Spitball Army

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May 15th, 2009 · 4 Comments

On 5 May 2009, the following e-mail arrived in my personal inbox (not the one I use for Spitball Army):

cc to: Fred O. (and two other recipients, Joel and Steve)
Subject: Sub?

Hey Guys,

I need a sub for the (small intimate) Tuesday spin class on May 19th. I’m going to Colorado to see my family. Actually, the class has grown – today I had 8.

Let me know if you’re available.


I read it completely, rather than deleting it immediately, as it was obviously not spam. I have been receiving e-mails for some other Fred for years, and they rarely have been of much consequence. This day I was feeling frisky, so I decided to have a little fun.

To: MJ
Subject: Re: Sub?

Sure, I’ll do it.

End of message. Then, on 12 May, a week later, another related message from MJ appeared.

Hey Guys,

Fred was going to sub for me next Tuesday (I’ll be in Colorado) – but he’s going to be out of town (see message below). Can one of you two fill in? Please let me know (yes or no).


MJ was referring to this message (the aforementioned “message below”), which was attached:

From: Nicole
To: MJ
Subject: cycle sub next week 5/19

Hi MJ,

I just got word today from Fred H. saying that he is not in town next week, and cannot sub your 1:40 Cycle class on 05/19. Do you have alternate sub option? Please let me know…


Joel, coming to the rescue – sort of – replied to all, saying:

If Steve can’t do it, I will.


An hour passed. Then, a lengthy e-mail from MJ came across to me.

Hi Fred,

A couple of things.

Last name confusion… On the message below it says O. – but according to Nicole, it’s H.. I think it came up as O. when I typed in [my personal e-mail address, which she typed correctly]. So in my email to Nicole I said Fred O. was going to sub for me – which, of course, confused her completely because she didn’t have a Fred O. on record. It is H., right? Where does O. come in?

Also, Nicole emailed me today saying you’ll be out of town and not available to sub for me next week (hope you’re going somewhere fun!). In the future, if there are issues regarding subbing for my class, I would prefer you email me directly (and cc Nicole to keep her in the loop as an FYI) rather than bypassing me and going directly to Nicole (unless it’s last minute and you can’t get ahold of me). Typically, we (the spin community) take individual responsibilitiy for finding subs for our classes and keeping management informed. We rarely get Nicole involved in the sub finding process, and only as a last resource. Plus, she’s a pretty busy woman and already has a lot on her plate.

Thanks anyway – maybe next time.

Have a good trip wherever you’re off to!


I was beginning to like MJ. She possessed a lot of spirit and a great positive attitude. It would be cruel to string this charade out any further, and cause such a nice person any aggravation. So, after a bit of thought, I did the next logical thing (according to my contrarian set of principles).

From: Fred O.
To: MJ
Subject: Re: Sub?

I responded directly to your e-mail, MJ, and never spoke or wrote to Nicole.

That’ll get her head spinning, I thought.

Three hours later, I received a response from MJ.

The only email I got from you was the one below where you said “sure I’ll do it.” The message I got from Nicole said you’d be out of town and couldn’t sub. Who told her that? Now I don’t know what’s going on – will you be able to sub? Or are you out of town? Maybe she has you confused with someone else, or…?

Puzzled in Woodside

I replied immediately:

Who is Fred H.?

At 11:28 P.M., the BlackBerry sitting next to my bed chimed (Bing-gong! Bing-gong!). The evidence of my evil machinations had come across in another missive from MJ.

This gets confusinger and confusinger! When I sent an email to Nicole last week stating Fred O. was subbing for me, she said who is this person, we don’t have a Fred O. on record. I told her it’s the Fred who has been (along with Steve and me) subbing for Joel the last two weeks, and has subbed for me several times this year. She said “that’s Fred H.”

I don’t know who Fred H. is if not you. Is your last name O.? Who’s on first?!?

Really puzzled in Woodside!!

Rather than getting angry, MJ was being honestly perplexed, and with a sense of humor. I felt I could have dragged this out a bit longer, but I could not, in good conscience, cause this woman any more grief. I stopped responding. I’d had my fun.

The next night, at 9:14:

To Fred O.
From: MJ
Subject: I get it now!

OK Fred O. – the jig’s up!!

I finally figured out what was happening. Two guys both named Fred with similar email addresses – what are the chances?! (and I used the wrong one!)

Although it was somewhat mind boggling – it sure kept me occupied for a while and was actually kinda fun – plus, it makes a great story.

A little detour from the ordinary – thanks for the trip –

No longer puzzled –


I wrote back, chanelling Yoda.

Quite the sleuth you are.

Tags: ideas · language · self · writing

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Evelyn // May 16, 2009 at 10:08 AM

    Very funny!!!

  • 2 TommyT // May 18, 2009 at 10:56 AM

    I’ve been getting e-mails like that off and on for a few years now. I’ve always responded with “I’m not him” or something along those lines. Yet I still get them. I’ll use your idea next time.

  • 3 Amanda // May 18, 2009 at 12:39 PM

    This story makes me happy 🙂

  • 4 kay jacoby // Jun 1, 2009 at 10:42 PM

    That story made me chuckle out loud.

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