If variety is the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam. —Johnny Carson
Every time I see or use the word Spam, I wonder how many people understand how the word originated. The processed meat, which my late grandfather ate with crackers on a daily basis, is composed of, now pay attention, Shoulder of Pork And Ham. See it? SPAM. Never mind that it was the trash pieces of those cuts, or that the congealed fat that gathered on the outside of a cut could be used as a substitute for bicycle grease, nor that one could consistently find large, inedible pieces of gristle back in the day. What actually gave the product its bad reputation was that is low price often made it the only meat-like product poor people could afford. The stigma was social more than anything else.
Ray Tomlinson, who invented the first email program on what would eventually become the Internet, passed away earlier this month and was appropriately mourned by tech geeks everywhere. His program that allowed for the digital communication of direct messages was exploited almost the instant it became public. For many of us, the first email we received was from a systems administrator explaining how email works. The second email we received was from a Nigerian prince who needed our assistance. In that instant, we started referring to the junk mail of the Internet as spam.
While I’ve not received a request from a Nigerian prince in several years now, I do still get plenty of spam. Microsoft co-founder and richest person in the world, Bill Gates, has famously said that he gets more spam than anyone, and I’ve no reason to doubt that is true because a) his name has a high recognition factor, b) his email address was, for many years, public knowledge, and c) he uses the Internet a lot. It is that last aspect, our Internet use, that sparks a great deal of the spam we now get. We leave a trail when we visit websites and marketers are able to follow that trail to see where our interests might be and then send us spam accordingly.
Even with all the data mining tools available, though, sometimes spam shows up that has no bearing on anything we might ever need, totally out of context. I get enough spam that I have to empty my spam folder on a daily basis. I pay a little attention to this because, occasionally, email I actually need gets caught in the spam folder and I might otherwise miss it. I never fail to be amused, though, by the spam that comes in so amazingly out of context.
For example, here are some examples from my morning spam:
- Bra comfort. “Comfy, seamless, front-zip bras” the subject line teases. That’s nice. I know I’ve put on a little weight, but not only do I not wear a bra, Kat doesn’t either. We don’t shop for lingerie at all, so this popping up every day just makes me shake my head.
- Private jet rentals. This has been a recent but frequent addition to my spam folder. I haven’t even flown commercially in over 11 years, so I’m not sure why anyone would mistakenly think that I need to use private aircraft and it’s absolutely laughable to think I could afford them.
- Savory cherries. “How you can grow your own delectable cherries,” is the subject line. This one’s a little more curious because, while we do have a garden, cherries require something more in the orchard category and take years of growth before there’s anything to harvest. And who in their right mind mail-orders trees? You have to look at those things.
- Yacht rentals. Same category as the private jet rentals. These people obviously don’t realize how little money I have.
- Magical African Safaris. When this first showed up in my spam box I assumed they were talking about photo safaris. No, they’re not. The funniest thing about this spam, though, is that it is incomplete. Apparently the mass email program they’re using has a character limit the copywriter didn’t know about. The email actually ends mid-sentence.
- Exotic Arabian Girls. Today, they’re Arabian. Tomorrow, they may be Russian and the day after that they’ll be Brazillian. Given my profession, I can see where my email might accidentally get mixed up into this group. But the joke’s on them: people pay me for pictures, not the other way around.
I could go on for pages. Understand, as long as the spam doesn’t contain viruses or trojans, and little does anymore (there are more effective ways to hack your computer), I can’t get upset with marketers who are just trying to get my attention. Be sure, someone out there is clicking on this stuff. The numbers ultimately work, even when there is zero chance of me actually using the product.
What pisses me off are the pieces that are frighteningly accurate in their targeting. Walk-in showers. Natural arthritis medications. Soft sole shoes. What really gets my goat is the wrinkle cream. Don’t remind me I’m getting old. Every morning I have to ask Kat for help getting out of bed is enough of a reminder that I’m not getting any younger. I don’t need your spam to remind me.
Oh, but look, I may have just qualified for a $50 Sam’s card! Too bad we’re only members at Costco.