A couple of people inquired about the subject of Monday’s post, Mr. Patel. Specifically, they wanted to know if that was his real name, and if he was still in business. Mr. Patel seems to be in business in the sense that his incorporated company technically exists, but the listed address happens to be a residence, and Mr. Patel seems to work for a large tech company as a “Senior Manager”, by which I assume they mean “Major Buttplug”. So, yes, his business “exists”, kind of in the same way I was given a “salary”. And no, his real name isn’t Mr. Patel, and the name of his company isn’t Communication Consultants, Inc. I changed his name because of a professional wrestling fan. Really.
A long time ago (circa 2000), I ran a website that was really nuts. You think sending weird photo requests to Joyce DeWitt, or asking Foreigner to make me a Rueben is odd? That’s nothing compared to the shit I used to pull on that website. It was my first web site, and although I’d do somewhat serious things (I interviewed a New Hampshire state representative who was forced to resign when it became evident that his platform consisted of not making kids go to school, beating women, and being happy when cops got killed. Really.) I also went on some epic über-rants that sometimes rubbed people the wrong way.
For instance, one time I wrote a piece that insinuated that professional wrestling was the kind of entertainment that only Rain Man could enjoy, but only after he’d been bludgeoned into a coma. Shortly thereafter, I received an email stating…
Of course wrestling is fake. But it’s entertaining!!!!!!!!!!
(Yes, with all of those exclamation marks.) My answer:
If you think watching oiled up men in tights grab each other between the legs is entertaining, wait until you find out about gay porn! You’ll be glued to your computer screen for weeks!
This apparently offended my correspondent because in short order he informed me that he was a) a member of the National Guard; b) a prison guard in the Maine Department of Corrections; c) heavily armed; and d) on his way to teach me a fucking lesson. My response was along the lines of “Bring it on, asshole!” which sounded brave, but was really unnecessary considering the fact that I’d cc’d the Department of Defense and the Maine Department of Corrections. I never heard from that particular wrestling fan again (but I think of him every time I see a bag of pork rinds).
Still, the exchange got me to thinking about my online anonymity, especially since at the time anyone with opposable thumbs and an IQ over 42 could look up my real name and address via a WHOIS search. (And if you’re a WWE fan and are working yourself into a lather right now, don’t bother trying that. I’ve learned to register my domain anonymously.)
Another feature of that site taught me about the value of other people’s anonymity. I’d come up with the brilliant idea of creating a list that I’ll call The Asshole List. The idea was that I’d add people to the list who had pissed me off for one reason or another. Moronic politicians, camera-whore celebrities, etc. Pretty soon, I began receiving requests to add people to the list, so I opened it up and let anyone add whoever they wanted.
Before long, the list had reached critical mass. People who were ego-surfing on Google would find themselves on this list, look around the site and realize it was all a big joke, then laugh and add other people to the list. I heard from all sorts of people, and 99% of them loved the fact that they were on the list. (The other 1% claimed to have won the lottery and were in the process of suing me. Seriously, everyone who complained claimed to have won the lottery.)
One day, however, I received an incredibly strange email from a lady in Indiana who seemed to comunicate solely via capital letters and exclamation marks. In her first email, she accused me of promoting child rape and threatened to call the following agencies on me:
- The local police
- Her county sheriff
- The Indiana State Police
- The FBI
- The United States Department of Justice
I got a huge kick out of that last one. I got a mental image of me at my desk writing another dick joke, when black-clad agents would repel from the roof, crash through my windows, and storm my office. “Cheese it!” I’d yell to no one in particular, “It’s the Yahoo! Police!”
I don’t know what it is about Yahoo. My mom seems to think they’re in charge of the internet. When she has a problem with a web site, she calls AT&T for support. (Yeah, I don’t get it either.) Even more strange, when she has issues with her internet connection or hardware, she tries to contact Yahoo! No matter how hard I try to explain, she thinks that AT&T and Yahoo! are the internet.
About a month after I’d bought my mom a Mac for Mother’s Day, we had this conversation:
Mom: Oh, I’m glad you called. I just got off the phone with AT&T.
Me: (warily) Yeah?
Mom: I don’t like the Mac. It changed the internet.
Me: Well, no, it didn’t, but go on.
Mom: Yes, it did! So I called AT&T.
Mom: I was on hold forever, and I had to talk to several people, but finally they told me that I needed to download a yahoo.
Me: Are you sure they didn’t call you a yahoo?
Mom: Very funny. Anyway, so I’m downloading a yahoo right now.
Me: You are? How… How do you do that?
Mom: I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I’m done.
(It turned out that she didn’t know how to set her home page, and figured that since the home page wasn’t what she expected, that Apple had changed the entire internet. Fucking Steve Jobs.)
Anyway, back to the Asshole List. I sent back an email to this crazy lady informing her that I do not respond to threats, but if she would kindly inform me what she wanted from me in words spoken here on planet Earth, I’d be happy to help her out. She yelled back at me several times before I finally got to the heart of the matter: Someone (not me) had added her 16 year old daughter to the list, and she wanted her removed. Which I did, but only after forcing her to write me a politely worded email, which must have been really hard for her because she sent me four or five that read something like this:
OK MR WISE GUY HERE YOU GO: PLEASE REMOVE MY DAUGHTER FROM THAT LIST. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW ASSHOLE?
Finally I got her to write me a nice email, removed her daughter from the list, and sent her back a note patiently explaining that had she asked nicely the first time around, I would have been more than happy to remove her daughter from the list immediately.
A year later, shit got really weird. I’d taken a six month break from my web site when came down with “a touch of the cancer”, specifically non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Call me strange, I just didn’t feel like making with the ha-ha while I thought I was dying. When everything had cleared up, I started wading through my email and found one with a name in it that somehow sounded familiar:
Please add to the Asshole List all of the people who couldn’t take a fucking joke and hounded John Doe to his suicide
I searched through my email, and lo and behold, found one from John Doe. In the email, he asked me to add quite a few people to the Asshole List, including that 16 year old girl. Uh-oh.
I contacted the author of the most recent email, and got the scoop: The crazy lady had indeed contacted everyone under the face of the sun, including her daughter’s high school. The high school looked at the list and determined that there were quite a lot of people, both teaching and attending the school, who were on the list. Apparently, John Doe had added all of those people, and they had, in turn, added more, until pretty much the whole high school was on there.
Going by who was on the list earliest and pulling people into the office, they soon determined that John Doe had started it all, and expelled him from school. A year after that, he committed suicide.
I was damn near suicidal myself when I found out. My correspondent assured me that she had exaggerated her claim when she wrote the first email. John was in reality a sick, sick boy, had attempted suicide before, and was expelled for a whole variety of other offenses, not just an email with a bunch of names on it. His final, successful attempt at checking out had more to do with a home ravaged by drug addiction than anything else, I was assured.
Still, I felt horrible. I shut the page down (and soon thereafter the whole site), and vowed not to make a similar mistake again.
So, when you read an anecdote from my past, please realize that I always change the names of people involved, and try to alter places slightly so people can’t use that information to gather other, more relevant information. “There was only one rental house on that block in 1991 with five guys in it, so one of you assholes knocked up my sister!”
Sometimes, I find myself having to search through my site because I’m sure I’d written about the guy before, but couldn’t remember what alias I’d used. “Matt was the guy that brought the mushrooms. Wait, didn’t I write about the time he threw a hot dog at a cop? What did I call him then? Pete? Steve?” The drug-soaked stories from twenty years ago, those I remember. But a 4,000 word post from last November, that I have to look up. Go figure.
So I try to maintain my anonymity by only using my first name (which is, in fact, Greg), not putting photos of me or my family on the site, and I also try to protect the anonymity of others, especially since I like to tell stories about me and my friends eating mushrooms and discovering crazy shit, like this story, right here:
Frequent commenter Squatch and I attended the same university, as did his brother whom I’ll refer to as Ranger Rick. One night, Ranger Rick and I decided to eat a bunch of mushrooms and walk around campus. At around two or three in the morning, we found ourselves in front of a large auditorium, specifically the part below the steps… You know, the part of it that has railings around it… Fuck, I don’t know what it’s called. Here, it looks like this:
See that semi-circle at the bottom? That’s where we were, when I decided to go read the brass plaque at the center of it. (You can see it in the photo.) I found something funny about it, so I started walking towards Ranger Rick, and stepped on the plaque while I happened to be talking.
“Dude, this is the last… What the… WHOAH!!! HOLY FUCKING SHIT DUDE!!! TATTLE-TALE! TATTLE-TALE! TELEPORT TOMMY GUN TASTY TA-TAS! WHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAH!”
Needless to say, Ranger Rick was not prepared for this, and he spent some time informing me that I was both flipping out and liable to get us busted. What had happened was that I’d discovered something cool, purely by accident: The brass plaque was perfectly centered in the cement semi-circle. And so the sound waves from my voice went out, hit the cement pillars of the surrounding railing, and bounced back to me. It was like a 3D echo, and the letter “T” was especially pronounced.
We spent probably the next 45 minutes losing our goddamn minds, standing on that plaque saying shit like “Timmy took a toke and got totally toasted. HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!” For the next couple of years I’d tell people about it, but no one had heard of that before and as it was too noisy during the day, most of them never bothered to try it out. One evening though, I was talking to a guy attending one of my parties, when he said, “You want to hear something weird? One night I was tripping balls on mushrooms, and I was standing in front of that auditorium on the South end of the quad. You know that brass plaque?”
No shit, the only other person I met who knew about it, stumbled onto it the exact same way that I had! After tracking down some mushrooms, we both went down there to relive old times. That guy’s name? Felix Schwartz. (Note: Name changed to protect Barack Obama’s identity.)
Ok, in case you were wondering what the title of this post meant, now you know, don’t you? Egad, over 2,000 words of unhinged rambling. I’ve got diarrhea of the keyboard. Anyway, this feels right, so here we go:
One last totally disjointed thing before I go… I’ve been toying with the idea of adding chat rooms to this site, with the intent of using them to “live blog” shit going on with other people and then preserving the results if they prove to be entertaining. For instance, I might discover that the Discovery Channel is about to air the Miss Senior America pageant, and create a post informing everyone when to tune in and participate. Is there any interest in that? You wouldn’t need to register or anything, just show up, type in your alias, and start blabbing away (and off-topic tales of Barack Obama eating mushrooms would be welcome if not encouraged). Let me know in the comments below.