Thursday, January 22, 2015

Unconventional Means of Establishing Familiarity

I so admire this spamming gambit. Spammers Kevin Lantz, Carl Ashton, and someone named Charlize have been emailing me for many years now. Their stuff goes directly to my junk folder, but I browse that folder periodically to ensure I'm not losing good mail. And as I do, I become more and more familiar with their names. So much so that it's only a matter of time before an email from one of them evades my spam filter, and I remark, pleasantly, "oh, look, an email from Carl!" and do something I've never done before: click and read. I won't actually buy anything of course, but in the fervid battle of spammers trying to attract my attention, it will be their biggest win in two decades.

In the 1980's, my friend Frank lived at the corner of First Avenue and 10th Street in Manhattan - a notorious corner for pot dealers at the time (nowadays, you're more likely to be offered a share of a limited liability partnership with favorable tax benefits). Each time he came home, he'd be mobbed by guys hissing "Smoke? Smoke? Smoke?". He tried reasoning with them. "Look," he told one dealer, "I live right here. And I don't buy pot. Is there any chance you can just leave me alone?" "Sorry, dude," he replied. "A ton of people go by here every day; it's impossible to remember every face."

I proposed a solution. Every time Frank went in or out of his building, and was approached by a dealer, I suggested that he look meaningfully into the guy's face and say, simply, "Rice Chex". Repeat for a day or so with every dealer he encountered, and Frank would forevermore be the guy who says "Rice Chex" (he wouldn't even need to keep saying "Rice Chex"). And the guy who says Rice Chex doesn't buy drugs. Problem solved!

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