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<the toilet paper fairy>

One night, years ago, Joan and I were enjoying a pleasant, home-cooked dinner at the apartment of Harry and Sally (not their real names), when Harry bellowed from behind the bathroom door: "We're out of #@#! toilet paper!"

Sally shrieked back, "I guess the Toilet Paper Fairy didn't visit us today!"

We skipped dessert and haven't seen Harry or Sally since. But the Toilet Paper Fairy won't leave my head.

Love in the age of disposable household goods

Couples quarrel and break up for many reasons. Money, mutual loss of desire, one-sided loss of desire, disagreements over the kids. Toilet paper rarely makes the list.

Of course, on that enchanted evening, toilet paper was merely a symbol of Harry's expectation that Sally would continue to provide for every household need, and of Sally's expectation that Harry would occasionally contribute. (Harry, a good-looking man who knew it, spent most of his time preening. Sally was the breadwinner, Harry the trophy.)

While Harry cussed and grunted behind the bathroom door, Sally winkingly whispered to us that she was "on strike."

Sotto voce, Sally explained that she had decided not to shop for anything the couple needed, and not to tell Harry about her decision. Sally's theory was that Harry would wake up from his selfish dream of having all his needs met by "Mommy." That Harry would "act like a man," which in this case meant buying toilet paper.

Instead, Harry "acted like a man" by having an affair with one of Sally's friends.

But that's their problem.

My problem is, I need a Fairy. In fact, I could use a dozen. For starters, an Email Fairy or two wouldn't hurt.

Out the in-box

A well-known web guy recently went public with the fact that over 1,000 unopened messages were littering his email in-box. Lucky bastard. I have over twice that many.

Last week, I deleted all the unopened messages from February. Among the messages I deleted unopened were surely requests for proposals from potential clients. Were surely kind words from and ALA readers that I wish I could have seen and responded to. Were surely notes from old friends. Were surely requests for help and support. Were surely potential ALA authors' queries. Were surely invitations to dinners and speaking engagements. All things I would like to have seen and considered.

And yet, when I deleted them, I felt relieved. A small burden of guilt was lifted, since, realistically and objectively, I was never going to find time to open and respond to those messages.

A Staten Island of the mind

Eudora Lite 3.1, a small, ancient, free email program for the Macintosh, includes user-designable filters. With these, I can filter WaSP mail into a WaSP folder, ALA mail into an ALA folder, HappyCog mail into a HappyCog folder, and be sure of reading those messages. With these filters, I can be sure of catching notes from my dad, my colleagues, and close friends—unless those friends randomly change their email addresses.

All mail not filtered ends up in an ASCII landfill that I dutifully chip away at without making much of a dent. Realistically and objectively, I could spend 12 hours a day responding to email and never keep up with it all. Of course, I would soon become homeless because there would be no time to actually get any work done. And Daddy needs to pay the rent.

So the mail piles up and up. I respond to about 200 email messages a day, while receiving at least twice that many. What I wouldn't give for an Email Fairy or two.

While I'm pining for Fairies, I could use a Calendar Fairy, a Negotiation Fairy, an Interview Fairy, and at least two mind-reading Production Fairies to execute site improvements I think of but lack time to execute.

In the still of the night

Lately I've found that I can only get work done by staying up all night. The dead of night is when the phone stops ringing. Around 2 a.m., the Californians stop writing. The Brits and Danes and Swedes don't write before 5 a.m. I work best in that silent interval.

When I finish a night's work, I'm wired, so I read. When I'm not reading fiction (James Ellroy, Martin Amis, Wang Shuo), I'm reading biographies, most often of my childhood heroes.

Last night I finished rereading a biography of Rod Serling, the genius who created The Twilight Zone. Through unparalleled energy, Serling managed to write and produce a weekly television series that still holds up, 40 years later, as one of the most intense and sustained creative efforts ever unleashed on the popular imagination. In between shows, he wrote film scripts and gave lectures.

Serling died at 50.

Me? I'm an email killa.

In a perfect world, couples would love, respect, and cherish each other, sharing adult responsibilities without letting their passion turn flaccid. In a perfect world, creative geniuses like Rod Serling could do their work without killing themselves in the process. In a perfect world, children would grow up without fear or hunger, and prejudice would be something we only read about in history books.

In a perfect world, I would always write you back.

6 April 2001
The author and his opinions.
Copyright © 1995–2002 Jeffrey Zeldman Presents
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