Tuesday, January 12

Gmail Used to Have Standards

Ha, ha, I had an Internet experience over the holiday that really took me back to the olden days of web-based email, an era when I was known in Dirty Muppet chatrooms as Dipst1ck75. I had just signed up with Hotmail and was sending out messages to anyone whose email I had in hopes of receiving a message back, thereby validating myself in this Brave New World. It was so fast, this form of communication! I sent out my inaugural message one afternoon and by the next morning I had several messages in response! One from a college friend. Another from Best Buy. And yet another from a girl named Tracy, who wrote in her subject line "Hey! Why did you leave so early last night?"

Hmmmmm, I thought. I didn't go out last night. I was watching "Last Exit to Brooklyn" with my cat and my boyfriend.

I clicked on the message and it was brief: "Contact me through my webpage!" And there was a link.

Naive Interweb monkey that I was, I felt the need to correct this woman for her mistake. After all, the guy she was really trying to contact was still out there. She should find him!

"Hi Tracy," I typed in my response. "I think you may have gotten the wrong email address. I wasn't out last night. Just wanted to let you know."

I clicked 'send,' feeling like I'd accomplished a selfless act of kindness that could reap dividends of pure goodwill all across the Internet.

Me checking my email back in 1997.

In the ensuing weeks I came to understand how much of a bonehead I was for not realizing that the message from Tracy was actually email spam--a recent invention--and that it was probably sent to a million people at once by some dude named Terry. Because once I had foolishly clicked on that link, Terry/Tracy and his/her many aliaseses (Darla, Carla, Shawanda, Bercleeta, Pam, etc) proceeded to carpet bomb me with any number of disgusting missives touching on topics ranging from sex with loose blondes to sex with loose other types.

So why did this story of Innocence Shattered suddenly reemerge into my 21st century humanoid cranium? Well, on December 27 I received a message in my Gmail account (subject line: Help!!) from a girl named Candice (click on the photo up top to see) that was hilariously desperate and also stupid. Candice, you see, was visiting London and while there she was mugged at "Knife point," which I think is just south of Spitalfields Market on the East End. Anyway, she sent the email "with tears in [her] eyes," which is so brave. And she asked for money because she's lost everything and the hotel guy won't let her leave until she pays him. (To which I say, "you've got a mouth and fingers, don't you?" Trust me, I've been there.) She promised to refund my money as soon as she gets "home," a place that remained unnamed, though it's probably Nigeria. Why had this woman chosen me, out of all the dumb assholes out there?

For the slightest of seconds, the minutest of minutes, I thought that this must be someone I know. Because Gmail used to have standards. They wouldn't let any old Tom, Dick, or Terry join up. You had to be invited. If a message landed in your inbox it was from another human. But now? Well, Gmail isn't a spam parade just yet, but I can see it coming. Luckily I'm a wise old Internet troll now and can't be so easily tricked by oily online charlatans named Candice, unless they're promising me access to a video of David Beckham and Brad Pitt doing the Electric Slide naked, with chubs.

Because I would still totally click on that link.