(Please note: I’ve altered names in this post to protect individual identities.)
This may come as a shock to a lot of you, but I’m not the only Nick Butler in the world -- in fact, Nick Butler is a pretty common name. In the early 1900’s, one guy named Nick Butler was the President of Columbia University, ran for Vice President of the United States, and won the Nobel Peace Prize. He pretty much knocked me out of contention for the “Best Nick Butler Ever” award. Given the commonality of my name, last year I hosted a Nick Butlers “Meeting of the Minds” convention on Twitter (only two other Nick Butlers participated).
Well, it turns out that one of me is a high-ranking official in a well-known British company that has a lot of interest in the dealings of the British government. As such, you can imagine that this Nick Butler would have a number of ties to both houses in Parliament. Normally, this would be of little interest to me, as I generally don’t follow the lives of other Nick Butlers. However, back in 2012 I received an email which was a bit mysterious. It was addressed to me and seemed innocent enough. But I just didn’t understand it:
Then I looked at the email address… @parliament.uk… what? Then I looked at the name in the “Sent” line… Lord Barnes… what? Then I looked at the confidentiality clause at the bottom of the email.
UK Parliament Disclaimer:
Wait, what? Why the hell did a member of the House of Lords just email me asking if I know who Nicole Wade from British Petroleum is? Something isn’t right. (Also, I’m realizing now that by sharing this story I’m breaching the disclaimer above, whoops). So, I responded honestly:
Robert responded two hours later, with a brief message that, too this day, remains the most British thing anyone has ever said to me:
Now that we were on first initial basis, I responded with a brief messaging saying it wasn’t a problem and as an American student studying political science it was a thrill to receive an email from a member of the House of Lords -- even if by accident. We exchanged a few emails chatting about politics. He described himself as a socialist guru and questioned how far right American politicians really lean. Then he took a shot at George McGovern for how badly he was “drubbed” in the 1980s. Finally, he complained about the current state of politics in the United Kingdom saying, “...and now we want European levels of public service at American levels of taxation!” It was all very entertaining, but our two day stint as international pen pals ended as quickly as it began. Or so I thought.
Three months later, I receive another email:
No, Robert, I can’t help. I have even less of an idea of what you’re talking about than you do. At this point I’m wondering why anyone would let you handle your own emails. Seriously, you shouldn’t be blasting out emails left and right to people who share the name of whoever it is you’re trying to reach.
In any event, I responded saying he had yet again reached the wrong Nick Butler. To which he replied (again) in a very British manner, “Oh dear so sorry.”
I responded with a quick email saying (again) it’s not a problem and it’s always a thrill to get an email from a member of Parliament as it’s something I can tell my friends about. I figured that was the end of our bizarre relationship which, at this point, has basically become me telling him I’m not the Nick Butler he’s looking for and wishing him luck. But then I got another email:
Woah, wooooahhhh. Robert, I’ve emailed you like 5 times. You’ve got to be more careful making jokes like this. One screenshot sent over to the British tabloids and you’re in a world of trouble. Think before you act, you’re a Baron for Christ’s sake -- you can’t be joking about bribes with people you don’t know!
But luckily for you, we share a sense of humor (or “humour”) so it isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, I’m fired up! You’re dishing it out, so I’m gonna send one back your way! I reply to his email with a quick response:
Then I wait.
And I wait.
And I wait.
Nothing, no response. No “haha,” no “LOL!” Nothing!
Lord Barnes throws me an alley-oop, I slam dunk it, and then he goes radio silent! The hell is that Robert? I thought we were on first initial basis? Do you know how awkward it is for me to have emailed a joke about a bribe to a Lord of Parliament and then have them completely ignore me for the rest of time, Robert? I have to live with that. How am I the one feeling like I did something wrong? I’m not a member of Parliament, you are! You shouldn’t be joking about bribes!
Alright. Well, that’s it. That’s the story about the time a Lord of Parliament offered me a bribe -- and then I offered one back to him and he totally ignored me.
I hope you’re happy, Robert. I hope you’re happy.