Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Today only!

Feast with me, won't you, on today's low-hanging fruit.

My email has fallen into ruins. Soon and somehow, I need to fix it. But I have found it entertaining to see what spam I attract, and good for my right wrist to press "delete" hundreds of times at a sitting, and click "erase deleted items" at the end.

In a 24-hour period yesterday, I received 314 emails, a typical haul. Eight emails were from people I know, sending me real information about real work — updates on a freelance project, or a matter to take care of in my absence.

The rest is a torrent of sales pitches: Relentless, rolling, arriving in batches of bizarre themes. My computer signals incoming emails with the cartoon sound effect of an arrow finding a hollow target — thock! Were I in my home office all day, this barrage of email would have sounded like an archery tournament.

I attempted literally to chart the emails I hauled in yesterday, to track the themes. I had created a table in a word processing document, listing the addressee, the subject line, and some detail about the email itself. Then I erased each email, one at a time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Long after I should have quit, I actually did: The list of junk teetered virtually over my head, overwhelming me. Once the trends became clear, I resorted to pen and paper, writing down the theme, then ticking off each repeated email.

I charted enough to note the peculiar grammar of the email subject lines, enough to tell me these may not be the people they say they are. They might not even be people; I hope they're not. I'd hate to be the people who slave away in dank cubicles, sending me this stuff.

Let me get the usual players out of the way first. I get a lot of political stuff; maybe you do too. I have not encouraged this. At one time in my young life, I registered as a Democrat. Even though I belong to no party now, that doesn't stop the Democratic Party and anything tangentially related.

So I get "personal" emails from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, usually for money ($3 is the key amount asked for from not only Pelosi but Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, among other leaders). Send $3 or the GOP will destroy us, or the terrorists win, or global warming will end us all. Send $3. My favorite has been when Democratic leaders have asked me to sign a birthday card for President Obama.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sends for money all the time, as does the Human Rights Council, LeftAction (Sign this petition!), Credo Action (Sign that petition!), Everytown for Gun Safety, Environmental Action and some global activist group called Avaaz.

A Democratic-leaning "news" aggregate called The Daily Kos has lived up to its name. "I need Shawn Turner to read this email," it announced yesterday.

It has been a small swarm of email pests, nothing too concerning. Not even the relentless receipt of emails from a congressional candidate named Pete Aguilar, who is running for office somewhere in Southern California and really has no business sending me stuff. My own congressional representative sends far less stuff.

Toss in the other usuals — Angie's List wants me to find a plumber through them; something called AI-AP sends photography and illustration updates even though I never asked; Dodge Ridge sends me ski updates even though I don't ski; Lakeshore Learning sends me store sales even though I haven't taught school in years and all I did was step into their amazingly expensive store a couple of times — and I had still been OK with it.

I could still easily distinguish real emails from the trash.

Now I'm not so sure. I have been afraid lately that I tossed out important emails in my daily delete fest. Real emails are needles in this haystack.

The subjects run in seasonal trends. I had been getting a lot of rather direct sex pitches, from women with exotic names, using strange characters to substitute for dirty words, saying they're lonely.

Those have disappeared, and entirely different themes have taken their place.

When I take the emails as a whole, I wonder what the spamming world thinks of me. I think it has decided I am old and either terrified of it, or am wealthy and lack the sense to hang onto my money.

These are the current trends. In one day I received:
  • Fourteen emails from women with vaguely familiar names — sometimes with asterisks between their first and last names — sending the exact same thing: Some fat-reducing substance endorsed by daytime talk show host Rachael Ray and daytime health huckster Dr. Mehmet Oz.

    The email includes a picture each of Ray and Oz.

    Under the picture of Ray is the caption: Rachael investigates a weird weight loss solution that is quickly gaining popularity in the United States and around the world!

    Under the picture of Oz is the caption: Dr. Oz has not endorsed any product, only the ingredients within Forskolin

    Such as water! Dr. Oz endorses water! Clever doctor, one step ahead of the lawsuits.

    The women with vaguely familiar names always vary the amount of weight Rachael Ray has claimed to have lost from this product, and always refers to a different episode number, such as Episode #0920991.

    Like that makes it authentic.
  • Nine emails about products to seal and protect my garage floors
  • Nine emails about vacation packages — to Ireland! The Bahamas! Africa! On a cruise!
  • Seven emails for a product that tracks my keys by using my smart phone
  • Eleven emails for a diabetes cure
  • Fifteen emails for disease cures in general — two for pulmonary problems, plus gout, anxiety disorders, nerve pain, herpes, hearing loss, ADHD, bad back and bad feet
  • Nine emails for good deals on medical insurance, naturally
  • Ten emails from the vitamin dealer GNC, with one of two pictures: A noir photo a virile young man embracing a woman, the product of desire floating over their heads; or a close crop of a woman's plump legs standing on a scale. Just in case I'm a man or woman
  • Six emails telling me acids are injected into vegetables and that's bad for me. Singer/actress Jennifer Hudson found this out, in a single quixotic campaign, apparently. Thank you, Jennifer Hudson!
  • Three emails for Dr. Oz' memory pills. If Rachael Ray and Dr. Oz are part of these email schemes, to make more money than they already have, shame on their hides!
  • Nine email pitches to replace my windows. These also come from people with vaguely familiar names, and they don't particularly care which brand I pick. Each one, though exactly the same, promotes a different brand
  • Eleven emails for jobs, always from a different person, always with a different number of jobs ideally suited to the résumé I never sent
  • Emails pitching beautiful women, from Colombia, Brazil, the Philippines!
  • Six emails showing how a device the government doesn't want me to know about will pull energy from thin air
  • Nine emails for a pill that stops heart attacks — as seen on NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox!
  • Eight emails that I should buy a walk-in tub
  • Four emails that I should reroof
  • Ten emails to attend online schools, for medical billing, teaching and coding
New trends have emerged. I get more and more emails of variations on Obama as the Antichrist. One from a Mr. Lionel Sanders comes with the title, "Bible Prediction: Obama's Scary Truths Exposed"

It is one of the few of the 314 emails that my powerful email system has color coded and marked as spam. How this one got tagged but not emails suggesting I buy my own jet or yacht (STOP GAWKING AT THE LUXURIOUS YACHTS AT HARBOR!), or buy insurance for my pet, is beyond my puny wisdom.

Along those lines, I'm getting emails that the National Security Administration is spying on me right now — which may very well be true — and I can click here for a record of the NSA's report on me.

I get a daily sprinkling of emails for Voice over Internet Protocol phone deals, hair loss, snoring cures, mortgage relief, "weird ab trick" drugs, gift cards (I am a treasured customer of Marriott, where I have never been), a chance at a time-share, copper socks, auto repair, printer ink, business marketing help, divorce discounts, and cannabis oil for my e-cigarette. Ad nauseam.

Three different people told me about the same single stay-at-home mom who made $89,944 a year, and how I can do the same. The graphic on the email indicates she made $88,844, but who's counting?

Who's even paying attention? Not the people — if they are indeed people — sending me email.

Verbatim from one of the electricity-from-thin-air pitches: "80% of On your electric Bill using thin - Air."

From a walk-in tub pitcher: "The cost Of a Walk In - Tub; is less Than The."

What's with the random punctuation? The sentences that stop in mid-sentence?

If this daily sales frenzy has a common denominator, it's that I have to ACT FAST! Almost all the pitches urge that I must act today to take advantage of this amazing SECRET deal that OBAMA doesn't want me to KNOW about!

Somehow I doubt that.

I've gotta fix this thing, before I get a notion to seal my garage floor.


  1. FYI, I usually start my morning with 2 emails in my spam folder, then get maybe 5 during the course of the day -- all from sources I know. That's it.