Like many other people who have emotional range (also called ‘volatile’ or ‘unstable’), I am subject to fits of abject, revolting sentimentality. At times like this I love my friends unequivocally and tell them so in the purplest prose; my colleagues are the bestest in the world and I will clasp their ankles in a death-like grip to prevent them from leaving for a better job elsewhere; dog poo on the road seems unbearably poignant; and life is beautiful so I must hug everyone in it.
I can behave like this all on my own when stone cold sober; throw a little alcohol on top of those coals, and the results can singe your eyebrows. I have never leerily called an ex, or a professional superior to vent long-suppressed abuse; but I have done thoroughly inappropriate things (like text a colleague at 4am saying that I’m listening to a song that reminds me of him, realising only the next morning that given the lateness of the hour and the lack of nuance in text messages, not just his wife but he too might have misinterpreted my utterly innocent geniality. Cringe.)
Most people, though, need to be seriously inebriated to do things like this. They’re often restrained by their friends, who will vigilantly rip the phone from their drunk-dialling little fingers. The same friends will put them in a cab and call to make sure they got home, and come over in the morning with strips of alka seltzer.
But what happens between the damage control and the alka seltzer? That’s right: more damage. Wino gets home, still rollercoasting all over the unregulated markets of his or her emotional life, staggers to the computer, logs in to his or her email, and sends drunken emails that in the morning will make him or her wish that he or she (or the recipient) were dead.
Enter corporate responsibility. Google has decided to do its bit to protect you from yourself, with a piece of tough-love software called Mail Goggles (a name taken from the common expression ‘beer goggles’ to describe the phenomenon of suddenly noticing, after a couple of drinks, that everyone at the bar is sexually irresistible).
Mail Goggles is a late-night digital chaperone that is designed to determine whether you are really, actually sound of mind enough to send the mail you just typed with the tip of your nose and tongue, skipping the letters you can’t find/remember. You know, the one you’re about to send to your lawyer saying that your ex-spouse can have all your money, or the one to your boss saying that you and she would be good together.
Mail Goggles does you the wonderful favour of suddenly taking you to a dialogue box that poses a few quick arithmetic problems. What’s 93 minus 17? 18 times 4? 72 divided by 12? And so on. If you’re sober enough to solve these correctly, you can send your email. If you aren’t, your mail quits and a gloved hand comes through the screen and slaps you a couple of times before crashing the whole programme.
Not really—but it won’t send the mail. The downside is that while the mathematically gifted can raise the difficulty level of the problems, it won’t do what some people need, which is ask, “If a man on an escalator is travelling at 2kmph and a thief comes charging past him at 6kmph, and taking into account a wind speed of 15kmph as they pass, what is the colour of the cashier’s wig?”