There’s a little publicized provision in US Postal Service rules that can protect you from your own stupidity. It gives you the chance to recall letters you sent, by accident or impulse.
I’ve never seen the Postal Service advertise this option. And none of the people I asked in an unscientific, informal survey knew they could recall something they’d mailed.
So riddle me this: At a time when the volume of First-Class mail is falling-and the Postal Service claims it needs junk mail to survive-why isn’t the Right to Recall the focus of a nationwide ad campaign? It’s the single most significant advantage postal mail has over e-mail.
E-mail is dangerous.
Unlike live broadcasts on TV and radio, you lack the slight protection of even a 10-second delay. You write, you send. Then you do what you should’ve done first…think.
It’s hard to do much else if you’ve just sent a collection of salacious photos to a client rather than a friend.
Back when I wrote more mail than e-mail, I had days instead of seconds to lament mistakes like mailing the right letter to the wrong person. I even unsuccessfully tried to stop delivery of a congratulations card I sent prematurely to someone who defied the odds by losing.
No one told me I could recall the card.
I’ve only seen one thing recovered from a collection box: a scarf I inexplicably tossed in during an argument with a friend. I know. It’s a violation of some kind to put anything other than mail in those blue boxes. But I was young, blissfully living in a world without cell phone cameras to record my outbursts, and determined to prove that something valued could be lost forever. Just like that.
As it turned out, it wasn’t. He got the scarf back the next day, frustrating me even more. Now I’m frustrated by e-mail.
But maybe I’m the only one whose fingers move faster than her brain.
There’s a possible solution: Self-destructing e-mail, or electronic mail that theoretically vanishes or becomes unreadable by virtue of time or a command.
There are multiple self-destructing e-mail providers, all claiming they offer fast-responders like me protection from potential embarrassment.
Disappearing email has its merits. But it’s potentially problematic for those with a weak grasp on reality–a group that includes, generally speaking, everyone in middle management. And there are no guarantees. Even self-destructing mail can be circumvented with caching, screenshots, and other technologies.
But it’s something…at least as good as a Postal Service regulation no one know about.