sex. My husband has been traveling a lot lately, so I did, and then I thought maybe I shouldn’t have, but it was too late.

I could also have read an analysis of the poll to which 66 percent of women responded that being a mother is a woman’s most important role, but it smacked of some sort of confused misogyny.

Facebook sent me a birthday notice for someone I don’t know but whom I mistakenly approved as a friend before I figured out Facebook. But Facebook annoys me, so I deleted it.

I could have looked at what Verizon is charging to my credit card, but the purpose of automatic payments is to avoid acknowledging how much all this great technology costs.

The definition and etymology of “dissimulate” was enticing, and because I love words, I opened it, and now I fully intend to use “dissimulate” in my 2,000 words. I am not dissimulating.

There was another Facebook request, from another stranger who wanted to be my friend, but I’ve learned that lesson well.

Salon.com sent an article about the state politics of stem cell research, but I figure with Barack Obama in the presidency, and my cells in California, I don’t have to worry about it.

Someone forwarded a poem called “Crowning,” published in The New Yorker, and, because it was a poem and in The New Yorker, I read it and it was lovely. And then I was surprised that I was surprised it was by a male poet. I’m a pig.

The Publishers Marketplace wanted to report all the new book deals this week, but I didn’t get a deal, so I didn’t open it, although I’ll try to be pleased for the writers who did. Bastards.

Composer and violinist Mark O’Connor wanted me to buy his Americana Symphony CD, but, although I love his work, the economy is “not getting worse as quickly,” so I didn’t.

Message!Products was pitching a sale — 25 percent off — but I just replenished my pro-choice checks, so I didn’t bite, but I did wonder why they always announce a sale just after I’ve received my order.

I didn’t want to plod through a Human Security News report because I didn’t want to know about the dozens killed in Mogadishu, the 700 militants killed in Pakistan, the 106 children who died in shelling in Sri Lanka, the 50 people hospitalized after a girls’ school poisoning in Afghanistan, the 49 killed in Sudanese tribal violence, or the political prisoners suffering ill health in Myanmar (it’s really Burma), presumably including Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. Okay, I peeked, and it was exactly the agonizing news I expected.

The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) asked me to contribute to its effort to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Souter with a pro-choice nominee, but President Obama’s head is screwed on straight and NARAL is just trying to keep up with the anti-choice opposition to a pro-choice nominee. Of course the complacency of majority is ill advised, so I reconsidered briefly, until I remembered the economy.

I could have read STRATFOR’s editorial on "The Strategic Debate Over Afghanistan," but I’d had enough frustrating news for one day, so I didn’t. Although I did feel a little guilty about that one, which resurrected the threat to the baby buffalo and their wobbly little legs, and then I was swamped by a swell of guilt.

So, I rescued the National Resources Defense Council's e-mail from death by deletion, clicked to save the newborn bison and read all about their terrible plight, and I wondered if I could work baby bison into my 2,000 pages.

But then I got another e-mail, asking me to ask President Obama to put an end to the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy for gays in the military, a policy akin to sanctioned lying, so I had to respond to that one, and then — oops, another e-mail.

(Editor's Note: This is an abridged version of this piece. The original, unabridged version can be found at Kit-Bacon Gressitt's personal blog, Excuse Me, I'm Writing. Ms. Gressitt regularly cross-posts her writing with this blog.)

(The screenshot photo is by Spencer E Holtaway of London, U.K. via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.)

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