Why do I love spam, the more feckless the better? The stupider the ask, the more I enjoy it. What is my predilection about? Most (normal) folks are grumpy about the quotidian barrage attacking their inbox, happily ignoring incompetent requests for money and personal information. Why do I look forward to perusing my spam folder?
“I am contacting you once again concerning a sum of $85,000,000…”
$85,000,000! Yes! That’s a reasonable number! $85,000,000. Why not? Because $84,000,000 wouldn’t get my attention? Tell me more!
“I am Mr. Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan”—now there’s a believable name—“Managing Director and Executive Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc.” Wow. Look at all those capital letters! Must be important! Managing Director AND Executive Director. SO much responsibility!
Turns out that I am being contacted because someone “whose surname is the same as [mine] and has [my] country in his file as his place of origin…” has died “intestate”—another awesome word!—and could I please take 40% of this money!
The bath of vaguely imperfect language knocks me out: “repatriating,” “failing to receive viable claims,” “revert the deposit.” I love it.
I realize I may be alone in the view.
Long time readers will hardly be surprised to anticipate there is an analogy coming. What can loving parents learn from spam? What possible benefit can there be to endless assaults on our competence? Unwanted emails are ubiquitous and here to stay. Even the lightest digital footprint brings volumes of staggeringly stupid requests. What’s the upside?
The positive is that spam is good practice, can be helpful in reminding us how much putrid guidance is out there. Let’s consider the horrific suggestions from your peers, from your children’s friends, from billboards, from media, from every crevice, from under every rock: “C’mon, I’ll give you a ride,” for example, “I’m okay to drive, I only had a couple drinks.” This suggestion is, of course, the worst possible recommendation. I would advise you to give all your personal banking information including your home address and social security number to “I am Mr. Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan” before getting in the car with the schnockered stumbling adolescent offering you transportation—although both choices will certainly end badly. The trick is to consider “how’re ya gonna get home, I told you I’m fine, get in the car” as an opportunity, an occasion to, once again, help your kids understand how prevalent bad advice is, how easy it is to ignore, and that their loving parents have their back as well as a better idea.
“No questions asked” and “I’ll come get you anytime from anywhere” should be repeated frequently, starting when the child is in utero if possible but certainly no later than pre-K. You have to have a gazillion examples of pleasant, positive interactions with your kids conveying trust and affection to protect against the wretched spam of adolescent transportation offers. For every “c’mon, I told you, get in the car” there have to be a similar number of “you have my credit card for emergencies” and “nice to see you” when the kids come home safely at unspeakable hours.
To a first approximation, all the advice your kids get outside your home is bad. It may cost you something to maintain your connection with your kids. You may have to let go of, “I demand an A in algebra” in order to preserve, “do not get in that car.” You may have to give up, "date who I tell you to" in order to maintain, "my friend is drunk, can you come get me?"
A small price to pay, I would argue. And speaking as a parent of four kids who didn’t get in that car—remember there are worse things than a wrong number at two in the morning—I think I’m $85,000,000 ahead, Mr. Adesola Kazeem Adeduntan’s generous offer notwithstanding.