Over the past few years, I’ve become a household name in something like a dozen houses. With this kind of staggering fame comes ancillary perks and burdens. Some are great, like meeting readers on the road and enjoying their hospitality and local expertise. Others, not-so-great, like being spammed with tourism industry press releases sent by PR firms sweetly suggesting that I deviate from trash talking members of the media and mocking whole countries with hilariously bad internet service and instead write about their new business class seats to South America.
Further to the not-so-great parts of being rabidly popular, I’ve got some unimaginable news that’s going to shake the very cores of your respective worlds. Indeed, you may be overcome with faint upon hearing this information, so I strongly advise you to put down your coffee, assume a wide stance and position a friend/co-worker/medical burro so they can break your fall should the worst occur. Ready? OK…
Not everyone thinks I’m a literary genius.
[Pause for administering smelling salts]
The pitiable character flaws of my non-fans notwithstanding, some people take it even further and hate me. And some of those people take it even further than that and waste perfectly good time writing poorly worded missives about how much they hate me and then sending them to me and sitting back waiting for the sweet, sweet validation that will occur when I answer, admitting that yes, they are completely right, I am wrong and a terrible person and the quality of my upbringing and education is clearly to blame. Plus, I’m ugly.
There are really people like this.
It’s been a rocky road that I still drunkenly trip over once in a while, but I’ve managed to compile a simple, idiot-proof methodology for coping with hate mail that I will now share for the betterment of my travel writing colleagues should they ever attain the heights of fame that go with being ridiculed on the radio for two hours by The Hackensack Sister’s Breakfast Time Hack Show.
My fool-proof approach to hate mail has been proven time and again to be the quickest solution to dealing with angry readers and can be encapsulated in three simple words: laugh, delete, repeat.
No matter how much you want to be loved, never answer hate mail. I don’t care how openly wrong, narrow-minded, brain damaged and f*cked up they are, your reply will do no good. This is largely because anyone who has taken the time to send you hate mail has two, if not all three, of the following qualities:
2. Pissed off
3. Batshit crazy
You could write the most diplomatic, rational, understanding and reality-fueled email in the history of the written word, but the fact is that one email isn’t going to cure their psychoses. It’s just not going to happen. Ever. So, don’t bother. If you try, not only will you be wasting your time, but nine times out of 10, you will only succeed in enraging your anti-fan even further, eliciting one or more follow-up hate mails to the tune of 2,000 words and maybe weeks of them spamming your blog’s comments section and sending you viruses in Word document attachments.
One time in a hundred you’ll get the sense that your hate mailer is actually reasonable and recognizes that people’s opinions differ and that they understand your views and that you’ll have to agree to disagree. Those people are batshit crazy too. Just because they’re high functioning batshit crazy doesn’t mean you should waste 20 minutes composing a reply, because it’ll probably get you nowhere and that person will never read your stuff again anyway, so screw ’em.
Now on occasion you’ll get that juicy, jaw-dropping, frame-worthy piece of hate mail that’s just so irresistible that you can’t help but act on it. I’m talking about the one where the sender is so batshit crazy and attention starved that you feel compelled to f*ck with them a little. Again, this isn’t worth 20 minutes of your time, but with only a little one-time preparation, you can be ready to quickly strike back at these people in a way that’ll make them descend into jabbering, irreversible madness. I’m talking about instant primal de-evolution here, bounding around their basement apartments, slapping their chests, grunting and throwing their own feces at their mothers.
There’s no greater torture in life for a hate mailer than the knowledge that their precious hate mail will never be read. If you simply ignore them, they can still cling to the hope that you read and absorbed their ravings, but if you can indirectly convince them that you never saw it… instantaneous, frenzied, veritable tornado of feces – followed by a localized brainstem explosion.
Here’s what you do… Doctor up one of those infuriating MAILER-DAEMON email rejection notices that you get whenever you try to email anyone in Barcelona tourism. Carefully change the words to something along the lines of the following:
“Hi. This is the qmail-send program at [insert appropriate domain name].
I’m afraid I wasn’t able to deliver your message to the following address.
It could be that the recipient doesn’t accept mail from your domain. Please try again from a different email account. Thank you.”
Then paste a bunch of that email robot jibba-jabba below it and the hate mailer’s original message below that. Then go in and quickly change the user name that appears on your emails (this is easily done if you use an email client like Outlook) to ‘MAILER-DAEMON’ – don’t forget to change it back when you’re done. Then send the message.
You’ll get anywhere from two to 17 follow-ups from the hate mailer, resending the message over and over from different accounts. Sometimes they’ll go through the trouble of creating whole new accounts, with a bonus fuming preface at the top of the message detailing how much time and effort went into sending you their hate mail. Always reply with the failure message above. When the messages stop coming, you can rest in the probable knowledge that the hate mailer has been forcibly institutionalized by local authorities and will be composing future hate mail with their tongue while strapped in a straitjacket.
That concludes this lesson on dealing with hate mail. Tune in next time for tips on how to avoid being cajoled into doing practically free work with the promise of a “small time investment” on your part and eventual monster exposure only to find yourself sitting there two years later, 15 hours of you time pissed away on the editor’s anal retentive edits and rewrites, bringing your earnings to about US$1.63 an hour and the shit still hasn’t been published.
[Photo credit: Jonno Witts]