A Rose(Bowl), By Any Other Name


The interesting thing about having the email address sbowles@gmail.com is that you realize how many people are named Bowles.

I used to think the surname weird, if not unique. God how I wished my ancestors had dropped the “e” in my last name. I can’t tell you how many times people have read my name and queried aloud: “Scott…Bowels?”

But apparently that’s not a unique lament. I get many emails not intended for me, but for someone with a slight variation on the address, like s.bowles. But in the ethernet chatter, the character(s) get dropped, and I’ll get an email meant for a Sally Bowles, or Stuart Bowles.

Normally the errors are humorous, if not a frightening statement on the human condition:

Sally, thanks for signing up for fat camp.

Stuart, thanks for your interest in penis enlargement pills.

But today it took a briefly menacing turn. At 7:25 a.m., I got an email from a guy named Mat Krotki, the president of PDG-GUS, a wheelchair manufacturer that touts its corporate humanity toward the disabled. But his email betrayed little humanity. I looked through the thread and saw that he meant to send it so s?bowles@gmail.com (I don’t want to add to the world chaos).

Dear Steven Bowles :

Your invoice for the decuctible on your recent claim appears below.
Payment is due upon receipt.

Thank you for your business – we appreciate it very much.
Mat M. Krotki | President | PDG-GUS


I didn’t know what to make of it. Steven? Was that a clerical error? I do face some insurance issues, but I was up to date on my deductibles. Though it’s hard to keep track of all the forms and bills, probably intentionally.

The follow-up email growled:

Hi Steven,

This invoice is severely past due.
This will be my last written attempt to collect payment of this invoice.
If you choose not to respond, you  will leave us no choice but to escalate
our collection action to another level.
I look forward to your timely response.

Mat M. Krotki | President | PDG-GUS


When I realized the emails weren’t meant for me, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I got pissed. Then I came to peace.

The anger came from the letters’ corporate tone. The first email had the obligatory polite predicates: “Thank you for your business.” “We appreciate it very much.”

The second showed the business’s and man’s true colors (which usually expose themselves in rain, not sunshine). “This will be my last notice.” “If you choose not to respond, you will leave us no choice but to escalate…” Not even a period at the end of “Thanks.” (Sorry, the word nerd in me won’t allow intentionally poor grammar.)

The peace came when I realized I could turn this into a personal lesson. That how, when you act in haste, anger, greed, from your power perch — when you act from a dark place — you can make small mistakes that balloon into something you wish you’d noticed more. That little things, if left unguarded, have aspirations to go big.

Still, Mat Krotki (love that name) had such an aggressive tenor to his note that it got under my skin, even if it weren’t intended for my flesh. He could have said something human, like “Please get back to me, Steve. This is important.” Instead, the guy had to include a passive aggressive addendum: “I look forward to your timely response.”

So I sent him one, at 7:43 a.m.:

Wrong guy, dickhead.


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