I’ve just started learning to drive. Lesson three was this morning and, whilst I’m slowly getting the hang of it, I’m still a bit uncertain of the controls.

Most of the time it’s not a problem. Shifting the gear into fourth instead of second isn’t really the end of the world, although tapping the brake instead of the throttle does have the power to surprise both learner and instructor.

Pining for simplicity

This unfamiliarity with controls reminded me when I started using email for work purposes. I was perfectly confident with the technology (I used Pine as far back as 1993, but as I knew only two other people I could write to, the scope for making a cock up was fairly limited), but I really wasn’t familiar with the controls.

So, one of my first moves when I started work at Education Extra (a charity that no longer exists) was to send an email to a friend saying how much I was enjoying myself, and how nice everyone seemed to be.

Just as well I didn’t think they were all halfwits – I sent the message to the whole organisation by mistake.

No Bill Posters

That was a happy error. A less fortunate one was when I opened a message from a friend called Bill, only to find that he’d forwarded me an email I’d written to a journalist on the Times Educational Supplement.

I simply couldn’t understand how, or why, Bill had the email in the first place. Surely there must be something wrong with our system?

I hammered out a quick response and pressed ‘send’.

How the fuck did that happen?

Moments later, I got my response.

I don’t know. How do you think?

And then it dawned on me. Yes, the email was from someone called Bill… but this Bill was a journalist on the TES. A man I’d never met. A man I was hoping to place a story with.

I hammered out a new email. The subject line was…

Abject apology…

And the funny thing was, I got my story in.

But I soon got a better grip on those controls.