Happy to be Hacked


It’s the kind of email no one wants: “Hey Buddy, I think you’ve been hacked.” Forwarded with this message was an email from “me.” It was a promotion for phenomenal weight-loss pills complete with a website for easy ordering.

Of course I had never sent this message, and I was at a loss to know what to do. When a Google search revealed that my email provider had been victimized by “criminal spammers who lived in the Russian Federation,” I panicked. Fortunately, a couple of hysterical phone calls later, I learned that changing my password would probably stop the spam.

In the coming hours, I got dozens of messages, all similar to the first one. Some beneficiaries were amused, some annoyed (as I certainly was)—only one person (a shrink!) believed I was actually endorsing this miracle diet cure. But as with so much else in our Internet age, one experience morphed into another, and I began looking forward to see who else from my past got the bogus email. Some I had forgotten. Many I couldn’t recall at all. And then, a name that jolted me.

“Peter, I’m so glad to hear from you, even if just with a miracle weight-loss notion—I think of you often and am sad that we’re so out of touch.” We had been close, working together for decades, but as happens too often, had gone in different directions and our closeness had evaporated as visits, then phone calls, and finally emails had dwindled away. I guess we hadn’t been such good friends.

Except the joy I felt proved that the friendship was still there. The words brought back so many memories, a warmth and excitement that—as he told me when we met a few days later—he had also felt when seeing my name, only to be deflated when he realized it was spam. “But,” he said, “I figured why not just write back? It’s only email.” And we toasted the evil creeps lurking somewhere behind the former Iron Curtain who unknowingly had reunited us.