Spam imitates life. As I sift through a stream of offers for free laptops, gift cards and teeth-whitening kits, there is a small group that emulates the picturesque derelict.

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Walk around Pioneer Square, and you see two kinds of panhandlers: Those who get in your face and directly ask for a handout, or others who assume you know what you need to do. They just hang around your field of vision and may say something “crazy,” either because they are unhinged or maybe because they don’t feel like actually asking for spare change. Or they may sing a song, do a dance, and mutter something obscure. You say, “Oh, how quaint” and toss them a dollar.

These people tend to target the tourists, as a local drunk will seem more poetic with a brogue or similarly romantic accent. That’s why it’s natural to be more generous giving away change when you visit Ireland.

It keeps happening that spam imitates life. As I sift through a steady stream of offers for free laptops, gift cards and teeth-whitening kits, there is a small group that emulates the picturesque derelict by hanging back and hiding the sales pitch behind a wall of weird words.

For instance, an interesting-sounding soul named Marie Mcgill sent along a note titled “which translate be dolly jollification.” She enclosed some incomprehensible text that looked like what Charles Dickens may have written if he lived a century later and indulged in the same writer’s aids as Aldous Huxley. “These, with their perplexities and inconsistencies, were the sorrows, and can be a comfort to them, some odd times, and labour in the shadow of an opposite corner.”

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Except Ms. Mcgill wasn’t out to stimulate my literary imagination. Rather, her purpose was to sell me Viagra, Cialis or Levitra; 100 pills for just $60.

Later, I received a similar pitch from Erica Chin, under the heading “but comb so dot peep.” Erica and Marie must be pals, or at least members of the same book club. Her excerpt was a little more fractured, if that were really possible. Something like. “Heep — fraudulently obtained or withheld from Mr. W. Aye?”

Perhaps this is one continuous tale, one that will make me wise if I manage to connect all the parts. Perhaps if I crack the code I will win a prize. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.

Well, not really. I’m doing this in the name of research. I noticed one of these arrive last week, then searched my spam folder for three more. I suppose there really are people who search their spam for meaning and symmetry.

Which goes to show, while there are millions of things to do online, half of them are completely frivolous.

Then, I found a most interesting message. From Jamie Day, it was slugged “You won’t beleive this” and contained a single word — hello — in the body of the message. There was no sales pitch. To solve this particular puzzle, was I supposed to write back and ask what I would probably not “beleive”?

Well no, because the first rule of fighting spam is to never write back. So I will never know what Erica and Marie are up to, or what Jamie finds so unbeleivable.

Back to the panhandler comparison: You may give a dollar to a creative bum, but that generosity won’t extend to a spammer who plays the same game.

If you send money to anyone over the Internet, there is the expectation of something in return. Give a bum a buck and you know that it’s gone forever.

If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at Type Inbox in the subject field. More columns at