When working for Oracle Corporation I was signed up for any mailing list that suggested a hint of a topic that I might have been interested in. Consequently, I would have received e-mails from anywhere, and e-mails that would have been received by any one in the then-40,000 staffed company.

As is expected, too, I subscribed to the convention of setting up automatic replies for when I was out of the office.

In September of 1999, I went on a trip to the U.S., leaving behind the following out-of-office automatic reply.

Subject: Oh well...


  It is with a sense of great sadness and regret that I say now that I
am unable to respond to your mail immediately. It is with greater sadness,
etc. that I tell you I'm on holiday until the 22nd of September. And it is
with the greatest bla, bla, that I ask you to contact my manager [Name omitted]
at [e-mail address omitted] if you require urgent assistance.
  Go raibh maith agat,


Éibher Ó hAnluain,
SGI/MIPS Tools PLD,                              Tel: +353 1 8033xxx
Oracle Corporation,                              Fax: +353 1 8033xxx
European Porting Centre,
Block C, Maretimo Court,
Temple Road, Blackrock,                          All mammals have hair.
Co. Dublin, IRELAND.                             Whales are mammals.
                                                 Therefore, whales have hair.
E-mail: eohanlua@ie.oracle.com                   Shave the whales.
http://sulla.ie.oracle.com/                          -Dogbert


[Of course, I didn't redact the names and numbers in the original].

[And, of course, respect to Scott Adams for the Dogbert quote, coming from a very old Dilbert cartoon.]

[Finally, "Go raibh math agat" is Irish for "Thank you".]

I'm particularly proud of that one, even though I haven't used it since.

Anyway. I came back to the office on the 22nd September, and – if memory serves me well – nothing special was waiting for me until I came across an e-mail from my manager (the above-redacted) with the following:

good man, this is profiling at the right level!.

"What?!" I was saying.

So I looked back through the thread. The original e-mail was a request for assistance in setting up an application web server to support 128bit SSL, and was Cc'd to one of mailing list I was on. There was a reply from the Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Cc'ing the Director of Global Trade Compliance and, as well as the same mailing list, regarding export restrictions on crypto technologies and how the latter needs to be consulted.

Of course, she got my auto-reply. Forwarding it on to the Directory of Global Trade Compliance, she says…

This is the most different "I'm on vacation" auto reply that I've ever received
Also note the note on the whales at the bottom

His response to her:

What do you think "Go raibh maith agat" means?

So, she e-mails my manager with

What does Go raibh maith agat,
>  Éibhear


Which is how it came to me.

I forwarded it on to my then girlfriend (now wife!) and it seriously did the rounds. It gain such notoriety that when I was leaving Oracle (on the 7th January 2000), it was read out to the company at the "ceremony" for my departure.

The main reason I so like my original message is the combination of the increasing intensity of my regret as I make the three various points while the care and "professionalism" with which I make the points decreases. I still view it as my best piece of flippancy.

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