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"Mr. Chowder is incapable of writing a bad sentence." – The New Yorker

This Was the 15 Minutes of Fame

This Was the 15 Minutes of Fame

— the flash of celebrity Warhol coined, and that we live all our lives for: my sainted daughter just appeared on a newsmagazine TV show about Internet fraud.  Hey, she was the main character: sure enough, she was cheated by someone who’d sent her an email warning, saying that her credit card was being used by others.  In response, she gave that evil someone her banking information.

She looked blonde and pretty (which she is) and innocent (which she isn’t) on the show, and she was thrilled.  Ah, good for her.  Famous for being the unwitting victim.  Oddly, she does realize why she got her starring role.  At dinner she said she’d like to start her own series: How to Be Cheated by Everyone.  What the Stooges did on the physical plane, she could do on the cyberspatial one.  Fall down go boom.  But the 15 minutes of fame were worth the fact that she was being exhibited for her mistake.

The TV magazine show even found the perpetrator: a 16 year-old from Morocco.  No, the Moroccan police isn’t interested in prosecuting, even though this perp himself is dumb enough to publically –on his Facebook and Twitter accounts – how to steal credit-card info.

Apparently most people who steal credit-card info resell it on the Net, also publically.  There are literally millions of credit cards for sale, right out in the open.

I like you get email offers to be cheated every day.  Often they start, in essence, like one I got today:

“Here’s a personal message from bar fred lious: GIVE ME YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE I AM AN EXECUTOR OF WILLS IN LAW, A SITUATION ARRIVE ON MY CLIENT…”

Later I got one that was a bit out of the ordinary, with the Message title My Mission is to Kill You.  This one began:

“Attn: My Good Friend,  How are you?  Am very sorry for you my friend, is a pity that this is how your life is going to end as soon as you don’t comply….”

Complying, incidentally, meant sending money.  I was asked not to contact the police, which is silly, because the police are not about to open an Empty Threats Department.

Meanwhile, I enjoy these mails, as I’m sure you do.  But I’m a little stunned at the sheer number of them – probably a couple dozen a day. They all want to cheat me.  Maybe I ought to be flattered, but I’m bemused. At the risk of sounding like your parents, or more precisely your grandparents, I remember the days when my own grandfather would take my brother and me out to pick wild strawberries in our field, equipping us each with a small tin bucket that gave out a “plop” sound with each berry (at first), or my bro and I would play war from our rickety treehouse in the woods, or at the end of the long summer days we would do jigsaw puzzles on the screened-in porch while fireflies did their intermittent incendiary thinking in the tall grass, and on such a day no one in the world (or so it seemed) tried to cheat any of us at all.  What a quaint world.

Oh, maybe it wasn’t an honest world; maybe it was just a world where cheating took more effort, or was more invisible.   It was the one celebrated, for instance, by John Cheever:

“… just gazing at the lights in heaven, I am as thrilled as I am thrilled by the more hardy and dangerous pursuits, and I guess this is what is meant by the pain and sweetness of life.”

Cheever could bask in the surety of suburban pleasures without ever coming into contact with bar fred lious’s arriving situation.  He could write that way because, as he walked his dog or watered his lawn, there weren’t twelve people trying to cheat him every moment.

The bald fact is that I’d like that world back.  I don’t need my 15 minutes of fame for having a pretty daughter who was cheated.  Bar fred, I’m sorry you have that perplexing situation – he goes on to say,

“UNFORTUNATE HE DIED ONAUTO-CRASH WITH THESON. NOW I HAVE TO DECISION WHO TO PASS THE FORTUNE TO BECAUSE THE WIFE DIED YEARS BACK.”

I’m sad for you, bar fred, that you have to resort to the attempt to defraud people with your obviously limited resources.  But mostly I’m sad that all of life is a pretext for so many trying so frequently to cheat so much out of so many others.  Life was better before.  We had the illusion that most of us were trying to make an honest living, and that was a fine illusion.

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