Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Trash talk

Commentary by JoEllen Collins


JoEllen Collins

Lately I find that I get angry in an irrational way at the deluge of unsolicited trash talk e-mails I receive every morning. Am I alone?

Let me hasten to say that I have never, ever, tried on-line dating or escort arrangements, haven't looked up porn sites, haven't even inquired about e-harmony or any respectable singles matching services, though some friends have. I shudder to think what their computers look like if any of those services sell their names. All I did was attempt to become an on-line editor, soliciting several sites and taking tests to see if, since I quit my full time job a year ago, I could supplement my income at home. I have spent countless hours applying with still not one editing or proofreading job, and have given up the attempt, instead focusing on my own writing and art business.

However, somewhere along the way, or perhaps as a result of mounting my own Web site (, my e-mail address has been sent to what I estimate are scores or even hundreds of unwanted solicitors who ask me to start my own business (I already have); get a phony college degree (I earned an MA in 1968); pay off my mortgage (I don't have one); learn witchcraft secrets (oh, come on); lose 12 pounds in 2 days (SURE); get out of debt (I have none); or "win" a free TV (nothing is really free: only upon purchasing sample products can one be "eligible" for a lottery).

Many e-mail messages are raunchy and some unprintable. Just a few I have recently received that I can mention without undue embarrassment are the following: someone wants me to continue my affiliation with the Black Singles Club (fine if I were black or had signed up at sometime); Jamar tells me, "We will help you get laid;" or Ishmael also is concerned about my sex life and asks me, "Wanna get laid tonight?" as is Phyllis Purcell, who continues the elegant chant, "We promise you can get laid." (Thank you, but I don't need your promise or help). Everett and Freeman both urge me almost daily to connect with sex addicts in my area. (Who said I am one?) "Heavens to Betsy!" as my mother would have said.

OK. I am aware that I can change my e-mail address, though it is a hard-won address connected with my Web site and important to my struggling art business, and I do spend a lot of time putting these sites on my block-sender list. Some I can open to find an "Unsubscribe" option, but the trashiest ones don't have that. No matter what I do, the junk just keeps on coming like Mickey Mouse's brooms in "Fantasia." Even if I delete them immediately, the yucky messages are in the title, so I can't avoid my eyes running down them.

I also am aware that one has to be careful in deleting whole chunks of e-mail at a time, because buried in among the $$$$ signs of some, the four letter "F" words of others, and the multitude of false promises, there may be a message from someone I value.

Alas! Is this the price one pays for my (albeit naïve) entrepreneurship? I have tried many new things this past year and have finally narrowed down the places where I choose to spend my energy and perhaps get some money for doing so, but the process has been daunting. I realize this is just one more reason I have had a frustrating time "out there" away from the security of a regular place of employment.

There have been, of course, the usual JoEllen Collins' joys in the whole new venture, in spite of my hated e-mail: time to travel, time to spend on my writing and my art, time to explore new possibilities. For all of this I am thankful, even though I now feel I am on the brink of financial ruin every time I see on my calendar what would have been a regular payday.

You may also note that I still open my laptop to write this column, which connects me to my town in wonderful ways (a subject for another essay, perhaps), to work on my other writing projects, and even to check my e-mail. Maybe I have to view my unwanted trash talk as a treasure hunt...a precious communiqué may sit there amidst the garbage, the price of keeping open to the world in all its sometimes-sordid glories!

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