Email paranoia and the out-of-office subculture

I saw this and I must admit, I do (on the rare occasion I'm not working) try and write somewhat whimsical responses in my out of office notifier. This one tickled me, considering I know the people of the Lake District quite well:"I'm now out of the office until Monday 24th August, during which time I will be driving nearly the length of England, as I shall be starting in Poole and ending in the Lake District.

I saw this and I must admit, I do (on the rare occasion I'm not working) try and write somewhat whimsical responses in my out of office notifier. This one tickled me, considering I know the people of the Lake District quite well:

"I'm now out of the office until Monday 24th August, during which time I will be driving nearly the length of England, as I shall be starting in Poole and ending in the Lake District.  During this time I shan't be checking email or voicemail - partly due to my not wanting to check mail on holiday, and also partly due to the fact that I shall mostly be in the middle of nowhere where I fear that my phone may not get signal, or may get me investigated for witchcraft."

Email can be the bane of our lives. I will get roughly 80-100 messages through a day depending on time of the month and even the month itself. August is the epitome of dull and with the blistering heat and humidity on par with the Amazon at noon. Nobody likes to work and offices are deserted.

And for those in the southern hemisphere, even though the seasons are reversed the same seems to apply in most places. Damn you, Australia, with your Christmas Day barbecues on the beach. How I envy thee.

But nowadays the email systems we use are so in tune our lives we can't get away. As one person puts it:

"I get about 200 e-mails a day, that's more than 60,000 every year. And people have got so demanding, if you don't answer in half an hour, they're e-mailing again to say 'why haven't you replied?' and 'didn't you get my e-mail?' An out of office message stops them from freaking out - and it keeps their paranoia down to a dull roar."

In the same way that if you call someone and don't get through and just get their answering machine, you'll leave a message but will ring back just in case they missed the phone the first time you rang.

And as the out of office notification is the only way of really curbing the amount of stuff you get through (with the exception of presence aware systems), you may as well have a laugh with it.

"You are receiving this automatic notification because I am out of the office. If I was in, you wouldn't have received anything at all."

"Hi, I'm thinking about your interesting e-mail. Stay right by your computer until you receive my response."

"I will be unable to delete all the unread, worthless emails you send me until I return from vacation on the 18th. Please be patient and your mail will be deleted in the order it was received."

While I am ever so tempted to put as a message rule on my Outlook, anything with "press release" gets moved to "junk mail", for the time being the occasional out of office notification will just have to suffice as the nearest equivalent to an off button.

What would you put as your out of office notification given the chance?