Spam better on a sandwich than in e-mail

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 18, 2001

Spam. Where I come from it’s canned meat. It comes in a blue can, makes a pretty good road trip or hunting camp meal if fried and made part of a sandwich that includes fresh white bread, pickles and mayonnaise.

Part of the canned meat family, which should be classified as its own food group in my opinion, it ranks right up there with Vienna sausage and potted meat in my book.

But there’s a whole new kind of Spam these days. Those who use e-mail or keep up with such things know the word &uot;Spam&uot; now also defines a category of correspondence most of us do not want to receive: those incessant e-mail messages, warnings, hoaxes etc. that have been around the cyberspace block numerous times, all with no redeeming value.

Here’s an example. Last week a close friend sent me an e-mail message about something called the Klingerman Virus. The e-mail warned that this is not a computer virus, but a real one, one that kills people, seven out of 23 who have been infected with it.

It seems, as the message’s writers would have us believe, that the virus is spread via U.S. mail. My first thought … HOAX.

But I read on just for fun. According to the message, large blue envelopes containing a note that says &uot;A gift for you from the Klingerman Foundation&uot; are seemingly mailed at random.

Also in the envelope, according to the e-mail, is a sponge containing a deadly virus that infects on contact and has left numerous victims with severe dysentery. Ouch.

The message goes on to quote a Florida police sergeant who said, &uot;We are working with the CDC and the USPS, but have so far been unable to track down the origins of these letters. The return addresses have all been different, and we are certain an e-mailing service is being used, making our jobs that much more difficult.&uot;

Of course, I wondered, what is an e-mailing service? And what would it have to do with some virus allegedly being spread by U.S. Mail? And, unlike other phrases of reassurance common in Spam e-mail like &uot;my cousin caught this&uot; tacked on by sender after sender as the message was forwarded to hundreds of readers, this message contained a more serious attribution. &uot;From Yale New Haven Hospital and Schwab corporate headquarters, so it’s no joke. Very scary. Be careful,&uot; was the warning in the subject line. Then came the closing request, the request that perpetuates the life of all Spam e-mail. Ranking right up there with &uot;Send this to 10 people or something terrible will happen&uot; was the line &uot;send this to everyone you care about.&uot;

I expect I would have, had I not seen the phone number at the bottom. Placed at the end of the message, to add credibility I guess, was the number for Yale University Hospital. I called.

The phone rang two or three times and then an answering machine came on the line: &uot;If you are calling about an e-mail warning of something called the Klingerman Virus, please be advised that e-mail is a hoax and did not originate at Yale University Hospital. For more information you can link to a disclaimer within the press section of our Web site at www.ynhh.org, which links to a disclaimer on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. The CDC page also recommends actions you can take if you are concerned about the contents of any package you receive in the mail. If you received this e-mail, please do not forward it.&uot;

I like the old kind of Spam better. Think I’ll go make a sandwich.

Todd Carpenter, publisher, can be reached him by calling 445-3618 or by e-mail at todd.carpenter@natchezdemocrat.com.