Give me any episode of Ironside, Law and Order, or Murder She Wrote and I’ll happily turn into a couch potato. Courtroom scenes have always fascinated me. What does it feel like to be innocent yet be dragged into an incriminating situation with no apparent way out? Well, I recently was in such a position and, let me tell you, none of that TV watching had made me the wiser for it.
Last week, on a boring hot afternoon, I was checking my E-mail when I came across this message: “Ladan Khazai wants you to be her friend”, which I thought was not a problem. Ladan is my sister, she is already my friend, so what’s another click worth to me?
Upon accepting my big sister’s invite, a new interesting page opened. It was a tricky picture that could be interpreted as a psychological test, and when I answered the question, a whole new questionnaire opened with the promise to check my IQ. Had I had any intelligence at all, I should have known that my own sister wouldn’t need my IQ in order to be my friend, but too proud of my ability to solve crossword puzzles, I decided to find out just how close I am to the genius level.
The computer monitor lit up, “Well done,” it stated. “Click here to accept the terms before we reveal your IQ score.”
Who has the time to read the fine print about the terms? They are most probably asking if it’s okay to use my scores in a nationwide survey, or maybe they’re giving prizes to the people with the highest IQ – me being one of them. Whatever it was, I didn’t have time for it, so I went ahead and accepted the terms.
Next, my AOL address book opened, showing thousands of names, some of which I had no idea how they got there or whose they were. Before confusion could change my mind, the computer instructed, “Invite a friend.”
This, I knew I didn’t want to do. I’m the type who exchanges daily e-mails with a total of two-and-a-half people and even then I often hesitate to “forward” stuff. The rest of my address book developed over the years and, as I said, I don’t even know most of them. The majority of my friends are other writers who have already missed a couple of deadlines, and I know sending them this questionnaire would jeopardize what friendship exists. Besides, none of those people are likely to want to join anything new and, as for IQ, if theirs happened to be so high, they’d have more exciting plans than to befriend the likes of me.
Deciding the best thing would be to quit while I was ahead, I exited the site, leaving the unfinished IQ deal behind. I was so frustrated that for the rest of that day, each time I went to the back of the house, I detoured around the computer room, avoiding its vicinity as much as possible.
The following day, I got an e-mail from a friend whom I have not heard from in years, saying she had accepted my invitation to Jhoos and wants to be my friend. It sounded like good news, but unfortunately this was only the beginning of a disastrous cycle. People wrote and, though a couple more accepted me, a majority rejected my friendship, left me without a response, asked me what it was or resorted to all kinds of despicable insults. Finally, when my own husband refused to be my friend, I decided to check out Jhoos and learn what this site was.
According to Google, Jhoos is a “free online dating service. They promise, “No subscription fees and lifetime membership with text and audio video chat features.” Wonder-freaking-full! I can’t imagine what more a middle-aged woman whose profile describes her as ‘married with three grown children’ wants from life? But that wasn’t all; the invitation went not just to friends, but also to all my siblings, cousins, and even my own three children! Come on kids, don’t you want to join your Mom on a dating service?
Unable to withdraw the thousands of indecent invitations, I composed a letter of apology to be sent to everyone on my address book. Oh, but this couldn’t be done! There were too many wrong addresses, changed addresses and meaningless ones. Over the following days, the “Mailer Daemon” sent me more e-mail than all the years since the invention of the Internet put together. What I’d like to know is, where the heck was this Mailer Daemon when the Jhoos people used my list? While my apologies circled the cyberspace and found no destination, I tolerated insult after insult from recipients who were gullible enough to believe I was still willing, not to mention capable, to “date.”
Having no “Ironside” to defend me, and with no “Law and Order” on my side, I was oh so ready for “Murder she DID!”
So, if you happen to be one of the thousands who received an invitation to “be my friend,” please know that I am but another innocent victim of the Internet piracy. And if you happen to want to be my friend, please keep in mind that I am actively looking for a friend who could suggest a cure for my arthritic fingers, aching lower back or this nagging acid reflux. Above all, I am eager to converse with anyone who’d commiserate with my progressive hair loss. And if you happen to be one of my kids reading this and planning to make fun of Mom, you’d better “Go to your room!”
Zohreh K. Ghahremani