Email #136: “as soon as possible”?

I received the following automated email yesterday morning:

“Thank you for contacting Congressman Goodlatte’s office with a scheduling request.

“Your request has been received. Staff will be in touch with you as soon as possible regarding your inquiry.”

I’ve read that same email every morning since mid-February. Before mid-February I didn’t know whether my meeting requests were even being received. I wrote to you asking that your office send auto-confirmations so that at least I would know the form on your website was functional.

I now request that you delete the third sentence. It is untrue. Staff has not been in touch with me, nor is there any reasonable expectation that they ever will.

What does “as soon as possible” mean? That first “soon” was relative to February 17th. It’s now nearly May. The definition of “soon” is: “in or after a short time.” Its synonyms include: “shortly, presently, in the near future, before long, in a little while, in a moment, in a bit, in no time, before you know it, any minute now, and any day now.” Note that “any week now” and “any month now” are not synonyms.

Of course “soon” is modified by “as possible,” an inherently ambiguous term, but one that you have also abused past credibility. The phrase means “at the earliest possible moment.” Am I to understand that it was literally impossible for any of your staff members to have responded to any of my dozens of requests over the past three months? Was it literally impossible for someone to send me an email or pick up the phone and tell me the obvious truth: no, Representative Goodlatte will not meet with you.

Clearly I cannot compel you to meet with me. But at minimum I ask that you not insult me every morning with an automated email that repeats a self-evident lie. It is demeaning to me, and, more importantly to you, it communicates a mocking disregard for truth and civility.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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