Inbox [100]: Spam!

by Sarah McCarthy

Among my dirty secrets, this may well be the dirtiest: that I sort of love spam email. The only possibly dirtier secret is that one time, in Paris, I watched the entire first season of “The O.C.” and sort of loved that too. That fact, though, is best not dwelt upon, so instead I shall for a moment explain what I find so all-fired delightful about spam.

To preface: I have fought the good fight against spam. I have never given out my email address to websites that request that you do so, I have refused to be lured by websites that exclaim that I am the 99,000th visitor and that I have WON a free* Ipod!!!!!. I have even, just to make myself feel better, actually responded to spam emails with a sternly worded letter, informing them that I am a Very Important Person and that “if this barrage of lewd emails does not immediately cease, I shall prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”  Of course, one second after sending this strongly worded note a failure notice appears in my inbox. In the un-necessarily dramatic language of a failure notice it informs me that it cannot send my message and that “this is a permanent error; I’ve given up. Sorry it didn’t work out.” I am sorry too, but in the meantime, I allow myself to be endlessly amused by the creative genius of spam.

For one thing, each time I open my account I am amazed by the names of the people supposedly sending these emails. It must be assumed that naming geniuses like Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens are, contrary to popular belief, alive, well, and working for spam manufacturers. Just in the last week, I got an email from “Aracali Hendrix” offering me free ring tones, “Ferdinand Hooker” telling me that my debt was canceled, “Penelope B. Ramana,” likewise telling me good news about my debt, and, my personal favorite, “Octavius Zoraster” telling me, via the subject line “Mike Tyson Where’s A Rolex YOU Should To!” Compared to those names, Augustus Gloop and Nicholas Nickelby look downright boring. I get an email almost every day from the aptly named “Insane Rich Guy” with the subject “I Must be Insane For Doing This!” I have, of course, never opened this email, but no day is really complete without it.

Likewise, I am perpetually amazed at the spam emails that actually serve no possible purpose. I don’t mean this in a general way, in the sense that spam as a whole advances humanity in no way. I am referring instead to the emails that I have read and re-read, to discover that even if I was desperate to buy whatever it was they were selling, I couldn’t, because I can’t figure out what that thing might be. A “sentence” from one such email: “tree allnew playable GPG give better idea what expect this love RPGS enjoy.” Don’t bother re-reading that. Reading it once was already excessive.

Much better than that sort of drivel are the ones that actually employ rhetoric that is at once clever and deeply, tragically flawed. My favorite in this vein are the ones that cut right to the chase and ask, in their subject lines: Remember Me? Remember the Conversation We Had About Penis Enlargement? Each time, I can’t help but wonder: had I been engaged in such an unusual conversation, would I really need a reminder? I try to imagine that somewhere on this planet there might be person who read that subject line and thought “Oh yeah—yeah, it’s all coming back to me now. Good conversation, that one.” I also love the emails that fancy themselves clever by saying things like “Re: The Question You Asked Me.” These are, inevitably, from UNKOWNADDRESS@yahoo.com and sent, as so much spam magically is, from a date far in the future. UNKOWNADDRESS’s answer to my mythical question usually also involves penis enlargement.

I could enumerate further on the glory of spam, but I shall not because a) spam is actually a serious problem that costs the United States taxpayers quadrillions each year and b) because Mr. Zoraster has a point—if Mike Tyson where’s a Rolex, it’s high time that I stopped writing this column and got one for myself.

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