Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cheap Entertainment

Sometimes funny stuff just lands in my lap like the crumbs of my Oat ‘n Honey granola breakfast bars. The humor of the thing that amuses me on any given day might be readily apparent, or it may be built upon a foundation of random things that seemed aggravating yesterday or some number of days earlier, but with the advantage of time, space and perspective, are now funny. Hysterical, even. Or maybe I just have a warped sense of humor.

These week’s twisted entertainment involves my email account and encounters with strangers.

Since the last century (man, it sounds oddly entertaining and archaic to say that) I have had an email account that uses my first initial and family name. It made sense when I opened it – it represented my name, and the use of just a first initial instead of my whole first name provided a (perhaps false) level of security and perhaps even a sheer curtain of cyber anonymity. Well, except for the part that has my display name as my full name.

When I got married, I kept that email account out of a potentially misguided notion that I was sparing people the trouble of updating their address books and a fear that my friends back home wouldn’t recognize my emails if they were from an address bearing the last name of the man I married whom most of them had never met. The real truth however, is rooted in my laziness. The idea of creating a new account, transferring my contacts and rerouting all the newsletter subscriptions and retailer sales announcement emails felt like too much work. It would cut into my obsession of the time – Spider Solitaire – which had kept me company into the wee hours of the morning for at least 18 lonely months in my spacious Worcester apartment, and entertained me during my three month winter stint in Seoul when I was on "my honeymoon" and new hubby had to go to work every day. Hey, it beat excessive drinking, overeating, spending, or any of the other vices/habits I could have indulged in.

In the decade or so of having this email address, it has received some strange, interesting and even annoying email. There are the sporadic, generic messages greeting “Test” or “Tracy” in the subject line. Because my friends actually know my name, those are deleted without hesitation.

In 2004, a letter addressed to “Reverend Simonds” arrived, seeking a background reference on an applicant for a social work job. The sender was contacting the Reverend for additional information as the applicant had said the separation of employment was “not amicable.” I wrote back to the gentleman and explained I am not Reverend Simonds and would not be able to help him with his questions.

For a chunk of the school year in 2008, I was subjected to a barrage of emails from the Great Oaks Elementary School announcing every PTA meeting, fundraiser, school lunch menu and report card delivery date. I tried to unsubscribe from this one due to the volume of messages -- this school likes to pump out information -- but there was no unsubscribe feature. I managed to learn that email addresses for the list had been collected from student information forms. There was a phone number on the messages, but it lacked an area code, so I couldn’t call without doing some research. I replied to one of the messages and asked to be removed from the list, but it did nothing to stem the flow. Fortunately, when the school year ended, so did the messages. There was probably some confused, out-of-touch parent of a Great Oaks Elementary School student wondering why they never heard a peep from the school.

In 2009, I received a series of messages from a web hosting site concerning the creation of the 4kiddos website, and a series of reminders to finish creating and activate the website. Finally, a notice arrived that the site was being cancelled due to inactivity. Hallelujah. I have enough legitimate projects of my own that I am ignoring without some stranger’s website hanging over my head.

The most recent situation, however, may be the ultimate in misdirected mail. Monday morning, while sifting through several days’ worth of unread emails numbering in the hundreds (I am very popular on the newsletter and newspaper subscription lists, if nowhere else), I came upon three strange surprises delivered in the space of 24 hours. The most benign was a copy of a purchase order for $1,594 in lighting supplies from Halco Lighting Technologies. I might write to the company and tell them of the mistake. Or not. It depends. I have other writing to do, and other tasks to ignore.

The second, more surprising delivery was a series of messages from the “Ashley Madison Agency.” I know the name from their recent late night TV commercials – the agency’s tag line is “Life is short. Have an Affair.” There was welcome message -- not to me (because, although single, I am not (yet) (that) desperate and am currently solidly opposed to affairs), but to “Todd 1314.” Hmmmm. There was also a message containing the account login information for Todd1314 and another message announcing the receipt of an email from “StrangeEyes.” Yes, I opened them. All of them. Evidently, “Todd 1314” decided to open a guest membership on Saturday. He hasn’t made the full commitment to his extracurricular love life in the form of the $249 payment to enjoy the “Affair Guarantee” provided by the lovely folks at Ashley Madison, so we still can’t actually read the email from “StrangeEyes.” Cheapskate wants a freebie. Or he’s afraid someone will see the transaction on his credit card.

Here is what I learned about Todd 1314: He is 5’10” and weighs 290 lbs. He lists himself as “attached male seeking females” and seeks “something short term” within 10 miles of his Indiana address. All this is in his profile information (it's about ALL that is in his profile, actually). Which I read. Hey, it’s in MY email address inbox. Am I wrong? Really, the dude needs to learn his own email address. I would write and tell him so, but he seems to think he’s me in cyber.

Todd was a very busy man on Saturday and invested some quality time on the computer. Besides enrolling with the affair matchmaking agency, he also took the time to confuse his email address with mine and sign up for Penthouse–dot–com. This I know from the email from sender "Penthouse.com"  providing the login password in the subject line. Busy, busy, Todd1314.

I’m sad for Todd. Beyond the initial email notice of a message from StrangeEyes, probably planted by an autoresponder to inspire the payment of the membership fee, he has not received any other responses to his posting which bears the captivating headline “Hello,” no photos, and the most meager description (caucasian, age 37). Come on Todd, if you are serious about cheating on your partner to whom you say you are "attached," post a photo so the cheating-hearted ladies can at least have a peak at what you are offering. Because dude, your scant physical description and completely boring profile are not helping your cause. If Todd1314 is online looking for an ego boost, he is going to be sorely dieappointed. Maybe I should help the boy out with a clever, witty, custom-crafted profile? I love writing ...