(This is dedicated to one of my best friends, Debbie E. Figgins, who has emailed me all sorts of stuff, most notably online petitions to save things that aren’t even endangered yet.)

As we move through life, we learn new things. Everyone knows that. The sun will always rise in the east. Male-enhancement drug companies will have a gigantic advertising budget. And like clockwork, random emails will find all of those with computer access (basically everyone in the world except my mom).

Call me old fashioned, but I believe email was intended to communicate ideas and personal messages. Looks to me like we’re abusing it. The telephone more or less maintained the course. Sure, we have bothersome telemarketers and drunken booty calls. But you have never heard anything like this:

“Hey, Paul. Sorry to call you about this, but I can’t risk taking the chance. Someone called me with some sort of a chain message, and if I don’t call 23 people in the next 5 minutes, I may not get what I just wished for. It really works because I heard that my friend’s uncle’s second-grade art teacher’s grand-cousin who used to be Bill Gates’ assistant just broke his hip because he didn’t pass it on. Okay, see you later.”

Nor did Alexander Graham Bell ever say, “Watson, let’s boycott KFC because they hurt chickens, go figure.”

Yet, we forward stuff like that all the time. It can be a bad dick joke that you heard 10 years ago but for some unforgivable reason has been resurrected in cyberspace. It can be a special, uplifting spiritual message which can motivate even the grumpiest person to love life and live it to the fullest…which is indeed nice to read, but that message usually ends in a guilt-laden threat that you better forward it to 38 people including the person who sent it to you or else you’re a bad person and God may not like you anymore. (The severity of the warning lies in the fact that there is no emoticon for it.)

And then there’s the personal questionnaire, which is a combination of Mad Libs and a dating service application (um…so I’ve heard). The purpose of this quasi-survey is to annoy people who have work to do. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s the result of the survey. The purpose is for the sender to find out a little more about their friends, because let’s face it, how often have you wondered about which kitchen appliance your buddies like most? It’s an important opinion that could make or break a friendship, for crying out loud!

Some say that these little question lists are actually subtle psychology tests. I can believe that, because often times when I’m curious as to what kind of personality someone has, I bypass spending time with them and instead just ask them, “Hey, what’s your mousepad say on it?” It’s a big time saver, people.

What I find amusing and a bit ironic is that the same people to pass on these inquisitive lists are the same people to sniff out a hoax. “Just so you know, Keith, there is no Prince of Egypt who generously distributes money. It’s a scam that targets the gullible. You shouldn’t pass on emails unless they’re worthwhile. But hey…if you could be an animal and could have lunch with any living or dead person, what kind of tree would you be?”

That’s just one example on a long list of inane questions on these emails. They’re sent with the sender’s answers attached. When you reply, you’re supposed to delete their boring responses, fill in your own, then send it to people who you think may give a crap.

Yes, one day, I did give in and fill one out. Here’s a sample of my replies…

Q: If you could build a house anywhere, where would it be?
A: Above a basement somewhere.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: In the basement of my future above-basement house.

Q: Where is your least favorite place to be?
A: You apparently didn’t read my last column.

Q: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
A: The ability to send an electric shock to anyone whose cell phone rings in a movie theatre.

Q: Favorite color?
A: Kool Aid

Q: Do you have a tattoo?
A: Yes, it’s a picture of a birthmark on my leg.

Q: Do you juggle?
A: Dammit! No, I don’t…Is it too late to change my super power answer?

Q: What is in the trunk of your car?
A: Locked up emotions. And parking tickets.

Q: From the people you will email this to, who is the least likely to respond?
A: Bill Gates and maybe Santa.

Q: Who is the most likely to respond?
A: If I’m lucky…the Prince of Egypt.

Categories: Columns