The Case of the 500-Mile Email

One day, the range of successful emails was “500 miles, or a little bit more”:

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when
I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

“We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,” the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte.  “Come again?”

“We can’t send mail farther than 500 miles from here,” he repeated.  “A
little bit more, actually.  Call it 520 miles.  But no farther.”

“Um… Email really doesn’t work that way, generally,” I said, trying to
keep panic out of my voice.  One doesn’t display panic when speaking to a
department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like
statistics.  “What makes you think you can’t send mail more than 500
miles?”

“It’s not what I *think*,” the chairman replied testily.  “You see, when
we first noticed this happening, a few days ago–”

“You waited a few DAYS?” I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice.  “And
you couldn’t send email this whole time?”

“We could send email.  Just not more than–”

“–500 miles, yes,” I finished for him, “I got that.”

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