When A Stranger Emails

You Down With OPE?

“Confronting an irresponsible person is not painful to him; only consequences are.” – Henry Cloud

I’ve had my current primary personal email address for almost two decades. Over the last few months, I’ve received email notifications for services I did not sign up for. After further investigation, I determined that some asshole 7,000 miles away couldn’t be bothered to create their own email address and decided to use mine instead. In other words, they’re down with OPE (Other People’s Email [addresses]).

Leo says this happens for three primary reasons:

  1. Typos: They simply entered the wrong address.
  2. Avoidance: They don’t have an email address but are compelled to provide one to receive services, so they make one up (that happens to be mine).
  3. Mischief: Someone intentionally uses an email address that doesn’t belong to them. I don’t think this applies to most people (and neither does Leo), so I’ll modify this to “Malicious,”  which also includes attempted identity theft.

So what can I do about it?

The “Good” Approach

This is where you assume that the person using your email address made a mistake, and you attempt to get it corrected with the person and/or service provider.

In one case, some idiot signed up for a cardiology clinic’s Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system. They gave out my email address, so I received confirmation emails for their appointments. With this, I could have reset their password, gained access to their account, compromised their electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI), and so forth.

I contacted the clinic directly, notified them of the breach, and demanded they remove my email address from the account. They didn’t, and I continued to receive emails containing ePHI intended for this other person. I emailed them a second time and again and continued to get this person’s emails.

Finally, I filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services as this constituted a HIPAA violation. Then and only then did they fix this…

In another case, some oxygen thief signed up for a gym membership 7,000 miles away using my email address. I received an invoice with their name, birthday, phone number, and membership #.

Again, I attempted to contact the service provider, and again, they made no indication to me that they were the least bit interested in resolving this issue. In this case, since I had this brain donor’s phone number, I decided to reach out to them directly…

It was an international number, so I installed WhatsApp since that’s how most people in that part of the world communicate. So, I downloaded WhatsApp on my mobile phone, created a new account using a throw-away Google Voice #, then got to messaging. I started by sending him his birthday, membership #, invoice #, etc.

He replied, “Yes,” Followed by, “Tell me.”

I came back with, “No, not tell me. YOU tell [redacted] Fitness Club that you signed up for services with someone else’s email address and need to change it.”

He denied this at first, so I asked him, “How else would I have gotten your information?”

“Do you suppose it’s possible that you entered the wrong email address when you signed up, so your details went to a stranger? (Ask me how I know).”

Of course, this dazzling young urbanite asked me, “How?”

At this point (whether it was out of pity or frustration, I can’t say), I explained the concept of rhetorical questions. It was only then that he finally conceded that he’d given them the wrong email address.

“BINGO!” I exclaimed.

As he began to explain how his email had a number in it, I quietly muted the conversation, then went on to delete the WhatsApp account before this Gloopy Nazz could give me more of his personal information…

The “Neutral” Approach

You could ignore, block or delete the message. This does absolutely nothing to resolve the issue. The service provider will continue to send you someone else’s messages, and the intended recipient will be none-the-wiser.

The “Effective” Approach

When you use someone else’s email address to book a reservation, that person will receive a confirmation email. That email will include your itinerary number, which, when combined with an email address, is a costly amount of information:

You down with OPP? Yah, cancel me.

Conclusions?

It’s a terrible idea to use someone else’s email address to sign up for goods and services. If you do, there’s a good chance your personal information will be disclosed to a stranger on the internet. The consequences could be as simple as getting harassed on WhatsApp to as severe as a $400 cancellation fee…or worse.

Post-Modern Prognosticators: 27 Things I Learned From Watching Demolition Man

…I’m the enemy. Cause I like to think, I like to read. I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kind if guy who wants to sit in a greasy spoon and think, “Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?” I want high cholesterol. I want to eat bacon, butter and buckets of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in a non-smoking section. I wanna run through the streets naked with green Jello all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to. Okay, pal? I’ve seen the future, you know what it is? It’s a 47-year-old virgin sittin’ around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake singing, “I’m an Oscar-Meyer Wiener.”
– Edgar Friendly, 2032

In 1993, the cinematic masterpiece, “Demolition Man” made some predictions about what life might be like in the future. It didn’t occur to 27-years-younger me just how accurate those predictions would be… without further adieu, here’s 27 things I learned from watching Demolition Man:

  1. If you’re short on toilet paper, just violate the verbal morality statute!
  2. If you live in a socialist utopia, homeless people will steal all your food
  3. Taco Bell will be the only restaurant to survive the Franchise Wars
  4. John Spartan doesn’t know how to use the Three Sea Shells (I could see where that might be confusing)
  5. Burning buildings are a good indicator that bad guys are nearby
  6. Police are no longer equipped to handle this level of violence

    Behind me is Simon Phoenix’s lair in what appears to be a mostly peaceful protest.
  7. We shouldn’t ask where the meat comes from…
  8. Rat burgers aren’t bad…
  9. In fact, you should be out there hunting rats instead of begging for vegan meat-alternatives (you can thank me later)
  10. Don’t face-time naked unless you’re sure you are calling the right number
  11. Commercials will infiltrate every popular media. Today you can pay to opt out, tomorrow it will be compulsory, and you’ll learn to like it!
  12. Social distancing stops the spread of STDs, the hunka-chunka and other recreational activities
  13. Sandra Bullock enjoys VR sex (presumably with hot anime girls, but will make an exception for John Spartan)
  14. In the future, all meetings will be video conference screens staring at other video conference screens
  15. Wait a minute, this is the future, where are all the phaser guns?
  16. Cars drive themselves (into walls, people and oncoming traffic)
  17. You are an incredibly sensitive man, who inspires joy-joy feelings in all those around you
  18. In the future, there is no more sarcasm
  19. Accusing the savior of your city of being in league with a multi-murder-death-killer is rude
  20. Sewers smell like biscuits ‘n gravy
  21. To catch a multiple murder-death-killer, you just wait around for him to kill another person so you’ll know exactly where to pounce!
  22. John Spartan likes the Chief’s plan
  23. Cocteau reminds Wesley Snipes of an Evil Mr. Rogers
  24. Sylvester Stallone is neither a blow-up-the-bad-guy-with-a-happy-grin-he-man type nor a moody-troubled-past-gunslinger-who-only-draws-when-he-must type
  25. I forgot to say, “Simon Says!”
  26. When you come out of cryo-prison, the first thing you’ll want to do is knit
  27. You can’t take away people’s right to be assholes!

…A Few More Words…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since the anniversary of when it all went down.

There have been a lot of new and exciting changes in my life, things I’ve working for and toward for many years are starting to come to fruition. Success is something to be proud of, to enjoy, to look forward to. This seems (to me) to be the natural order of things but that just isn’t true for everyone.

Some people fear success – are terrified of it in fact. They don’t believe they deserve it, they don’t think they can hold on to it – it makes them feel vulnerable;  the more you have the more that can be taken away.

When he first told me about how he burned his school laptop in a bonfire, I assumed this was a triumphant middle finger to the establishment he’d grown disillusioned with. I never recognized it for what it really was – an offering to Damocles, and a cry for help…

“Take a puppy, abuse him, kick him, mistreat him – he’ll revert to feral carnivore. That his litter brother, pet him, talk to him, let him sleep with you, but train him – he’s a happy, well-behaved house pet.

Take another from the same litter, pet him on even days, kick him on odd days. You’ll have him so confused that he’ll be ruined for either role; he can’t survive as a wild animal and he doesn’t understand what is expected of a pet. Pretty soon he won’t eat, he won’t sleep, he can’t control his functions; he just cowers and shivers.”

– Robert Heinlein, Citizen of the Galaxy

I began writing this post over a year ago. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what happened to the friend I’d lost track of – all I knew was that he was in a bad place, and there was nothing more I could do to help him. I felt angry, bitter and betrayed. In fairness, he wasn’t the first person to make a fuck out of me… and probably won’t be the last – good-natured people are often taken advantage of.

###

In time, that anger gave way to reason. I reminded myself that mistakes are how we learn… or don’t. In any case, they give you pause for thought. It’s not my place to dictate to anyone what they should or shouldn’t do with their life. Everyone has the right to go to hell in their own way. All one can do, all anyone can do, is the best they can.

“…Mate, go do what you gotta do.”
– Sassy the Sasquatch

I Remember

I remember when…

  • I learned that life wasn’t fair
  • I lived a rich life, in my own mind
  • Anything was possible (and nothing was possible)
  • My days were filled with adventure
  • My nights were filled with dreams of what might be
  • I had nothing, and neither realized it nor cared

I remember. I remember when…

  • I lived in a country without freedom of speech, religion or expression
  • I was asked if I spoke English
  • I was picked on for being the ‘American’ kid when I lived abroad
  • I was picked on for being the ‘Foreign’ kid when I came back to the US
  • I believed in God (and other fairy tales)
  • There was magic in the world

I remember! I remember when…

  • I stopped believing in God
  • Phones weren’t mobile
  • Pictures you took had to be developed before you could see them
  • I thumbed through ads for computers I lusted after (but couldn’t afford)
  • I dreamed of making video games for a living
  • I had heroes, and longed to be accepted by them

I remember! I remember when…

  • I swam in a cold river with Ducky
  • I rehearsed Shakespeare with my friend at midnight in the park
  • I was young, beautiful, and accepted (by an outcast rabble in the square)
  • I was hassled by the police for looking like a troublemaker
  • I got serious about my music
  • I did hard labor for a pittance, and dreamed of using my mind for a living

I still remember. I remember when…

  • I stopped believing in heroes
  • People were expected to have manners
  • All we had to protest was McDonalds Hot Mustard being discontinued
  • Racism wasn’t fashionable (or profitable)
  • Only villains demanded that people kneel
  • All lives mattered

I remember.

The Nature of the Scorpion

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

There’s an old fable that tells of scorpion that begs a frog for a ride across the river. The frog replies, “if I give you a ride on my back, you’ll sting me!”

The scorpion assures him, “if I sting you, we’ll both drown!”

The frog accepts this as logical, and agrees to take him across the river on his back. About half way there, the frog feels a sharp pain, his legs go numb – they begin to sink.

“Why did you do it?” asked the frog, “Now we’ll both die!”

“I couldn’t help it,” replied the scorpion, “it’s in my nature!”

###

In other variations, the frog is replaced with a fox. Perhaps this was to illustrate that even a creature as clever and resourceful as a fox is not immune to the cruel indifference of nature.

A modern retelling has the fox place the scorpion on the end of his snout where he can keep an eye on him, flinging him off at the moment he raises his stinger. Interesting, but I think it misses the point (pun intended); The fox learns no lesson and instead, confirms only what he already knew to be true.

The last variation of the story replaces the scorpion’s fellow traveler with a tortoise. According Bidpai (as retold by Maude Barrows Dutton):

Halfway across he was startled by a strange rapping on his back, which made him ask the scorpion what he was doing.

“Doing?” answered the scorpion. “I am whetting my sting to see if it is possible to pierce your hard shell.”

“Ungrateful friend,” responded the tortoise, “it is well that I have it in my power both to save myself and to punish you as you deserve.” And straightway he sank his back below the surface and shook off the scorpion into the water.

###

The scorpion pretends to understand logic and can parrot reasoned arguments, but he is and will always be a slave to his nature. Is there any point to being upset at a scorpion for being a scorpion?

The lesson here (if there is one) is this: You can only trust a scorpion to be himself. And if you are going to try help him, you’d better have thick skin.

…and now I’m Japanese!

In his book, God, No! Signs You May Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales,  Penn Jillette fondly recalls the line, “And now I’m Japanese, so fuck off!” from the mid-80’s porno movie, New Wave Hookers as delivered by the late Jamie Gillis.

Unfortunately for Penn, nowhere in the movie does Jamie say this, or anything like it. What actually happens is that the “Vice Squad” busts in on Jimmy (Jamie Gillis) and his partner, Jamal Lincoln Bubba Washington to break up their “New Wave bitches” prostitution ring.

They confuse Jimmy with Jamal, at which point Jamal jumps up and runs off into the night in his fly, banana-yellow jumpsuit. Jimmy, in all his fo-punk glory, is left to deal with the two agents. What he says next is this:

“Hey, listen guys. Hey, I’m not Jamal, but listen, you take it from me. You’re smart enough to throw in with us, you can have any of these fuckin’ bitches you want, any fuckin’ day of the week you want. Get it guys? I mean, fuck it. Don’t you recognize me? I used to work in your fuckin’ office. And now, I’m rich, I’m satisfied, and I’m Chinese you assholes!”

Not quite the impassioned speech from Penn’s Clorox-scented memories, but there it is. Incidentally, this is all an inception-like shared dream between the two protagonists.

Does it really matter what Jamie (Jimmy?) said? Or is this just another manifestation of the Mandela Effect? Like the plastic-covered seats of a seedy porn theater from a bygone era, memories can be slippery.