A Story of Blind Belief

[Columnist’s Note: My good friend, Caslon Bold, sent the following letter to me. As more and more people have begun using texting on their cell phones to communicate, the use of email for personal correspondence has declined. This decline, I would argue, has resulted in an even higher percentage of spam being circulated through email and many of these spam messages are outright hoaxes that suck the gullible into their scams. While I have no idea whether the following example of blind belief is true, it may go a long way toward making those who have been taken in by these hoaxes feel a little less foolish.]

Dear Grutz:

I had a feeling that you might enjoy the following story. Friday evening, Franklin Gothic and I were sitting at one of your favorite pubs on the north side of Chicago sharing a couple of pints of Black ‘n’ Tan when Bradley Hand came in and sat down next to us. You should remember Bradley from your dart league days: he’s rather short, usually mildly unkempt, and is noted for his rather limited intellect. Well, Bradley was looking depressed and Franklin made the mistake of asking him what was wrong.

Rather than try to tell this in third person, I’m going to write it from Bradley’s viewpoint. Obviously, I have to paraphrase but believe me – I’m not losing a thing by doing so.

“Well, you see, I had this email forwarded to me on Monday from a friend of a friend of a friend telling me about this guy who was on a business trip to Mexico. This guy made a successful presentation during the day and decided to go out celebrating that night and must have gotten pretty wasted. The next morning he woke up in the bathtub of his hotel room and he was in a lot of pain. When he finally got up he noticed that someone had written ‘Call 911’ on the mirror. It turns out some rat bastards had stolen his kidney.

“Well, I was so upset about this that I couldn’t go to work. I started out in my neighborhood going door-to-door collecting money for this poor guy. In the evenings I went to every bar I had ever thrown a dart in to collect more money. By Wednesday morning I had over $8,000. So I went to the bank to put it in a savings account. The problem was that I didn’t know the guy’s name, so I couldn’t open an account. I didn’t want to keep all that money around my apartment, so I just put it in my own account until I found out his name.

“When I got home from the bank I sent an email to my friend to find out what the name of the guy with the missing kidney was and how I could reach him. While I was waiting for a response I got another email forwarded to me telling me about a pending merger between Google and Microsoft. This email told me that the two companies were doing a market test and that if I forwarded the email to everyone in my address book I could make lots of money.

“Well, you see, there were testimonials and everything. One guy said that he had forwarded the email to 100 people and that in 2 days he had a check, in hand, for $2,500. So I figured that if I forwarded the email to at least 200 people I could get a check for at least $5,000 by Friday! So that’s what I did.

“Then I started thinking about that $5,000 that I was going to get, and I decided to go shopping. I bought a whole new home entertainment center with a big screen TV, a complete stereo system, a DVD player –the whole works. I took it all home and got everything set up and even though I wrote a check which dipped into the $8,000 I had collected for the guy without a kidney I figured I’d replace it when my $5,000 check came from Google/Microsoft on Friday.

“Thursday morning I got a call from my boss asking me why I hadn’t been coming to work. I tell him about the guy who lost his kidney and about my raising money to help. He starts screaming at me and calling me ‘stupid’ and ‘idiot’ and then, just before he hangs up, he tells me I’m fired.

“The rest of the morning I sit around feeling bad about not having a job and sending emails to my friend asking when he’s going to tell me the name of the guy without the kidney. Then, in the afternoon, someone knocks at my door. It turns out that it’s the husband of a woman who lives in an apartment building down the street. He’d been looking for me since I had visited his wife on Tuesday and he wanted to know where the $100 his wife had given me was. I slowly explained to him about the guy who lost a kidney and how much her donation was going to be appreciated, but he wanted to know the name of the guy who lost the kidney and how to get in touch with him. So I am left with no choice but to tell the husband that I don’t know the guy’s name – but that I am going to find out.

“Well, you see, this husband gets really, really mad. And I’m trying to tell him about helping someone in need and all, but all he wants to know is where the money is. So I tell him that it’s safe in my bank account. And then he really gets mad, pushes me, and storms off screaming that he’s going to call the cops.

“So I figure I better get out of my apartment. I drive around the city for a while, but then I figure that I should check my email. The problem is that I can’t go home. So I park my car at Ravenswood Hospital so that it won’t be seen easily and head into the library on Lincoln. I get on a computer there and check my email to see if my friend has sent me something telling me the name of the guy who lost the kidney. There’s no email from my friend but there is an email telling me about a guy who found a rat in his Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket and that everyone knows that they don’t really serve chicken, which is why the government made them change their name to KFC.

“About 4:30 a.m. I sneak back into my apartment and check my email again. I still don’t have a response from my friend but there is an email telling me about a computer virus that I have probably already downloaded called FATLADY.exe. So I search my hard drive and can’t find anything, but the email says that I’ve already downloaded it and I need to get rid of it right away so I figure the best thing to do is just delete all the files that end in ‘exe,’ which I do, which crashes my computer.

“So then I’m really unhappy. I don’t have a job, I have a little over $3,500 in my bank account, but I owe the guy without a kidney $8,000. I’m tired, and I have just crashed my computer, so I can’t get an email from my friend telling me the name of the guy who lost his kidney.

So I spent the whole day today driving around, checking my mail to see if anything came from Google/Microsoft and slipping into libraries to check my email to see if my friend sent me the name of the guy who lost his kidney, and trying to stay out of sight of the cops.”

At this point, Franklin, in a moment of compassion/stupidity, asks Bradley if there’s anything he can do to help, to which Bradley replies, “Yeah, do you think I can come over to your place to check my email?”