Casual

PODHORETZ, JOHN

Casual YOU'VE GOT JUNK MAIL It's midnight. I've just gotten home after 12 hours away from a computer, and before going to bed I trudge to the desktop to check my e-mail. As I watch, the little...

...It's porn on the hour...
...There are programs that automatically search out any and every such public address, add it to a never-ending mailing list, and bingo...
...Now here we are, smack-dab in the middle of the '00s, and we're not so busy any longer...
...Or that we were important...
...How can I possibly handle 121 e-mails at midnight...
...Yes, my own e-mail is essentially accusing me of being impotent, bald, fat, and suicidal...
...A delighted answer by a writer to a fan e-mail I sent him about a piece he wrote...
...Words fail me...
...We can't help equating an overstuffed e-mail inbox with a third-grade locker on February 14 that's filled to the top with valentines...
...We were strutting like peacocks, and being busy was our plumage...
...All I have to do is forward my bank account number and the routing number off my checks...
...Will it never end...
...And yet, if I don't deal with them, by morning there will be another 75 on top of those...
...But somewhere in the midst of the corruption, greed, and lasciviousness, there's a long missive from my niece in London...
...As I watch, the little number in parentheses next to the word "Inbox" in my Outlook Express program begins to roll upwards like the point counter on a pinball machine...
...Or, rather, it's no longer considered acceptable to brag about being busy...
...I now also receive, on a daily basis, e-mails from innumerable relatives of innumerable deposed or dead African potentates...
...Evidently, these sadly departed or exiled leaders all have tens of millions of dollars in bank accounts...
...We had to get to the airport to fly to a meeting...
...Oh, it was all just so exhausting...
...Of course not...
...Also I am regularly offered Viagra, Rogaine, weight-control pills, and antidepressants at low cost...
...The language that appears in the "Subject" line of the dirty e-mails is shocking even to me, and I once lived in the middle of pre-Giuliani Times Square on a block that seemed to be the center of the transvestite-prostitute trade in New York...
...I have 121 unread e-mails...
...Last year, according to Wired news, 2,600 Americans fell for this scam and found themselves bilked out of $345,000...
...Or that we were making fortunes...
...For my troubles, I will receive a huge commission...
...Man, were we all busy...
...Here's what I know about my 121 unread e-mails: More than 100 are unwanted, unneed-ed, and will go unread...
...So instead, we whine about our e-mail burden...
...Some valentines...
...These are the nuggets of gold for which we all must pan through the slime and dirt of our electronic in-boxes...
...Too busy to take 45 minutes for lunch, too busy to go to the gym, too busy to do much of anything except work and talk about how busy we were...
...After all, we've been in an economic slowdown for some time, and we all know people who lost boom-time jobs...
...Almost everybody I know com plains about excessive amounts of e-mail...
...They'd strangle us with our laptop cords...
...It was a not-so-subtle way of saying we were in demand...
...And the photographs...
...Remember the 1990s...
...They are the newest manifestation of the peculiarly American habit of complaining about how busy you are...
...Of course, if I were to do that, I would find my bank account emptied in a matter of minutesó because, let's face it, you can't ever trust a deposed African potentate whose relatives know how to use e-mail...
...Are we going to brag to them about how busy we are...
...I let out a groan of distress that causes my wife to call to me and ask what on earth is wrong...
...But come on...
...Of those orphans, at least 25 will be unsolicited offers of sexual favors...
...JOHN PODHORETZ...
...I could never understand how it was that I became the recipient of so many dirty missives, until somebody explained that it comes from having my e-mail address appear regularly on the web (at the tag end of my newspaper pieces...
...Once the evildoers go looking elsewhere, Deposed-Guy Relative will take the money back...
...I don't buy these complaints for a moment...
...The weariness with which we discussed our busy-ness in the 1990s was a bluff...
...An actual photograph of a baby sleeping atop a sleeping golden retriever...
...It's really no burden...
...We had a conference on the 15 th, an executive retreat on the 17th, and Billy's soccer championship on the 19th...
...The relatives ask sheepishly if perhaps they could wire those millions into my bank account for a few days to hide them...
...And they're worth it...
...Their relatives inform me that some evildoers want to seize that money...
...And yet I am happy that it's clogging my inbox...

Vol. 8 • February 2003 • No. 20


 
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