SMOKE: Beware That Errant Message

Originally published: 27 February 2003

On Valentine's Day in Hong Kong a teenage girl missed a date with her boyfriend and sent him a text message to his phone, declaring her undying love for him in no uncertain terms.

But the boyfriend never received the message as she'd punched in the wrong number, and it went instead to the phone of a Hong Kong businessman, whose wife picked it up before he did.

She immediately filed for divorce, and no amount of protesting his innocence had any effect on her.

Eventually the only way he could convince her that he was not lying was to file a lawsuit against the original sender. The teenage girl admitted it was from her, he was cleared, and the lawsuit and divorce proceedings were dropped.

Poor guy. You can just imagine the pleading of innocence, which the wife had every right to disbelieve (knowing Hong Kong businessmen, as I do, intimately).

Despite being a funny story, however, the simple misuse of technology almost led to a perfectly innocent man losing his wife forever.

We've all done it - sent emails to the wrong people, called the wrong number, or sent errant text messages which are left floating in cyberspace somewhere, no doubt being read as we speak.

My biggest email gaffe was when working as a relatively junior html jockey at my previous job. I was responsible for putting a lot of content on the website, including competitions and sponsor features, and just like any other person with an email address received more than my fair share of spam email.

Let me briefly explain my position on spam email - it has the ability to kill me, and the more I get the closer I move towards that first big coronary.

I can't help getting upset - it drives me nuts and no amount of spam blocking or reporting makes the slightest bit of difference - there's always more.

Most of the time I just ignore it and delete it, but sometimes - when the mood hits - I reply to one, and lay in like you couldn't ever possibly understand.

There is no person on this planet who can be more filthy when replying to a spam mail than I, and although I know it's not clever (as soon as they get a mail from you it verifies your email address is valid and working, which means they can spam you some more), but it gives me immense satisfaction, and an opportunity to really, really express myself.

Back to my job at the website - one day I got some lotto spam for the UK which had an unsubscribe link. Normally I don't bother unsubscribing - what's the point? - but on this occasion I was feeling peeved and tried to do so.

Of course the link didn't work, and I went off. I called them such names as I cannot repeat here, but including references to pigs, homosexuals and extreme sex acts. Like I said - it gets ugly.

I felt much better, until about an hour later when my boss received an email from our latest client: UK Lotto, who was struggling to understand this method of operation by a company they'd just signed a lot of money over to.

They enquired of my boss as to whether we normally called our clients pigs, homosexuals and stuff, in as polite a way as only a Brit can enquire.

It took some explaining, but my boss - if nobody else - seemed to understand. He's an understanding kind of guy.

Fortunately the client stayed - he was no doubt most intrigued by this South African internet company, so filled with flare and originality and client care.

Hell - if I got a mail like that I could actually only sit back in admiration at the sender's work - my words here cannot possibly do it justice.

I've done this sort of thing a number of times (I feel perfectly justified in sending spammers hate mail), but I've also sent out messages to All Staff by mistake, in which I have revealed opinions that could be considered unsavoury. I've also replied to emails forgetting about the person cc'ed on them, whom invariably I've trashed.

Some guys have had it far worse though. There was the case of the British office girl who sent a mail to a co-worker, thanking him for their night of passion. Somehow it ended up getting sent to everyone at the company, and then made its way onto the Internet where it was circled around the globe a number of times.

The excitement? She had described their oral antics in bed, declaring: "Your cum was yum!"

The stuff of Internet dreams.

But fortunately I have never knowingly wrecked anybody's marriage, nor sent an execution instruction to the wrong person, nor had a message that's gone viral on the Internet. Yet.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

Look at me now - all the way from Uitenhage to the bright lights of the big internet.

Find out more using the handy links provided.

Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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