Technology has made it possible for us to stick both of our virtual feet in our virtual mouths.
Last week, I wrote about poor sportsmanship by a father at a basketball game. Before I started the column, I asked my wife if she thought he might see the article and get upset. She said, “Wait, first, what’s the chance that he’ll look for it; and, second, it’s not like you’re going to be naming names.”
She was right. I wasn’t planning to put his name in the paper or call attention to him. He made a sudden barking noise while one of the players on the other team was about to shoot a free throw. The players on the other team, their coach and, most importantly, the referee took exception to his conduct. The referee ejected him.
Recognizing that there was something to share with TBR readers, I wrote about the incident. I’m sure this gentleman isn’t the only one to cross a line at a child’s sporting event. I’ve heard parents screaming at their kids, at their kids’ coaches, at referees and anyone who will listen in the heat of the moment. After all, these games are critically important. A loss might mean their child only gets a second-place trophy that will collect dust on a shelf somewhere, while a win would mean they would get a slightly bigger trophy that collects slightly more dust on a shelf somewhere else.
I wrote the column, sent it to my editor electronically and went about the usual business of my day. By about 6 p.m., it occurred to me that my editor didn’t acknowledge the column the way she usually does. Then it hit me, like a punch to my stomach. My breathing got shorter and shallower and my hands felt hot and cold at the same time.
With an anxious scowl on my face, I went back to my email “sent” folder and I saw it. “Oh no!” I shouted, stunned by my blunder. You see, my editor and the wife of the man who made a scene at the basketball game have the same first name. I had typed the first three letters of my editor’s name and the computer mischievously misdirected the column. I stand by what I wrote, but I had no intention of sending the column to this man’s wife.
Realizing my error, I frantically called my wife, which compounded my mistake. In the panic of the moment, I dialed my daughter’s cellphone number, who was in the middle of volleyball practice. She raced to call me back in case something was wrong. Something was, indeed, wrong, but I didn’t want to distract her. Forcing myself to try to sound calm, I said something like, “Nah-everything-all-right-bye.”
I finally reached my wife, who patiently talked me back from the ledge. She suggested I write to the man’s wife and tell her that I misfired in my email. It wasn’t the end of the world and, before long, my wife assured me I’d find it funny in a “I can’t believe I really did that” way.
I did what my wife suggested and the man’s wife said she thought I had sent her the column on purpose. I assured her it was a mistake. That’s where the conversation ended.
I have been on the other side of such emails. One of my editors wrote to someone she thought was another editor about how annoyed she was with my story. It’s about 20 years since that email reached me and I had almost forgotten about it … almost.