Better Out-of-Office Messages

The standard OOO autoreply as mandated by HR thanks the sender and informs them of their intended recipient’s absence, contains the duration of said absence, and helpfully offers an alternative contact for emergencies. That’s the company policy anyway. But they can be so, so much more.

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or Aaron Perlut, who runs a tight ship as a co-founder of Elasticity in St. Louis, expanding upon the parameters of the traditional OOO response is one way to spice things up and improve morale around the office. Among others he’s devised (and we’re sure his partners at Elasticity are considering): mandating year-long swimsuit casual days, only speaking through puppets in meetings, and periodically and without warning filling the water cooler with high-proof vodka.

The art of the OOO response though is something he’s studied in depth while he’s waiting for HR to approve his other initiatives. After nearly a decade as a student of the form, he’s collected the following, which, it must be noted, often stray far from approved company standards and guidelines.

Subject // Animatronics and my whereabouts

There’s a debate raging relative to the fair use of animatronics, where cable pulled devices or motors allow inanimate objects to emulate lifelike characteristics of humans or animals. It was first used by Disney in 1962 during the filming of “Mary Poppins” which featured an animatronic bird.

But what kind of bird was it? That’s right! Perhaps animatronics is really just a myth created by Dick Van Dyke and the same radical anarchist scientists who pulled the wool over the world’s eyes with the Easter Bunny, tofurky, Wiz Khalifa and the Ralph Nader for President campaign.

Another myth: That I’m in the office today. I’m not going to be able to respond to that email you just sent my way. It’s not that I don’t care, although that’s debatable. I’m just indisposed for the rest of the week and can’t be bothered…I mean…I am unable to respond ….just yet.

So please bear with me. Give me a few days. But if you need semi-urgent, super-urgent or even white glove Muppet-centric (TM) assistance, please email our team at animontronicpuppet@dundermifflinpaper.com or call our main line.

Subject // Away at the Small Apolis

You may have noticed you received this response not minutes, but mere seconds after hitting “send” on your computer or hand-held device.

That is because I am out of the office visiting the Small Apolis (often erroneously called “Minneapolis”) in Minnesota or “land of 1,000 Vikings” as it’s more commonly known.

The Viking peoples consumed a diet consisting largely of fish, vegetables and broiled leather. They were fierce Norse seafarers like “Rocky IV” star Dolph Lundgren, known to raid villages and trade products from their northern European homelands. They were purposeful people, pillaging what they wanted, when they wanted, often using skills taught by Chuck Norris who used his toenail clippings to engrave lessons on granite rock and hardened, molten steel.

This is a somewhat long yet educational manner of telling you I’m in Minneapolis for the remainder of the week. You can use a phone machine and call the main line that is rarely answered, or you are also welcome to try my mobile phone if you are a sucker for lost causes.

Subject // Does the sun really exist?

Hi there. Did you know there is a massive ball of fire called “the Sun?”

Scientists claim this “star” lies at the center of the solar system and that it is nearly a perfect sphere of hot plasma, whatever that might be. Those same “scientists” also say it is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth—if you believe in that kind of mumbo-jumbo (#FakeNews). While Montgomery Burns sees this purported “Sun” as his nemesis, I’m not even sure I believe in it. Hence, with today a total eclipse of this “Sun,” I’m out of the office (or at least that’s the excuse I’m offering up here).

Subject // Out pondering John Denver, the other Muppet

Thank you for your concise, well-crafted email to which you have now received this rewardingly rewarding automatic out-of-office response.

What do you know about John Denver? Folk singer? Maybe, just maybe, the original “alt-country” singer-songwriter? A stunt double for “Cousin Oliver” on the final seasons of “The Brady Bunch?” Or perhaps just the singer of troves of hit songs earning him twelve gold and four platinum albums with signature tunes including “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.”

But did you know that John Denver—or Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., as his friends knew him—who was born in Roswell, New Mexico, had an inextricable tie to The Muppets? Indeed, you might call him “the other Muppet” as Denver was a frequent guest on The Muppet Show and contributor with stints such as their “Rocky Mountain High” collaboration or even their holiday special “John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.”

I tell you all of this as I’m in Denver—named for John Denver—for the remainder of the week on business and will not be checking email often. Thus, if you need immediate assistance or even our white glove level “Muppet-Centric Immediate Support”(TM), please try our team at animontronicpuppet@dundermifflinpaper.com. You can use your puppet fingers and call the main line that is rarely answered, or of course, you may try my mobile phone if you know any good jokes about a frog and bear walking into a bar.

*This message is in no way affiliated with the Jim Henson Company.

Subject // NPR’s Jack Speer on Ned who is out of office

Hi there, America, this is Jack Speer of National Public Radio, the time is 3:44 on Tuesday, March 27.

You’ve sent an email to Ned and you’re probably wondering why I’m responding to you and not him. Well friends, that’s because Ned is presently out of the office. What is he doing? No one really knows but odds are, it’s semi-legal and partially licit (which is the second half of “illicit” meaning it’s legal—a relief to state officials in Delaware and Nicaragua).

Expect a high-pressure system to hammer down on the northwest quadrant of the northeast and southwest and inside most karate dojos in Amsterdam, but if you have needs that require Ned’s attention you might have to wait. Let’s remember, this is Jack Speer from NPR. Don’t trust me. I just drink with the guy sometimes. I can’t help deliver your message. But I can help you keep public radio on the air: You can always make a donation to National Public Radio at NPR.org.

PS: This announcement was paid for by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the American Association of Associations for Association Management and Aquatic Peace.

Subject // On the lam

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, “lam” means “flight.” And ironically, I am presently in flight, or on the lam, in South Bend, Indiana. Do I mean I’m on a plane? Maybe. But notice I didn’t say “over” South Bend.

The reality is that I’m not in the office with limited access to email. Or hot and cold running water. You can try my mobile. Ask for El Guapo…

Subject // Eating tacos in Texas

It’s worth noting that tacos are really, really good.

I typically do soft corn and on the meat front I’m open to just about anything— from brisket to pulled pork to tripe to chicken to steak to shrimp, to chorizo to breakfast tacos and the list goes on. I tell you all of this because I’m in Texas where I’m expected to consume a record amount of tacos.

If you need urgent assistance, please email someone who is not bloated with tortillas and salsa.

Subject // In DC

As you may know, I am an American. This means I likely consume vast quantities of bacon, drive a large 4×4 pickup truck lifted on screeching bald eagles’ wings, eat more bacon wrapped in bacon, reside in more square footage than necessary, and laugh at the notion of “fuel efficiency” which I consider to be a politically nurtured myth created by fawns nesting in hilly regions of Delaware.

And as an American, I have rights—the right to dance in public, to drink 98-ounce Mountain Dews while wearing tank-tops, and to celebrate any country at all’s national holiday by blowing my fingers off with fireworks—rights which I plan to pursue this week as I travel to our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C., in hopes of a meeting with ’Merica’s commander in chief.

Hence, I am traveling Monday and Tuesday with limited access to email but will periodically check messages.

If you need immediate assistance, you can try my mobile phone if the Mountain Dew has not disintegrated it yet.

Subject // Bend, South Bend and John Mellencamp

In Oregon, there is a city named Bend. However, that creates great confusion for 63.7 percent of the American populous, as the city of South Bend lies some 2,091 miles away— give or take a few kilometers—in the state of Indiana.

The state of Indiana is of course home to singer-songwriter John Mellencamp who once went by “Johnny Cougar” as a means to propel his career but ultimately felt he had abandoned his soul and went back to John Mellencamp, his birth name, or so he says.

I tell you all of this because I’m in South Bend, Indiana today, although not with John Mellencamp despite his song “Pink Houses” being a personal all-time favorite along with “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree,” a song first performed by Dawn featuring Tony Orlando and penned by Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown.

More pointedly, what I’ve done here, if you’ve read this far—and I do hope you have—is to distract you from your daily grind, perhaps waste some 42 seconds of your life that you’ll not get back, while communicating that I’m out of the office on this fine Friday yet distributing fact-based-facts that enrich your life.

Thus, if you need urgent assistance, please think about your life and if the matter is really actually that urgent.

Subject // On the road with Dr. Johnny Fever

Hi there! Thank you for your email. I’m traveling today in Cincinnati hanging with Venus Flytrap, Dr. Johnny Fever, Herb Tarlic, Les Nessman, Bailey Quarters and the entire crew of WKRP. I’ll have intermittent access to email, what with all of the aforementioned existing only in the 1970s.

Subject // I am not where you may expect me to be

Why hello there, friend. Let’s chat.

People have expectations stemming from perceptions that may or may not always be quite accurate. Your perception—at least, what I perceive it to be— is that I am in the office on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. But that perception is flawed, through no fault of your own. I’m just out of the office doing things that I perceive may or may not meet your expectations. That being said, if you need urgent assistance, in spite of whatever your perceptions might be, my expectation would be that you please email our team at animontronicpuppet@dundermifflinpaper.com or call the main line.

Subject // Let’s be real

Hi. Let’s be real. We have a connection. Sure, it might be virtual. Or perhaps even very personal. But it’s real. I mean, really real.

But right now, you’re feeling empty. Alone. That’s because I’m out of the office, traveling on business. Serious, serious business. You sense it. You feel it. I apologize I’ve left you with that void in your life. But take solace. It won’t be for long. In the meantime, if you need urgent assistance, please send an email to our team at animontronicpuppet@dundermifflinpaper.com or please call my mobile phone and hope for the best.