This is a true story.
Back in the last century when the Internet was still new and shiny, I opened an email address that included my first initial and family name. That email addy and I have shared some living -- two long distance relationships (one across the country, one half-way around the world), a marriage in Korea and seven years later a divorce in America, and at least five cool jobs in my crazy-quilt of a career.
When I opened another email address reflecting my married name, I kept the old addy, partly for sentimental reasons, partly because I was afraid my friends wouldn’t recognize my new name, and partly because I was simply too lazy to redirect a bunch of newsletters and shopping accounts linked to it.
In the earlier years of the account, there were instances of obvious junk mail or not-really-for-me mail that included “test” or “Tracy” in the subject line, which I deleted without reading. In 2004, I received a letter directed to a Reverend sharing my family name, seeking background information on an applicant for a social work position who said the separation was “not amicable.” I wrote back to explain I was not the Reverend.
For the entire 2008-09 school year, there was bombardment of messages for every PTA meeting, school lunch menu, fundraiser and report card date for the Great Oaks Elementary School, location unknown. The only contact information in the emails was a phone number with no area code, there was no unsubscribe option, and when I sent an email to the sender, I was informed the email addresses were collected from student information forms. I asked, but they never deleted my email, so it was a full academic year of generic school-related messages meant to inform an an actual parent of an actual student.
In 2009, there was a stream of messages from a web hosting company with reminders to finish creating some website I was not part of until the final, welcome notice about canceling the unfinished site due to inactivity.
In 2010, someone with the handle “Todd 1314” in Indiana opened a guest account with the “Ashley Madison Agency,” which had the tagline “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” I’m guessing he mistyped the name of the new secret email account opened to conduct his secret extramarital activities, or just picked a random email address to get past that field and into the good stuff. In any event, I enjoyed reading his meager profile, but because he hadn’t paid for a membership, (maybe he needed to open a new secret credit card, too?) I couldn’t read Todd1314’s only message from “StrangeEyes.” The same weekend, busy, busy Todd also signed up for something on Penthouse.com, again using my email address. Maybe the wife was out of town and Todd was lonely in Indiana. After a while, I got bored with Todd and unsubscribed from his sites to reduce my inbox clutter.
The email address from my former, more interesting life continues to maintain a life of its own, which is arguably more exciting than anything I’ve been up to lately.
In 2012, as I was living in limbo waiting for my house to sell in Tennessee, my email was receiving a series of messages from Terry’s Ford of Peotore, Illinois addressed to someone named Susan, who was apparently shopping for a new automobile in the Chicago area.
A steady stream of messages from twitter began in August 2013, reminding Tiffany to confirm her twitter registration. She better hurry and do it, the messages are still coming in more than a year later.
There are regular messages and newsletters from Desiree, a realtor in Santa Clara, California, with real estate listings, mortgage rates, and open house listings. Sorry I haven’t responded, but it wasn’t actually me who provided my email address at one of your open houses, on your website, or via email or an internet site. But if I do ever need help from the “Rodeo Realty Estates Director” I know who to contact.
Someone named Tyler recently completed a survey at a kiosk at the Fayette Mall, and my email address received a lovely thank you message and follow up email invitation to complete “shorter surveys on your smartphone or from home for cash or points.” I bet if Tyler knew he could be getting paid for his opinion he wish he’d typed his own damned email address.
And another parent in another school district is probably missing some important school information. This time it’s the Bethlehem Elementary School, Bethlehem, New Hampshire sending the 4-1-1 for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years addressed to someone named Tamther. Again, not me. I hope the real Tamther, parent of the real student isn’t feeling left out of the loop. I, on the other hand, am feeling knowledgable and well informed about this year’s fall festival.
I could take the time to unsubscribe from all the new misdirects, but I rather enjoy checking in periodically to learn what my email address/cyber self is up to. Especially since the old email me has more happening than the real me.