Barry Smith: Barry Smith is no
Maybe getting an e-mail from Barry Smith is no big deal to you. But for me, it’s a little weird. It’s even weirder getting one that essentially tells me I suck.
“Barry Smith, you suck,” signed Barry Smith.
Maybe that’s the sort of thing that happens to Sybil all the time, but it took me by surprise.
Here, let me catch you up.
Every week I mail my column out to a small but dedicated group of people who, in a fit of passion, signed up for such a service while visiting my Web page.
One day about two years ago I got an e-mail from one Mr. Barry Smith from the Midwest. He had been doing some “ego surfing” (you know, where you type your own name into a search engine and see how many different yous there are). His search took him to my Web page and was obviously impressed by my name. He e-mailed me, signed up to receive my column (for free, of course), and we started a bit of a correspondence based on our name.
Needless to say, this correspondence didn’t get too deep.
HIM/ME: “So, when someone says, ‘Hey, Barry Smith,’ you, like, turn around to see who’s calling you, huh?”
HIM/ME: “Wow, Barry Smith. Crazy.”
So, you know, we were close.
Then one day, not so long ago, I got an e-mail from him telling me not only that he needed to be removed from my mailing list, but that my “grossly irreverent song lyrics mocking God” had seriously offended him.
And furthermore: “Not to sound preachy, but Barry, I pray you will see that your life is more important than the work you are crafting of late.”
And, in conclusion, he prays that I use my writing “in ways that bring glory to God and to others.”
Thank you, Barry Smith, for your concern, and for just totally freaking me out.
I’m not going to pine for the good old days, because I truly believe that this is a good time to be alive, but do you think Mark Twain even got letters from other people named Mark Twain telling him that he should lay off writing about the darkies?
Or Shakespeare, do you think he got letters that read, “Enough with the iambic pentameter, you’re not impressing anyone. Sincerely, William Shakespeare, Birmingham.”
Or “Iliad, schmiliad, it’s too damn long! Regards, Johnny ‘Homer’ Winkelstein.”
I think I know why Barry Smith felt the need to put me back on the righteous path: he was clearly afraid of a divine clerical error. He could see himself standing before the Pearly Gates as St. Peter ran his finger down the long scroll.
“Smith, Smith … ah, here it is, Barry Smith. Oopsie! Says here that you wrote some grossly irreverent song lyrics mocking The Big Guy. Sorry.”
“No,” Barry Smith shouts. “That wasn’t me, that was Barry Smith!”
“I thought you said that YOU were Barry Smith,” St. Peter says, not looking up from the list. “Oh dear, failed to glorify God in your writing, did you? Tsk, tsk.”
“No! I’m not Barry Smith, I’m Barry Smith!” Barry Smith cries.
Last year I got an e-mail from someone named Les who demanded that I shut down my Web page.
“It is the worst irrelevant trash I have ever seen,” Les wrote. “It is so weak, it is colorless. Insipid is too loud a word for your irrelevance.”
Les explained that he was searching for the Web page of “Barry Smith,” a Christian prophet from New Zealand, and accidentally ended up at my site.
Asking himself, as all good Christians should, “What would Jesus do?” Les obviously concluded that Jesus would take a few moments and fire off an e-mail telling me how much I suck for not being the OTHER Barry Smith.
“Have you ever heard of Jesus the Christ?” Les writes. Having buttered me up by calling my writing “insipid, weak, colorless trash,” he now seizes the opportunity to tell me the Good News. Somehow I doubt if Les works in sales.
“He is real, turn to him and he will change your life. I apologize if I have misjudged you but you seem to be a soul with no hope.”
Ah, no harm done, Les. It’s all part of a grueling day’s work of being Barry Smith.
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“If I was moving through the herd, the others would begin walking away, some of them at a jog, taking their calves with them, but the big brown ungulate would face me sideways, reluctant to move, not wanting to give any ground,” writes Tony Vagneur.