Whenever things get really sad, when the smog-blackened snow seeps into my socks and the wind blisters my face and G-Heav charges me a cruel extra dollar for my egg and jalapeño on a morning when I have an oral presentation on a movie I haven’t watched in a foreign language I don’t speak, I cheer myself up by imagining how things could be worse. I imagine that I could be someone who sends phishing emails.
I imagine this cold room in which three cold people huddle around one cold computer. A cold, bare lightbulb buzzes on the ceiling. An empty bottle of vodka. Several empty bottles of vodka.
BORIS: Alvays cold in Siberia … cold like human soul …
NATASHA: Ve haf spent all evenink drinking wodka.
ALEXEI: But now wodka is gone. All ve haf is Jagermeister. Jagermeister taste like khorse.
BORIS: Mother of Alexei taste like khorse.
NATASHA: Shut up Boris.
ALEXEI: Shut up, Natasha! Remind me who fail to bring khome Olympic skatink medal?
NATASHA: Oh? Vell, remind ME who make horrible borscht?
ALEXEI: Vell, remind me who is stupid bitch girl?
BORIS: Listen, it is too cold to argue.
ALEXEI: Zen turn up heat!
BORIS: Since collective failure, no rubles for to pay heatink bills.
They sit for a moment, being cold. (At this point, I should apologize for making these characters Slavic. As a person of vaguely Slavic descent, I feel entitled to make the odd joke at my own expense, but if you’re offended, just imagine that these characters are from another cold and slightly sketchy place.)
NATASHA: Fuck zis. I haf scheme to make more rubles.
ALEXEI: Does it inwolw selling you to America mail-order?
NATASHA: No! It inwolw cunning plan zat cousin in Dnipropetrovs’k dewise for ze stealink of login informations of American collegg student.
BORIS: Vere are rubles in zis plan?
NATASHA: E-mail informations inwolw credit card transactions maybe. Khidden in secret deps of inboxes, any number of Amazon period com, iTunes period com, porn period com payments. Many rubles potentially.
ALEXEI: Alexei-ent. But khow are ve to access zese accounts?
There is a pause more pregnant than the mother country. And then, in a flash of inspiration, the phishing email is written. The tone is urgent. The English is awful. The appeal to divulge all possible personal information to an utterly implausible Gmail account, vaguely connected to a vague Yale entity, is so heartfelt that you feel a twinge of pity for whoever devised this as a moneymaking scheme.
Occasionally, they get more creative. Just this morning, I received one purportedly from a Yale acquaintance of mine, claiming that the sender and her entire family were trapped in a Kafka-esque French airport with no money or documents and requesting that either be sent to free her from transportational purgatory. It made fantastic, if frequently ungrammatical, reading. But it strained credulity that anyone could possibly fall for this often enough to make it a viable use of cybertime. It was the online equivalent of walking down a busy street wearing a hoodie and carrying a brightly colored sign reading “Wanna follow me into the nearest dark alleyway?” I mean, who could be so UTTERLY incompetent as to respond to a phishing email?
Me, actually. Back in September. Yes, I was tired and overworked and any number of other mitigating factors, but really nothing excuses my confusing the phrase “We are sending this mail to you so that you can verify and let us know so we can update and avoid loss of your account” with Yale admin-speak. It was just really, really dumb, and resulted in my losing my Yale e-mail account for an agonizing couple of hours. While I waited for an incredulous ITS person to deal with some other technomoron, I fretted and imagined myself, in keeping with those terrifying posters down in CT Hall, biting into a pineapple that was actually a grenade. Nothing quite so disastrous happened. But just remember next time you get a shamefaced request for your NetID and social security number —
It was me. I sent it. Because it’s always cold in New Haven. And the wodka is all gone.