WALTHAM, Mass. It’s the dog days of August, and Rick Vorad is having a hard time staffing a project for the U.S. Department of Defense at Techtronics, a high-tech company that makes technical products for the tech sector. “Need to know people’s availability over the next two weeks,” he types into the body of an email. “Since many people are out of the office please don’t reply to all when you respond–thanks,” he adds before clicking on the “Send” box.
“Todd–you are such a dweeb!”
Down the hall Todd Frimke, an analyst eager to work his way up the corporate ladder, signals his availability with an alacrity that betrays his junior status. “Hey Rick–I’m around and available while a lot of people are still soaking up the sun!” he types, then adds a frowny-face “emoji” and moves his cursor to the “Reply to all” box before sending out his missive, which causes groans to be heard in New England vacation spots from Camden, Maine in the north all the way down to Misquamicut, Rhode Island, to the south.
Frimke’s phone lights up and his screen reveals it is Vorad calling. “Hey Rick,” he begins cheerfully, but the project manager cuts him off. “Todd–you did it again,” Vorad says.
“What? What did I do?” Frimke groans, fearing he may not be assigned to the top-secret job, which involves the manufacture of a battlefield robot that will test military crouton rations for crunchiness.
“Let’s get together after work–and not invite Todd!”
“You hit ‘reply-to-all’ when I specifically told you not to,” Vorad says sternly, trying not to over-react since Frimke suffers from a disability–Chronic Reply-to-All Syndrome–that the company’s lawyers say is covered by workplace disability laws.
“CRTA Syndrome is a major drain on U.S. productivity, and may be the cause of the nation’s current sluggish recovery,” says Department of Labor economist Malcolm Canavan. “On the other hand, having too many labor economists hanging around talking to reporters is also a drag on gross national product, but I’m protected by Civil Service.”
“When I get hold of that Frimke dude, I’m gonna rip him a new bodily orifice!”
CRTA Syndrome has been stubbornly resistant to treatment by drugs, and as a result human resources departments are trying “softer” remedies such as limiting access to email by those who suffer from the ailment. “We took away Todd’s mouse for awhile, then downgraded his software to DOS so he has to tab twenty times to send an email,” says Dianne Satura, Techtronics’ Director of Personnel. “But he’s a ‘people’ person, which means he thrives on annoying people.”
After the vacation memo incident Frimke voluntarily took a leave of absence on two successive August Fridays, when his penchant for sending carpet-bomb emails wreaks its greatest havoc. “I’m going to be out all day tomorrow,” he wrote last Thursday afternoon as a reminder of his self-imposed exile, causing Jae Li of the firm’s Singapore sales office to scratch his head when he read it and say “Who the hell is Todd Frimke?”