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Automatic Reply

“Please call the number set below this explanatory rhyme”

Maria Hollenhorst Jul 9, 2019
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Virginia Sybert, a clinical professor of medical genetics at the University of Washington, answers her emails with rhymes.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Automatic Reply celebrates the pithy, surprising or otherwise amusing out-of-office email messages pinging around workplaces.


Virginia Sybert is a clinical professor of medicine and medical genetics at the University of Washington. She receives lots of questions via email.

“Sometimes people will ask me questions and I don’t have time to get back to them for several days,” she told Marketplace. “Just because you can send something quickly doesn’t mean it has to be answered quickly.” That’s why anyone emailing Sybert receives an automated response. Here’s one of hers that caught our eye:

One can Snapchat, one can Facebook, Instagram and tweet
And there’s texting and there’s email for communication fleet.
(I will not mention Tinder cause I’m not that kind of girl)
The ways we have for contact can set your head awhirl.
But one cannot add more hours to the tenure of the day.
And it’s not a life well lived if it doesn’t include play
So it will take time for me to ponder, write, and then revise
An answer to your query, perhaps untimely but still wise.
If you are in frantic hurry and you simply have no time,
Please call the number set below this explanatory rhyme.

Sybert said she comes up with new doggerel for her auto-responder every six or eight weeks.

“It’s what you do when you’re really bored,” she said.

It’s your turn. If you’ve ever received an out-of-office message that made you think, “I wish I’d thought of that,” tell us about it here:

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