Unlocking 5,753 emails

And why is it never a good idea to delete in bulk

I had been struggling with my internet provider since moving to Italy. Mind you, the service came highly recommended by a dear friend, it cost a fraction of what I was paying in Australia and I was dealing with Marcello: charming, professional and approachable, always available to help me out and to explain everything I wished to know or explore. And things were going mostly well. If not for my email address: lots of emails addressed to me were missing.

I don’t know any more how often Marcello took my domain apart, checking and trying to understand why mine was the only one refusing to obey the rules of logic, but nothing ever came to the surface, so that at the end I just accepted the fact that I had to use a different account if I wanted to make sure to receive my emails. Until the other day.

I was queuing up at the chemist to collect the prescription for my Mum when Marcello called me. I saw later on, that before calling me, he had already sent me a couple of messages and emails, which I hadn’t seen yet. Why so much excitement? Because he had finally found out what was wrong with my email. When choosing my email address I had written first all in small case and then changed it using title case, but I had done so in a crucial moment when the system was working or something, well as a result there was a constant conflict because of this capitalisation , which normally shouldn’t impact at all email addresses (that’s why I used it, because I knew that didn’t really matter) but that in my case did.

“Your emails were not lost, just locked somewhere else, you have a couple of thousands!” and this is the best email-related news I had received in a long time.

Today I finally took the time to go through the 5,753 emails to clean up the space. The first instinct was to select and delete all, but then I decided not to. So I spent a good half an hour collecting old homework that my students were forced to send again to a different email address, hundreds of newsletters that I was subscribing with the only purpose to check whether the address was working, lots and lots of offers to improve my skills, my future, my look and my finance, the occasional invitation to an offer that was going to change my life and, buried amidst this all, received on the 3rd November 2018, an email by Michaela.

I met Michaela when I was living in Berlin while finishing uni in Italy. I basically flew home a couple of times a year to take the required exams and until then I had been sustaining myself working as a freelancer translator. This until I came across a program for young people wanting to learn a trade working part-time. The idea to get an ongoing gig was immediately applealing, especially because one of the jobs offered was as an assistant at the library of the children’s hospital, located in the Charlottenburg Park. One of the requirements of the program was that once a month I had to attend a group meeting where they checked that we were doing alright. I forgot to mention that most of the other people attending the program in my group were not alright: they were all much younger than me, lived mostly in foster homes and none of them had even finished high school.

I do not need to explain how delighted was head librarian Frau Schumacher when she realised that the ‘young person’ assigned to her library through the job program was my 24yo self, graduating in German literature with a thesis on German exile literature. It was love at first sight, so much so that Frau Schumacher agreed to cover for me in the weeks that I had to go home to take the exams, I just worked my hours in advance working full-time and if I had to be absent during the week in which I had to attend my group meeting, Frau Schumacher contacted the office explaining that I was required for some extraordinary cataloguing.

It was during these meetings that I met Michaela. She was five years younger than me and she was angry. With the world, with society, with the office that forced her to attend stupid meetings and to mingle with us. Constantly chewing gum, when she wasn’t smoking, she considered society a personal insult. And she was clever. We recognised immediately that two of us didn’t have much to do with the rest of the people there and we got on like a house on fire. We became inseparable. I loved her rebellious spirit, so raw, strong, no-nonsense, always cutting to the bone. With Michaela we took a 12 hour night bus to arrive in Paris early morning, spend there 8 hours and then do back to Berlin, because we didn’t have money to pay for accommodation, we went together to techno parties that ended in the morning, we broke rules and stood up for each other. And she was always there for me.

The last time that I saw Michaela I had just moved to Melbourne, so it must have been early nineties, she came visit (and yes, we did some crazy things together in Australia too). Then I lost touch, the letters addressed to the home in Gleditchstrasse came back to sender and I was unable to find her anywhere on social media or else. This until today.

Today I found her lovely email in which she says that she had been thinking of me and that she has seen the things I have been doing online and so on and so forth. She is now a doctor and has a daughter. And I cannot wait for us to see each other again, auch wenn nur auf Video.

Ask me how happy I am.

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