Why I like some spam in my e-mail

Without it, how would I know about those 'imitation' Rolex watches?

The spam filter on my e-mail system works great. It turns away about 97 percent of junk messages, which is perfect for my world. If the filter blocked all the mass mailings, I'd feel isolated from one of the most vibrant sectors of the cyber-universe.

Maybe I'm just an easy mark, but since childhood I've always been interested in what the salesmen knocking on the door wanted to show me. Lately I've been receiving three or four unsolicited messages every few days. "Wholesale Prices on Printer Ink and Toner" is a typical come-on. So is "Never Have A Slow PC Again" and "Turbo Charged Grass Seed."

I never actually open these messages just in case they're harboring some awful computer virus that will erase the hard drive, melt the telephone lines, and wire the money in my checking account to a secret vault in the Canary Islands.

There's one message, however, that almost has me reeled in. So far I've been able to resist, but they keep coming about once every three weeks. They promote an item that's always intrigued me. The key words in the subject line are "Imitation Rolex."

If the line read "Fake Rolex," I wouldn't be the slightest bit interested because "fake" sounds tawdry and shameless. That's not my style. The word "imitation" contains at least a hint of respectability, a sense that the imitator is trying to uphold minimal standards.

The temptation is intense at times. If I threw caution to the wind and gained possession of an Imitation Rolex, how would my future be affected? Would my life turn into a story with plot twists and turns reminiscent of Horatio Alger (wealthy industrialist notices my watch and hires me on the spot to be his eventual successor) or O. Henry (watch drives emotional wedge between me and old friends in my socio-economic peer group, leaving me alienated, lonely, and bitter)?

The dilemma of this scenario is simple: Anyone who decides to wear an Imitation Rolex is hoping that onlookers will draw a particular conclusion.

Two things need to happen. (A) you must make sure people can clearly see what's on your wrist, and (B) you better hope they don't ask awkward questions.

I can picture myself stopped at an intersection with my left arm dangling out the window, twisting my wrist so the sunlight reflects off the watch face. The sparkle catches the attention of a TV starlet in the crosswalk.

"Well look here," she says, veering over to get a better view. "That's a nice watch." She leans close and adds, "But tell me – why is a guy wearing a fancy Rolex driving around in a 1991 Ford Ranger with bald tires?"

What this means for me is that "imitation" is an all-or-nothing proposition. I need to hold off on the watch until I can augment it with an imitation BMW, imitation Armani wardrobe, and the all-important imitation second home in Telluride. Maybe those offers are on the way. I'll keep checking my e-mail.

Jeffrey Shaffer writes humor from Portland, Ore.

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