Ted (merovingian) wrote,


I met Wally in 1992 in a surly but delicious diner in North Carolina. I was vacationing from Berkeley to see a friend; he went to school at UNC and worked in the research triangle. We were both very excited about a crazy new thing called email.

We exchanged addresses, excited to meet fellow enthusiasts. Soon, I'd regret it a little, and then a lot.

Wally kept sending me chain letters and forwarded jokes, and nothing else.

The Niemann-Marcus cookie recipe. Craig Shergold's pleas for Get Well cards. Bill Gates' test for a free trip to Disneyland. Good luck chains where you made a wish. Warnings that Congress was going to cancel Sesame Street. Amazing magical equations you could do with your age and a random number you picked.

He sent them to everyone he knew. I ignored them as best I could.

When I graduated, I made a .forward file and sent my college email to my exciting new HoTMaiL account. All of Wally's mass emails went right into the spam filter, where it belonged.

I still check that account once in a while. Last night, I looked in the spam folder, and I saw another cookie recipe from him. I sent him email asking how he was, but also asking him to stop. The mail bounced: no such address. No such sender. I checked the full headers, and the sending IP was bogus. It's easy to fake a sender's address, but I don't know any way to forge a sending IP in SMTP.

I Googled his name and got an old newspaper archive obituary. Wally died in 1994 in a surprise freak accident - someone in the next office over opened a letter from the Unabomber. The glass window of the door to the computer lab exploded, and a shard lodged in Wally's spine, killing him instantly while he was typing an email. He was dead before he could have heard the boom.

He doesn't know that the 90s are over. He never saw websites, or spam filters, or MP3 sharing, or the Dotcom Bubble.

Wally's a ghost now, but he's still sitting at his desk, forwarding email to his friends. He doesn't know that he and his paleological email chains are both dead.

Fun Fact: Spam from beyond the grave is still just as annoying!
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