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Column: It's hard to junk all those pesky e-mail pitches

January 19, 2001 

The first thing I do when I start up my office computer is delete the dozens of unsolicited business opportunities, corny jokes, satellite dish pitches, and offers to put me politically in touch with "the truth."

It's not uncommon for 60 of these e-mails to await me in the morning — everything from elixir salesmen to the constant right-wing rantings of a guy from Jupiter.

I keep hitting the "delete" key, missing my chance to gamble away my paycheck with online blackjack, to "discover products and services with profit margins of 10,000 percent," and to check out the daily yuks on the Christian Humor Network, where I can buy "Hot Christian Music for $9.99 and LESS!"

I don't know who volunteered me for all this electronic abuse. I know I've gained a few pounds lately, but not enough to deserve "Miraculous Weight Loss Almost Over Night!!!!!"

Phone offers some satisfaction

At least when somebody makes annoying solicitations on the phone, I have the satisfaction of hanging up in mid-pitch or pretending I don't speak English. With the computer, there isn't that satisfactory up-your-nose-with-a-rubber-hose feeling.

The computer is more insidious, especially with those messages that purport to be responding to my request. As if I really wanted to secretly learn the Social Security numbers of my neighbors, or that I might actually be looking to buy a Ph.D. diploma from a "prestigious, non-accredited university."

Sheesh! Then, a new low happened this week.

"You have been added to Mingles Members," a message informed me.

Whoa! Who could possibly mistake me for a mingler? I haven't mingled since the Ford Administration — before the Mayaguez incident. I'm a virulent anti-mingler. I don't cavort, either. And my ability to "interact" is related inversely to the size of my prostate.

"Thanks for joining the Mailing List!" the message said.

That's it, I thought. I'm taking some action. Nobody's going to accuse me of being a mingler.

Up until now, I've ignored e-mail offerings, figuring that if I remain silent, they'll eventually go away.

But this mingling group was too disturbing. What if somebody I actually know saw my name listed as a mingler? It could be one of my neighbors.

"So Frank, I hear you're mingling these days?" he might say.

I'd parry with, "I hope you're not trying to get my Social Security number."

But the damage would be done.

Minglers meet in Boca

So I checked into this mingling Web site, and it turns out that every Thursday night, there's something called a Midnight Mingle in one of Boca Raton's watering holes.

Certainly not for me. By midnight, I've already logged two hours in the recliner and am sporting a crusty trickle of drool.

"Our crowd is composed entirely of local, upscale professionals," it said.

There were photos of people mingling. And for a mere $15, I could be in their presence.

I'd rather clean squid.

"Please unmingle me from your list," I e-mailed Mingles, "and take the appropriate sanctions against the person or persons who suggested I might have mingling tendencies."

I felt smug and satisfied. For approximately two minutes.

Then my computer burped back a message.

"You do not appear to be subscribed to that list," it said, referring me to another e-mail address to unsubscribe.

But that address just offered me a chance to become a member of a related site.

I quickly exited, hoping I was fast enough to avoid detection.

Frank Cerabino,

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