Analysis Paralysis

By Emily Liu

Emily gets a mysterious package.


[Emily]: This is True Stories in Sound. I’m Emily Liu.


[Emily]: Last December, I ordered a Macbook off the Apple store online. And then I went on holiday.

After I got back, I checked the mail, and… no Macbook. I remember standing there, just shaking my head. Thinking, of course, thank you, universe. My building doesn’t have security or a mail room or anything, and my housemates were all gone. So I figured either the delivery was late or someone took it, which would really suck…

But I don’t know, somehow I wasn’t too worried. I mean shit happens. I just had to deal with it. So the next day, I called Apple. Yada Yada…We go back and forth. Anyway, it was this whole thing but in the end, after something like 2 months, I eventually got the Macbook. And that was it. Or so I thought.

Until… one random Tuesday, when I got an email from a… Emily Liu.


[Other Emily]: Hi Emily,

I received a package of something I did not order and after some peeling of labels, it looks like the delivery should have gone to a Columbia owned building. I believe there are several Emily Lius at Columbia but you seemed like the most likely candidate.

[Emily]: I saw that and I replied, “OMG is it my Macbook?? How did you find me?”

[Emily]: So just a heads up, the answer that I got, was… A LOT. Emily had four, actually five, potential scenarios in her head to explain what happened, and she went about systematically figuring it out by elimination.

[Other Emily]: Number one, okay. Someone has clearly scammed me and it’s like, but like clearly a failed scam at the same time because I shouldn’t be receiving this package

Second scenario thinking, okay, well perhaps perhaps the IT department here was ordering a computer, but it’s not like they would order a Macbook so…

The third scenario I’m thinking is… okay well maybe there’s a Emily Liu in the building she ordered it, didn’t put a floor number, but they do know that bitch Emily Liu that has yelled at them for not properly delivering. It must be 24th floor, Emily Liu.

Fourth scenario, which was like my fingers crossed hopeful scenario. Was I’m like some benevolent benefactor has decided, you know what, Emily Liu is this really awesome person and she just deserves a Macbook pro.

but then maybe I just bought it myself? I actually like did search my Gmail account. I was like, you know, keyword “apple”. I would have gotten a receipt or something like that. And I thought to myself, there’s no way I’m purchasing another computer. I have just spent over a thousand dollars on this computer less than a year ago.

Just to be clear, all completely implausible scenarios

[Emily]: I’ve got to say, Emily had really thought this thing through. And I’m the one who paid $2,000 for it. If it was me with the unknown laptop in my hands, I probably would have just returned it without a second thought.


[Emily]: The thing is for Emily, nothing is ever… simple. Every decision is a maze she has to wade through, which is why she says she’s always been a stickler for black and white rules – they make things easy.

[Other Emily]: like most basic math, there’s a right answer and, there’s something very satisfying about that.

[Emily]: Emily says she has been an over-thinker since she can remember, although when she was a kid, that manifested differently.

[Other Emily]: I did not speak in class, cause part of overthinking is because you don’t want to be wrong. So then you don’t say anything because you’d rather not be wrong than risk.

[Emily]: She eventually grew out of her shyness, but the overthinking stayed.

[Other Emily]: Oh, I don’t know. Should I get Crest or Colgate? Like who even cares? Like, oh, that one’s like 2 cents cheaper per like ounce. Like you’re like, did I just spend five minutes thinking about that? That’s a waste of my time.


[Emily]: It makes me wonder, if she spends so much time and effort on the smallest decisions, how does she ever make the big life choices, like going to law school? Surprisingly, Emily told me law school was her major quote “non-decision”.

[Other Emily]: I went to law school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I mean, I briefly like halfheartedly did like recruiting like my senior year, but then I was like, then I took the LSATS and, and then, then I got in, I was like, hmm, okay. Easy. Like, you know, decision made.


[Emily]: In recent years, Emily’s been trying to learn to let go a little bit. She’s even taking improv classes… and actually enjoying it. Which is surprising, considering how everything about improv is like the antithesis of deliberation.

[Other Emily]: I have tried to be like, okay, just make the decision. It’s a waste of time to like, think any further. At this point I’ve been to enough restaurants, I guess that I almost don’t care what I order for my entree because I’m like, who cares? I’m probably going to enjoy it either way, cause I enjoy most food. I’m like not a super foodie.

[Emily]: By the way, the restaurant thing… I know it’s true, because we had lunch together after the interview, and she picked something out really quickly.


[Emily]: In some cosmic kind of way, I’m glad Apple and UPS messed up this delivery. I mean, this Emily Liu was probably the worst Emily Liu that the delivery could have gone to. Even her sister thought she was in too deep.

[Other Emily]: When I later talked to my sister, her gut reaction is like, why didn’t you just return it to apple? I’m like, well what? Like what if, what if, what if, what if? And she was like, it’s not your problem, none of this is your problem. And I was like, but, but, but… because part of it is my sister is a really good person, apparently her moral compass is like very clean and she was like automatically return it versus me. I’m like overthinking. I’m like, but what if it was a gift? Wouldn’t it be rude to return that gift? Like, you know, um, there’s like a part of me, a sliver of me that like kinda wanted that Mac book.

[Emily]: Actually, yeah, why didn’t she just keep it?

[Emily]: Later on, I told her in an email, in a partially joking but also kind of serious way, if she had kept the Macbook, I would have totally been okay with it. I’d already gotten my computer anyway.

[Other Emily]: the problem with that scenario is feeling like a Pollyanna the few times I remember this happened like, you know, once a year maybe I’ll remember that’s how the time I let a Macbook like go and I’ll feel like a dumb Pollyanna. Or every time I use the Mac book, I will feel like this medium to low level of guilt. And if I feel that every day I use it, that far outweighs the once in a while I feel like a stupid, naive person.

[Emily]: So Emily ultimately concluded that she had to return the Macbook. But then began the grueling process of actually doing so. She calls Apple over and over again…

[Other Emily]: calling me being like, oh, we’re trying to get the missing package claim was made. And I was like, are you kidding? Do you think I’m the tail end of the story? I’m the one who orchestrated the story because apple clearly wasn’t doing their shit and neither were you! This is why people don’t want to return, do the right thing if you make it so hard.

[Emily]: Finally, 10 weeks after I first made the purchase, Fedex came and got the computer off Emily’s hands. At last, she could stop thinking about it.

[Other Emily]: the joke is, you know, as a lawyer billing by the hour, I would have more than purchased the Macbook at those rates.

[Emily]: So that was the day before we did this interview. When I met Emily, what I really wanted to ask her was why. Why did she bother?

[Emily]: I think for me, the funniest thing about this whole thing is how much trouble you went through

[Other Emily]: Yeah no…I tend…so I think this has to do…clearly a personality flaw or characteristic of mine is I tend to want to do the correct thing. A lot of people would make some effort, but I tend to have very notions of, oh, this is what it’s supposed to be. Like the right thing was for this to happen. So even if it might not be cost effective, um, I tend to go down that path


[Emily]: Emily says that for her, a big part of why she did this was because she thought about the other Emily Liu – me, in this case – and how awful that person would feel missing her computer. Emily cared, a lot. And I get it. That’s why I reached out to her in the first place. There was something about the thoughtfulness of that first email that surprised and touched me.

It takes a lot of strength to choose the harder path, and then stick it out to the end, just because it feels like the right thing to do. Especially when really, it’s a thankless job that no one would really appreciate, like in this case. So I guess maybe what I really want to tell Emily is, thank you for trying.


Music in this episode is by Blue Dot Sessions.

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