Friday, July 20, 2012

Spam is maps spelt backwards

I have this secret email account. Big, big secret. Even you don't know the address. I've never signed up to anywhere with it, I've never included it on a form, I have denied its very existence. But it's there. And spam finds it anyway.

Well, it does and it doesn't. It's a gmail account and I've been using it since 2004 solely as a writing archive. When I finish a piece or a good-sized chunk of it, I obviously save it and back up too but I also email it to myself. Specifically this: I email it from that secret account to that secret account.

If I email it from anywhere else, if you squirrel out the address and email it yourself, or if anyone tries to send it spam, I will never know. Well, I might figure out the one where it's me emailing. But the archive remains pristine and untouched by anything except writing attachments because everything else is immediately deleted. I don't see a bean of it, it's just toast straight away.

It's been great except that as it's a gmail account, when I wanted to join Google+ I thought I either had to reveal this address or make a new one. I made a new one. You can well believe how tedious it was having to repeatedly log out of one and into the other, to remember which was which and where you were. But then I found that even with my new gmail address, even with me on Google+, I was getting a lot of people inviting me to join the service – and they were inviting me by my Secret Address.

Hopefully I just wigged out some time in the last eight years and let this address slip but even if that's the case and it's not that Google was toying with me, the result was that I did not see one of these invitations. How could I? Instant toast.

Some people got annoyed with me never responding. This is how I found out. By then, though, the number of invitations to join and the idea of having to go through all of them saying I already had, I just skipped the lot. Haven't been back to Google+ since.

And I haven't looked in the toast bin since, either.

Until this week.

This week I've been doing a thing and a friend has been helping me out and somehow, somewhen, she got my Secret Email Address instead of my real one. I don't know why, she doesn't know why, it doesn't matter and she mentioned on Facebook that she'd emailed thisaway so I knew about it.

But nipping into my gmail trash to get her email, I think I've found where all human life is hiding.

So much spam. If you get spam all the time then you're shrugging at me now but my real address gets practically none. It gets so little that when one gets through, it's maddening. And here was a flood of the stuff to an address I believed no one had. There's plenty of evidence to say I must've given it out some time, but very intriguingly some of the spam has been sent to email addresses that are almost but not quite my secret one.

I forwarded my friend's email, then deleted everything in the trash and waited.

When I checked back the next morning, there were ninety new messages and together they told the story of a life. I've not edited these, I may have nudged the order on one or two and I've dropped a lot of duplicates. A lot of duplicates. But where spam used to be Viagra and Rolex watches and Nigerian bank fraud, now it's a story:

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We all hate spam, but it's out there everyday, creating fiction. Or at least creating outlines for stories: spam can be a map of a character's entire life. I think the story you read just there is really mostly inside your head. But that means you wrote it, the spam outlined it, I just retyped the thing. I've gone off this whole idea now.

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