Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.


In this day and age, I find it delightfully quaint to receive spam via the fax machine. That's one source of spam I'd never even considered before I started working at my current place of employment. Oh, sure, I was used to spam in my inbox, and junk mail in my mailbox, and the occasional telemarketing call in the evening...but junk faxes? Who knew such a ridiculous thing even existed?

Granted, my previous jobs afforded me little opportunity to mingle much with fax machines. My lines of work never required a lot of faxing, and I came into the workforce shortly after the ascendance of e-mail, I guess, so faxing seemed sort of...unnecessary. All of the documents I needed to move around went by e-mail or regular mail, and fax machines were so persnickety by comparison. It just seemed (and still seems) like a waste of time to go fussing around with them unless there's no way around it. "Which way should the papers be laying?" "Do I have to dial the area code first?" "'PC Load Letter?' What the @#$! does that mean?"

The faxed spam we receive almost always falls into one of three categories:

  1. Hot deals from (alleged) travel agencies ("3 nights in Cancun for $279!!!!!");
  2. Advertisements from (probably fictitious) health insurance companies; and
  3. "Work from home and make BIG MONEY!" stuff.
Noticeably absent from our junk faxes? Advertisements for male enhancement drugs.

When I first started working here, whenever I'd pull a spam fax out of the machine, I'd diligently call the "call if you don't want us to fax you anymore" number listed on each message. A magic robot on the other end of the line would answer, ask for our fax number, and assure me that we'd be removed from their list "shortly." Well, I've been working here for over four years now, and we're still getting junk faxes from the same outfits that were sending them in 2006, so I've got a sneaking suspicion that the magic robot pulled a fast one on me. It probably sits there all day, waiting for rubes like me to phone in just to confirm that yes, we're still getting their messages, and one of these days we're going to cave and order up a whole bunch of health insurance and plane tickets to the Bahamas.

While the faxed spam is a little annoying (not to mention wasteful, from a paper standpoint), for some reason I find it far less annoying than most other forms of spam. Unlike telemarketing calls, they don't require me to do the "I want to hang up but I don't want to be rude because of that time I was a telemarketer for four days and I felt like my soul was being sucked out of my body" dance with the poor dope on the other end of the line. It wastes less paper than junk mail (no return envelopes, pledge cards, or address labels to shred), and junk faxes pose no threat to the security of my e-mail (or of filling up my inbox while I'm on vacation).

Faxing is so...20th century. Most spammers nowadays don't take the time to send something so time- and resource-consuming; it seems old-fashioned compared to sending out a million e-mails, doesn't it? If the e-mail spammers are emblematic of our age, then the fax spammers are relics of a different time, a simpler time. I'll bet the fax spammers have excellent penmanship, and are always sure to mail their friends and loved ones thank-you notes after they receive a card or gift for a special occasion. They meticulously write on the backs of their photographs so they know where and when they took them, and who's in them, and they always send duplicates along to their friends. They hold doors open for people walking behind them, and when their dogs do their business on their evening walks, they always have a plastic bag handy to pick up after them. When they talk about the state of spam these days, they throw up their hands in disgust and mutter about how the kids today, they take no pride in their work.

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