[an error occurred while processing this directive] statesman.com | John Kelso



Biggest e-mail blunder? This takes the cake

Sunday, August 19, 2001

Paul Weyland reminds us to be careful where we send our e-mail. "I've had my share of faux pas before, but this would probably rank up there with the worst," he said.

Last spring Weyland, a sales and marketing trainer — and a known wisenheimer — was picked by his Austin Toastmasters club to introduce recently resigned Austin Mayor Kirk Watson at a club meeting. Weeks before the meeting, Jennifer Collins, a fellow Toastmasters member, checked to see how his speech was coming.

Weyland assured her his Watson speech was ready to go. Then, as a joke, he went online and called up Scott Pakin's automatic complaint-letter generator, at www- csag.cs.uiuc.edu/individual/ pakin/complaint.

The Web site instantly produces insulting, rambling, nonsensical verbiage about anyone you want to slam. Weyland, who had never met the mayor, plugged in Watson's name and hit the "complain" button.

"The only thing worse than being ignorant is not knowing how ignorant you are," Weyland's instantly created "speech" began. "That's Hon. Kirk Watson's problem. But first, let me pose you a question: is Kirk actually concerned about any of us, or does he just want to permit horny, tasteless suborners of perjury to rise to positions of leadership and authority?"

The diatribe went on for four pages. Weyland e-mailed the joke to Collins — he thought. Actually, he had e-mailed it to the mayor's office by mistake.

"The real question here is not, 'What does Kirk hope to achieve by repeatedly applying his lips to the posteriors of drugged-out immoral prima donnas?' " the "speech" said. "The real question is rather, 'Whatever happened to Kirk's sense of humanity?' "

Weyland went home for the evening, blissfully ignorant of the pile he had stepped in.

Meanwhile, Jason Maurer, one of the mayor's assistants, saw the e-mail, wondered if there was some nut out there running around loose and contacted Collins. "They say typically they call the Austin Police Department on letters like this," Collins said.

Indeed, the letter appeared to be the rantings of a madman. "Kirk believes that neopaganism is the only alternative to expansionism. That's just wrong," Weyland's "speech" continued.

"I was reading through it, and I'm thinking, 'Oh, boy, what have we gotten ourselves into?' " Maurer said.

Collins explained Weyland's mistake to Maurer. Meanwhile, Weyland figured he was dead meat. "People were calling from the club and saying, 'Did you do that? Did you really do that?' "

Meanwhile, the mayor's office sat back and let Weyland stew. Finally, Maurer e-mailed him and said the mayor wouldn't be coming to the Toastmasters meeting for security reasons.

Then Maurer e-mailed him again and said he was fooling.

At the meeting, Weyland delivered a fawning introductory speech, groveling for forgiveness. Of course, the mayor rolled with it. "He said, 'You know, in Paul's rant, he accused me of having my lips planted to the posteriors of drug-addled sycophants,' " Weyland recalled. " 'If you'll notice, Paul's lips have been attached to my posterior all evening.' "

So be careful with your e-mail. Or you could paint yourself a fool.

John Kelso's humor column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at (512) 445-3606 or at jkelso@statesman.com.




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