The other day I got up at the normal time (ten minutes before class) and started my morning routine: check email, shower, shave, and shine. It used to be just shower, shave, and shine, but then one day last April I performed those important functions and then slogged through a mile in the snow only to find that my class had been cancelled by email. And then, another day, I made the same mistake, minus the snow. So now I greet each morning with Gmail, the healthy way to start your dayTM.
Anyway, what I was saying is that on this particular morning, I found a surprise in my inbox: a generous offer for cheap software. It read something like this:
Adobe Acrobat Professional 9.0 available at the promotional price of $99.95 while supplies last! LIMITED SUPPLIES REMAIN. Don't miss out on this great deal! See details below.
I was shocked—but not because it was such a good offer. On the contrary, I knew it was a worse deal than those "authentic" hand-painted souvenir dishes in Mexico that you can by at a tenth the price from TG Max without having to heckle with a mustachioed drug-lord. I knew, because one time I had bought software at dirt cheap prices online, and received a pirated copy for my money. That was a pretty embarrassing experience, realizing that I could have just pirated it myself and got it for free.
No, the real reason I was shocked was that this spam had got through Gmail's fortress filter and penetrated my inbox. MY inbox. I couldn't believe it. I had almost forgotten what spam was.
I know there was a time when making a joke about spam was as clichéd as making a joke about Monty Python. Ah, those were the days. It was the dot-com era, and inboxes were full of special offers for insurance, online college degrees, cheap software, and (indeed) vjaqra. Everyone would always complain to their pals about the seventy messages in their two-megabyte inboxes and bemoan how much time they wasted sorting through them. But if they were like me, they secretly enjoyed it. In that pre-Facebook age, email was the most exciting way to kill time online. (Don't mention MySpace. It sucked. Still does.) Logging on for the tenth time in a day, seeing "five new messages" gave a certain adrenaline rush. In fact, if it weren't for Facebook, I probably would have had to go through detox like Dr. House, just to break my email habit.
But now, in the fifth year of Gmail, with powerful spam filters, unsubscription options, and the increasing irrelevance of email, I never expected to see spam with my own eyes. Skimming its contents was like gazing upon a relic of a bygone era, a cruder but fresher time when the primitive world had yet to crust over and ossify. Spam. Huh. What's next, a tamagotchi?