... has become the way forward for too many e-mail pests. How Mohan Sivanand deals with them every single day.
I ought to write “Manage spam, delete forwards” next to the 9am slot for every single day in my desk diary. But then I don’t write “Brush teeth” next to 6am either. I automatically start my workday by deleting spam, or at least most of it.
Today, there’s one from young Ayeda in Nigeria. “My name is Ayeda Musa,” she writes, “and I am a girl… and personally became interested in being your friend, and even more, as time goes on we will get to know each other better.”
For me, at age 60, this was like a blast from the past. “Dear Ayeda,” I wrote. “Where are you, Sweetheart? Send me your picture, and I will tell you how old I am.”
And there was V. Vasudevan. “Please Help!!!” he e-mailed me recently, “I had to rush off to Spain… and robbers made away with my air ticket, cash and other valuables. I am stranded in a hotel. Please can you loan me $2000 so that I can settle my bills and book the next flight home? I promise to pay you back.”
Now, that’s money I could easily part with. Why, in November I’d won half a millionUK pounds from the “Office of British Telecommunication.” I’d also won £500,000 from a “BBC 2012 Poverty Alleviation Program.” Another £365,000 from Coca-Cola. And just nine hours ago, I learnt as I write this, yet another “half a million UK pounds from Coca-Cola.” There’s also a Mrs Regina Matthew, who e-mailed me from Ivory Coast. Her late husband Joe Matthew left her 6.5 million US dollars. Regina, childless, is herself about to die of cancer. So she wants to give it all to me.
I worry, Just what do I do with so much money? One reason why I responded to Vasudevan in Spain:
I am so sorry to hear this. In fact only yesterday I’d met your cousin Madhavan, who told me that you were away. Please let me know how I can call you and send you the money. I can ask a friend in Spain to help you. Are you in Madrid? Meanwhile, take care.
Vasudevan was quick to reply [copy-pasting, unedited]:
Thanks a lot please you can send it via western union money transfer with my name on this address: Casas de Miravete 28-B, Madrid, Spain.
We corresponded for a few more days, me with excuses for my delay in sending the money, and he sounding increasingly frantic. I finally forwarded our entire correspondence to the Spanish consulate in Mumbai, asking them to “please send it to the Madrid police for further action.”
Routinely deleting forwards is an important part of my daily 9am spam-management ritual. This way useful e-mails alone show up.
In the past, forward normally meant the opposite of backward. Today forward is a full-fledged noun: a piece of unsolicited e-mail you get from a former colleague, a retired uncle, new pal or some random pest who’s got hold of your e-mail address. It works something like this: Retired Uncle gets an unsolicited e-mail. He reads it and is so excited, he wants to share it. He forwards it to all his surviving nearest and dearest not realizing that, in the process, he’s become another pest. One dear former colleague spams me on average thrice a day—forcing me to erase 1095 forwards a year, from just one sender.
Despite spam being such a global phenomenon, few people know or remember the origins of the word. Before our Internet Age, spam just meant meat, spiced ham actually, which often came in a can. The connection with e-mail derives from an episode in an old British TV comedy in which spam featured in almost every dish in a cafe, and where the word spam is said about 132 times.
Experts at first distinguished the two by calling the inedible one “electronic spam,” which at any rate has much more variety. For instance, one offered to flatten my tummy. I did not respond, although it might have helped me. A second one offered to unflatten another part of my anatomy. I didn’t need it, but I responded (notice how spam can make you act irrationally). “No, thanks,” I wrote. “I’m quite satisfied with the size of my breasts.”
I also replied to Regina Matthew, the childless, terminally-ill lady who wanted to give me her millions:
Very sweet of you to think of me. Sorry, must be so long, I can’t really remember when we last met. Anyway, tell me what I must I do to get the money?
Your adopted son, Mohan
A religious soul, Regina replied. “Faced with life’s uncertainty,” she wanted me to send her my “direct contact information—full name, home address, phone, fax and bank details—to enable me to obtain an authorization letter that will officially and legally approve you as the next of kin…” The kind lady ended with, “Please remember to put me in your daily prayers for God’s healing in my life.”
I have not prayed for Regina so far—because if she survives the cancer, I might lose $6.5 million.
By evening I also heard from the beautiful, 23-year-old Ayeda Musa in Nigeria. She’d attached her photo, as per my request. Recall how, in her first e-mail, she was personally interested in me, but all that charm had evaporated in a matter of hours. All she wanted to do now was share her dear departed daddy’s $10.5 million with me. How insensitive!
And Vasudevan? After I blew the whistle on him, having forwarded our correspondence to the Spanish consulate, I’d hoped that the policía in Madrid would act fast. I’d imagined those cops walking him out of apartment 28-B, all handcuffed and humiliated, into a van waiting outside Casas de Miravete.
They’d then hold a proper Spanish inquisition, charge Vasu under what would be their equivalent of our Section 420, maybe even deport the crook back to India. He’d be all over the papers, on TV and Twitter for having finally been apprehended by the ingenious efforts of a Mumbai journalist who went out of his way to forward…
Did I say forward? Maybe that’s why you didn’t see all those things happening to Vasudevan—or to me. Somebody at the Spanish consulate must have thought, Uno más plaga! [One more pest!] Just before deleting one more forward.
Caption: You’ve got mail—with the real thing!
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