Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pernicious Homophony, a Typo, and a Trip to Spain

I was supposed to be in Spain this week on NYU business, but owing to a spectacular, self-inflicted scheduling cock-up and my own inability to warp the time-space continuum to suit my needs, I am still here in New York. I know that this is a tragedy only to an academic with a good job in a civilized part of the country. First worldiest of first world problems. Or, as a friend of mine put it, "Wait, you're complaining about having to be either in New York or Madrid?" Nevertheless, I'm truly unhappy about the not-in-Spain aspect of my week.

But to add insult to injury, someone in Great Britain (and not, apparently my doppelganger at the University of Southampton but rather yet another homophone, this one London suburbs-based) is not only going to Spain but seems to have forgotten what combination of first, middle and last names she uses as her email address and entered, instead, the combination that I use as my email address such that I am receiving her itineraries and suggestions for lovely side trips and other things to do whilst in Spain.

I followed the link in one of the emails to try to take my email address off the account, but it turns out that won't let you just remove an email address. Rather, you can only edit and can't leave the field blank. And obviously that's not going to work since I don't *know* this other homophone's email address (although to be fair, neither does she, apparently).

For a moment I considered canceling the reservation, in large measure because I'm a little alarmed by the sort of backdoor lapse in aviation and personal identity security. I have access to this other Sarah's home address, telephone number and other personal information (which I'm not posting screen-grabs of here), and I suppose that if I were the wrong sort of person, it wouldn't be too difficult for me to step in as her.

And for another moment, I thought about printing out the e-ticket, getting myself to Stanstead, and taking this second Sarah's vacation myself and hoping that her traveling companion, apparently named Neil, wouldn't notice the switcheroo. Ibiza looks awfully nice in this picture, and I could probably reroute myself back through Madrid for a few days at the BNE.

A girl can dream. And then she can exhort everyone, whether they have a common name or not, to double-check the details that they've entered when they book travel and buy stuff online.


  1. A partiallist of institutions that have sent me e-mails intended for someone else:
    (in college)
    literary journal; also, not quite an institution, but:
    someone planning a party in Colorado (mass e-mail)
    someone recounting a party in Colorado in detail with lots of photos (mass e-mail)

    (on gmail)
    the Girl Scouts of America
    Russel Scion Toyota (about whose stalking I eventually complained to the BBB, so they've slowed down although not stopped)
    several other car dealerships in (as I recall) a non-urban part of Pennsylvania (no longer sending me notes)
    an over-65 dating site that wouldn't allow me to "change e-mail preferences" without logging in BUT was promptly and thoroughly responsive to my note
    Shari's Berries, which is still sending me notes -- want a coupon?
    the Girl Scouts of America (invariably addressed to someone with a different first name than mine -- "Beth," in fact; people rarely write me alone, but I still get some mass e-mails)
    Biblioteca Parco Sempione, Via Cervantes 1, 20121 Milano

    however! none of this comes close to touching the note [husband] got that went (+or-) "[different name starting with first initial of h's first name],

    I know you're cheating. Don't bother to deny it -- I'm cc'ing her. I have nothing to say to you. I'm only writing to remind you to pick up [son] after soccer practice today." But for its lack of detail, almost worthy of the great Michael Kelly.

    Also, overheard in the hallway a few moments ago:
    [Religion dept. person] This is one of those days when I wish the department had a bar.
    [Philosophy dept. person] This is different from other days?
    [Religion dept. person] That's what they say on Passover!

  2. Perhaps not the supremest of ironies, but appropriate nonetheless, I just discovered your comment in the Blogger spam folder!

    You've definitely got the leg up on me in the homophonic technological blunder department. Are there any manuscripts you'd need access to in that Milanese library? Seems like you'd already have an in... The Girl Scout mixup might be a good racket, too, if there were cookies involved. Can't believe you forgot your son at soccer practice, though. (Insert mock horror here.)