On any given day, I get about 300 emails and their sorting invariably congers a modern version of Dante’s Divina Commedia, where there are at least three levels of email. The first, Inferno, vary between a statement from one of the umpteen social networks that I secretly hope would spontaneously combust to a press release for an exciting new remedy for dog dander. Deleting scores of Inferno emails at a time has become a daily ritual that is simultaneously time-consuming, a pain in the rear, and yet oddly cathartic.
But mainly a pain in the rear.
There are a few (emphasis on few) that are actually enticing, Paradiso, if you will: the sender is perhaps a friend, the message line reveals the positive element within: “Request to send samples” or even better “Press Trip Invitation to Alentejo, Portugal,” or you hear from a Nigerian prince who wants to funnel you millions of dollars. I open those (except for maybe the last one) with a joy that is akin to Christmas morning, when I would rush down the stairs, predawn sleep still in my eyes, anxious to see just how good of a boy I had been.
The third type of email is easily the most painful: Purgatorio. They are the most painful since they require you to actually open, read, and triage before any action can be engaged. There are two types and the first requires a particular recipe: a bit of reading, an ounce of common sense, and a quick reaction of angrily, yet joyously using your left pinky finger to send it to its rightful place of final damnation.
The second type is much more laborious as instead of a simple left-pinkie keystroke, this requires a, gasp, response to determine the veracity of the proposition.
Such was the case last fall when, fully entrenched in Purgatorio, I read the following from the exceedingly kind people from the Union des Viticulteurs de Moulin-à-Vent (who had previously sent me samples):
We seize the opportunity that you might be coming for the Hospices Sales from November 17th to 20th, and propose you two dates to come to Moulin-à-Vent:
* Tuesday, November 22nd
* Wednesday, November 23rd
We would be happy to have you on either of these dates. Please do not hesitate to confirm you’d attend this event, so we could book your trip and stay asap, and give you all the convenient details.
Having studied various languages for most of my adult life, I realized that there was considerable ambiguity there. The vast majority of the time when there is any uncertainty, though, I interject a considerable amount of optimism into the “ambiguous” statement, reading far too much into it, only to have my lofty expectations squished like a cucaracha somewhere on the Upper East Side.
I deliberated. I pondered. I lamented.
And I figured that they meant to iterate a message along the lines of:
If you happen to be in the area for the Hospices de Beaune, we would love to have you down to Beaujolais for a day or two.
I have to admit, I get numerous messages like this every week, and while I would love to take each one of them up on their offer, for the moment at least, I am not independently wealthy and simply can’t. Thus, most of the time, I respond and thank them for the offer and I will let them know the next time I am in the area.
I did the same here, letting the fine people in Moulin-à-Vent that I was not planning to attend the Hospices de Beaune, but I would let them know if my plans were to change.
Their response was quick and concise: no, they wanted to bring me over to France whether I was planning on attending the Hospices or not.
After knowing that I now would be in the area during the time of Les Hospices de Beaune, I set about trying to get a press pass to the event. I called in all the favors I could think of, all the contacts I had made over the nearly six years of writing about wine and traveling to various wine regions around the world.
Bupkis. No one could get me in.
Dejected, I accepted the fact that I would not be going to the Hospices, but hey, I would be going to Beaujolais, one of the few wine regions in France that I had not visited.
And that was great.
Just before finalizing my travel, the very fine people at the Union des Viticulteurs de Moulin-à-Vent indicated that they could get me into the Hospices.
So how could this dream-like scenario turn into one of the most miserable weeks in my life?
(Note: my misery had nothing to do with the wonderful people at the Union des Viticulteurs de Moulin-à-Vent, nor with anyone associated with Les Hospices de Beaune. No. In fact, there was likely only one person to blame: me.)