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Flyin' south? Make sure you let 'em know!

In this virtual world of ours it's nigh on impossible to avoid other peoples' egos. If it isn't Facebook or Twitter it's bloggers, blog commenters, raging podcasters or email. This latter medium, recently declared "dead" (it isn't, more's the #@$%*& pity) seems to be the worst. Never mind those people who are STILL sending those scary chain emails ("if you don't send this to eleven friends your family will be dismembered by flying narwhals") or videos of dogs suckling tigers, or inspirational poems written by people with no arms and legs. There's a worse menace out there. I'm talking about the new breed of reality star: The Vacation Auto-Replier.

Being a former mass-emailer, I used to deal with a lot of vacation auto-reply reality stars. Some were decidedly delusional and others were sickeningly rooted in reality. So I decided to list the most notable ones I saw during that time. If you, like me, live 99% of your life via a modem these days, you'll definitely recognize these brain-curdling blowhards.

1. The Explorer. The Explorer is usually a man or woman in their late-20s to mid-30s who for some inexplicable reason think they're living in the eighteenth century. There's an aura of rugged romance about their auto-reply message, probably trying to convince people they're interesting daredevils. Rubbish like "I will be VERY FAR away from ALL technological devices for the next two weeks. Going to attempt to traverse the Langtang mountains on a rented yak. VERY remote location. I may be some time."

Freakin' eejits. Not only have we all seen the TV commercial where the Tibetan monks are wearing Manchester United jerseys, watching a Man U game in a bar with a TV, in a mile-high hamlet that advertises "Photostats", but we just KNOW that people don't go into the real wilderness anymore 'cos there ain't no real wilderness left. And then they have the gall to rip off a REAL explorer, Captain Oates of the Antarctic! File with former hipsters too big for their (mountain) boots. Or ex-Goth yuppies desperately in love with themselves, now they've filled out a bit and got rid of the weird hair and pimples. Agh!

2. The Parrothead. The Parrothead is a 50 to 60 yr old seasoned boozer who attends Jimmy Buffett concerts with an inflatable beach complete with live parrots, and has been arrested at least once in the pre-concert tailgate orgy for public nakedness and/or possession of contraband permitted only for the treatment of glaucoma. This species vacations south of 30-degrees latitude, preferably any place where the local McDonald's sells hard liquor. A typical Parrothead auto-reply goes: "Hi, while you're slavin' for the man in the office I'm sat here with a buzz on and a blue drink with an umbrella in it! Not sure when I'll be back, but don't wait up! LOL!"

It's not that this type of auto-reply is bad. It's that it sounds so bloody good! You're there, poring through a list of annoying spam filters and unsubscribes, and every eighth or ninth response is a flowery, half-cocked pronouncement of drunken bliss. Meanwhile, you're sweating in bad AC in Pennsylvania or Connecticut; gotta get home to mow the lawn, clean the gutters and watch "Project Runway" or listen to U2 with your partner, sober, just to show you care. Ugh, take me away from all this!

3. The Puritan. Let's face it; the Puritan makes us all feel bad. Such is the need for approval through work that they never take a moment off without making some excuse. They leave messages like, "I will be away from my desk for fourteen minutes nine months from now, because I estimate my computer chair will have fused to my butt, requiring surgery by that point. For this reason I have scheduled a drive-through amputation at the closest possible hospital and apologize for any inconvenience."

These pious, hardworking freaks are the reason this country is going to hell in a handbasket. Clinging to their outdated colonial mindset, probably giving their kids names like Jedediah and Zebulon. They never take vacations and think television was sent by the devil, so poor lil Jed don't even get to watch the Travel Channel! They live on raw vegetables stuffed into their grim mouths with callused hands. Oh lord, I hate them. Hardworking buggers!

4. The Professional. The Professional is like the Puritan, but worse. A lot worse. Where the Puritan only has psychological issues the Professional assaults you with science, or, more accurately, ludicrous expressions Professionals think are cool. Among these are "reaching out", "takeaway", "going forward" and "functionality". These vacuous buzzwords, combined with numbers and a total absence of capitalization, punctuation and proper spelling, visually attack the recipient like a swarm of merciless wasps on their way to rule the world. The worst part is, Professionals KNOW THE RULES, and they know when the rules are being broken. An example would be something like, "hi, recived 90 r so of these please discontinue going forward reaching out to let you know i will bypass your unsubscribe functionality and report this email server to federal trade comission if i recive one more stop now".

Horrible rancid people, do they even possess a conscience? Don't they realize your product could vastly enrich their shriveled little hearts? That your lizard-brained boss might even fire you should your mass email server be blacklisted because of their vicious meddling? The answer is yes, yes they do. And what's more, that's exactly what they hope will happen. Scary psychos, not to be trusted. Not to be emailed, either.

5. The Teflon Ghost. Teflon Ghosts are the auto-reply version of those boogers that stick to your hand and, try as you might, you just can't get rid of. You flick them with your other hand (knowing they could end up on the wall somewhere, but who cares?), you shake them violently, and you even consider eating them - but to no avail. Teflon Ghosts will drive you crazy, because they come in so many different forms. Some of them just slip through all the nets. No matter how many times you unsubscribe them they just keep coming back. Some of them insist on sending you the exact same vacation auto-reply every week for YEARS! What the heck is going on with these people? Where did they go? It's almost tempting to think they might be ACTUAL explorers (as opposed to Explorers) such is the length of their absence and the utter mystery of their disappearance. Teflon Ghosts' auto-replies aren't even interesting* or informative. Something like, "Alan T. Smith will be out of office from June 9, 2011 until December 31, 2019. All inquiries should be sent to Anastasia de Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús Rodríguez Hernández. Thanks for contacting Locke Sheet Metal and Trench."

Unlike the Professional, the Teflon Ghost doesn't mean any harm. Probbaly just a disgruntled employee who had a little fun with his Outlook on his last day at the company. Maybe went on to bigger and better things, like joining the Mexican mafia or the Foreign Legion. Either way, those boogers just keep on coming, and all the "delete" buttons in cyberspace won't flick 'em onto the wall.

The vacation auto-reply used to be one of my favorite things about mass emailing, to be honest. Especially the Parrotheads and Explorers. If you have a totally bogus vacation auto-reply queued up in your machine, I hope you're squirming right now. And I salute you!

* If you don't count the crazy long Spanish name, that is.


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