Desktop popups plainly present problems

    All it took was one keystroke to change from the apparent popularity of a cheerleader to a recluse.
     My son Stan, in Seattle, who kind of manages the Internet server of which I am a part, typed in an extra letter in my e-mail address, and like magic, zillions of unwelcome messages stopped arriving.

     In an earlier column, “Spam Enchanted Evening,” I wrote about the increase of e-mails, coming at about a hundred a day. In my zeal to delete them, I sometimes threw out the baby with the bath water, jettisoning mail from friends as well.
     Let me explain. Back when I began receiving hundreds of missives a week, I was aware of an “unsubscribe” clause, kind of like a do-not-call list. I’d dutifully opened each e-mail and looked for and clicked on the “unsubscribe” option.
     That, I believed, should have been enough to stop pesky e-mail, promising me a romp in the sack with Rosie, dinner and disco with Dottie, and lust, lechery and lasciviousness with Lydia.
     I told my friend Bruce Papier what I’d done, and in words that weren’t comforting, he explained that any response to these cyberspace telemarketers guarantees there’s a warm body on this end. He reasoned that those who send unsolicited spam look forward to “unsubscribe” replies from the recipients for the same reason that hobos used to like seeing “no peddlers” signs on fences because only the vulnerable need to post them. Bruce added that I’d better prepare to spend a half hour daily purging the e-mails that would be generated from my attempt to opt out.
     And come they did. They trebled in a few days.
     So I asked advice of my sons, all of whom make their living with computers (one writes computer manuals, one designs web pages and one helps make the chips that run the computers).
     They all advised me never to talk to strangers on the Internet. But why, then, do they include that “unsub” option?
     Sunday night my son Stan performed the switcheroo which cut down the incoming mail to about three a day, including some of the people I wrote to announce my change of address.
     But wait, there’s more. The address change did nothing to rid my computer of some extras that come in the mail. These bonuses, called “popups” do just that. One doesn’t have to click on a link to get them.
     These are raunchy, so please escort those of tender years out of the room before continuing.
     One prurient popup promises puerile pleasures with Pulchritudinous Paulina from Polynesia. Another seeks to hook me up with any of a dozen lovelies, “right here in Las Vegas, New Mexico.”
     And still another — the most offensive by far — features some kind of barnyard menage-a-cuatro. These are not merely verbal beckonings but quite graphic images in full color.
     So I implored my youngest son, Ben, the web-designer, to help me out. Well, he wasn’t sympathetic at all. “You must have opened offending e-mails at some time, Dad; otherwise, why would you be getting all this stuff?” I reminded him, redundantly, that I have no choice. I don’t open anything. I simply try to log on to my New York Times page, for example, and promptly a pornucopia of pages presents itself and pops in front.
     Still convinced I had it coming, Ben implied I’m indiscriminate in opening mail. Yeah, right, Ben, someone must’ve gotten my e-mail address when I ordered a decade’s supply of Cialis. Or maybe it was the time I surfed the net for a proxy bride to come here from overseas to help Mom with house-cleaning chores.
     Well, I got no sympathy from Ben. So I asked, “Since I haven’t responded to any of these offers, shouldn’t the senders lose interest and give me up as a lost cause?” He explained that hustling business on the Internet is extremely inexpensive. Where else can you reach millions of people in seconds? So what if only one-tenth of 1 percent buys the product or service? Well that’s a thousand paying customers, a good yield for such inexpensive advertising.
     My middle son, Diego, said the only permanent cure for my problem is shooting the computer.
     Meanwhile, I find my mornings much less rushed. So much so that in a perverse way, I miss the spam (that is, I miss it but don’t pine for it). I check the mail several times to make sure no payday loan company has promised me a million I don’t ever need to pay back.
     As a passive receiver of porn, I now sympathize with people we read about who have been fired from government jobs because someone found pornography on their computer. Sure, there are those who explore porn sites “just to take a peek,” and contract an infection that won’t go away. Yet, I’m convinced much porn is mailed to unwitting receivers.
     As I set out to e-mail this column, I noticed three new icons on the desktop. One offers to remove all popups; another is named “Teen Sex,” and the last one is “Fun at the Farm.” That does it!
     Diego, where’s that gun you were talking about?

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