Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias I was logging on to the Internet with our home computer as Cindy retrieved our �physical� mail left by our postal carrier in our mailbox earlier that day.

Cindy, like most of us, sorts through the envelopes sent to our home each day with a sense of anticipation.

She likes to read letters from friends and relatives. She likes to receive cards. She enjoys perusing the magazines delivered to us by mail.

She even likes reading the Plain Talk every Friday.

�Darn,� she said, tossing the handful of envelopes on the couch. �Nothing here but more letters from banks telling us we�ve ?already been approved� for a new credit card.�

There�s just one problem, of course. We don�t want another credit card. Nor do we care much for letters from places we�ve never heard of asking us for money, even if they are doing good work.

And, of course, we�re starting to receive mailings from political candidates. I shudder to think how many trees will give up their lives this year to help elect someone to Congress.

Just as Cindy determined all our mail was junk and pitched it in the trash can, the modem on our computer stopped squawking, and I checked our e-mail.

Certainly, I thought, I will have better luck than Cindy.

Here�s what I found:

? An offer to purchase prescription drugs without a doctor�s approval.

? An opportunity to tap into the �high-income opportunity� found in the world�s largest foreign currency markets.

? A message urging me to claim my new credit card. Now! And it doesn�t matter if I have bad credit, no credit, low income or past bankruptcy.

? An message asking me to reap the benefits of working from home. By participating in a highly advanced marketing system on the Internet, I can earn up to $3,000 per week!!!

? A request to consolidate my debt or refinance my home, at the lowest mortgage cost and rate. I could get cash back within 24 hours of approval. And just like that credit card offer, previous bankruptcies or foreclosures are �OK!�

With the simple click of a mouse, all of these fabulous treasures were mine for the asking.

Great wealth. University degrees. A hunky body. Pristine credit. Bigger breasts. Snoreless nights. Enhanced sexual endowment. Sure-fire stock tips. And a potion to make me irresistible to both men and women.

In other words, I got spammed. Spam is the unsolicited junk e-mail that clogs inboxes with incredible bargains, miracle cures and unbelievable schemes. In a single seven-day period, over 100 spams found their way into my e-mail inboxes at home and work.

The sheer volume of spam sent out over the Internet is overwhelming. A recent study by the European Union Commission determined that so much junk e-mail travels through the world�s wires that it eats up an estimated $9.5 billion a year in connection costs.

The term �spam� derives from a Monty Python skit in which a restaurant serves nothing but dishes loaded with Hormel�s much-maligned luncheon meat. As a customer struggles to order a meal without Spam, a chorus of Vikings breaks into a repetitive song of �Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam,� which drowns out every other conversation in the restaurant.

Indeed, spam has become so ubiquitous and despised that many people don�t even bother to open it.

But I did.

Some hawked mundane products, such as out-of-date software programs, golf balls and pagers. But the vast majority offered either get-rich-quick schemes or sexual fulfillment. All I had to do was follow directions. And pay fees, of course � ranging from about $30 to $2,000.

I was left with that same empty feeling that Cindy had when her trip to our mailbox only offered more fodder for our trash can.

I hit the delete button, hoping that at some point I would run across something of substance � a note from a friend, a piece of information with some merit.

An electronic subscription delivered a few newsletters I was interested in.

But sadly, it seems, the information superhighway is lined with lots of litter.

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