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Got spam? The irking electronic invasion

By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2003

I guess it was bound to happen.

Last week I was solicited to buy software designed to reduce spam, the electronic kind, and the means of solicitation was, of course, spam.

And I learned that those wonderful people who make cell phones have found yet another way to make them even more obtrusive in the hands of the rude and/or the not-too-bright.

Life was simpler when Spam was chopped pork pressed into a loaf, and telephones were big black things that weighed a ton and were permanently wired to the wall.

Probably much to the sorrow of Hormel, the people who have been making the more palatable variety of Spam since 1926 and own the trademark, "spam" today, with the lower case first consonant, refers to unsolicited e-mail from people trying to get you to buy or believe something you don't want to.

A Web site for Spam fans says that if all of the cans of Spam ever eaten were placed end to end, they world circle the globe at least 10 times.'

I say that if all of the people responsible for sending out electronic spam were laid end to end, it would be a good thing.

In home and business e-mail accounts, I receive approximately 80-100 pieces of spam every day. It comes from people who want me to mortgage my home, buy products, look at dirty pictures, support political points of view and make non-existent dying children somewhere happy by mindlessly forwarding e-mail.

I have my personal account set so that everything not coming from someone I already know goes automatically to "junk" mail, but they only empty the junk mailbox every couple of days, so if I don't log on to dump the stuff, my box is filled to capacity in a very short time.

The stuff also affords me a rather interesting view of what my image is to corporations who use spam. They think I am an overweight deadbeat who never pays his bills, who is obsessively worried about his physical endowments and sexual performance and who does nothing but spend hours looking at pornography.

Frankly, I resent that.

I always pay my bills.

The clincher came the other day, however, when I looked at my business account and saw a piece of spam which came from someone named "spam hunter," and offered me a chance to "say goodbye to spam."

All I have to do is buy this company's software, and my life will be spam-free, even, apparently, from pests like them.

On the phone front, I say proudly that I have still avoided the cell phone trap. I bought one for my wife when she was making a regular long commute at odd hours, but she rarely uses it.

When I bought it, I made sure it had as few functions as possible. I don't want a phone that browses the Internet, gives me the weather, lets me play games or lets me take and send pictures. If I am talking to my boss and telling him I am deep in the wilds of Hernando County looking for an elusive interview, I don't want to hit the wrong button and have him get a gander of the beach volleyball game I am watching.

The new wrinkle I have run into recently is the walkie-talkie feature, through which cell phone users can now make us listen to both ends of their interminable inane conversations.

And, trust me, all that I have heard are inane. It's like a handheld CB radio being used for saying things like "Mercy sakes. Mercy sakes, you still got a copy on me, come back?"

Hey, sparkie, check it out, the walkie-talkie function can also be used without the speaker function, and Smokey can't get in your britches while you are in the cereal aisle at the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

I can't wait until somebody crosses the two and we start getting speakerphone, walkie-talkie spam, with the mindless chatter interrupted by commercials telling us we have just won a free vacation and all we have to pay for is the transportation, rooms and meals.

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P.S. To the letter writer last week who said I was lost in the '70s and had dry opinions: I salute your right to express your opinion and am not trying to get the last word in, but for the record, I am lost in the '60s; I hated leisure suits.

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