Stob (Previously: Verity Stob has travelled deep into Essex to meet Sam ‘The Spam’ Osborne, England’s first spamillionaire.)
Inside the house, I expected a typical wealthy Essex businessman’s abode: crossed sawn-offs over a granite mantel, 300 inch widescreen TVs in every tennis court, more fake marble than you could shake a building society branch at.
But it wasn’t like that at all. The place had an institutional quality to it: glass doors opening on tidy little offices, a server cupboard filled with blinking LEDs and air conditioning noise, a disabled loo. Osborne led me to a large room containing 10 or 20 people, all seated at PCs.
"Before we go in I should warn you that… that we have a policy of giving jobs to folks who haven’t been as lucky in life as we have. Please don’t be alarmed by anything."
I was alarmed. I nervously followed Osborne into the room.
"Come and meet Helen. She’s our longest serving employee."
Osborne indicated a frail-looking, middle-aged woman sat at a PC in the far corner. Even as he pointed, she gave a faint groan and collapsed forward, head lolling gracelessly on her keyboard. Appalled, I started towards her, but Osborne put out his hand to stop me.
Nobody else took any notice at all.
As I drew breath to express outrage, the woman called Helen twitched, sat up, gazed at the screen blearily for a moment, and then continued typing.
Osborne said quietly into my ear: "Narcolepsy. Quite safe, in this form. Helen prefers that we ignore her 'interludes'. It seems like the kindest thing. Come and see."
We tiptoed up to Helen, and gazed over her shoulder at her screen. She was composing an email. It could not be said that her condition did not interfere with her work. She had typed:
Absolutely No Doctor's Prescription Needed!
Phentermine, Viagra, Soma, Ambien, Floricet, Imitrex, Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft...
leeuwenhoek xqpfbviztf x d r naqzzgqkkjt tfqjatcc
and many many more prescription drugs!
"Oh," I said, suddenly enlightened, "is this why one so often gets whole lines of gobbledygook in spam? Because Helen has, erm, encountered a pause? I thought it was a dodge to defeat checksum-based spam filters."
Osborne said, "You’d be surprised how many people think that. But do come and meet Michael." He tugged me towards another corner of the room.
Michael was about 30 years old and rather overweight. He wore a shell suit and the pleasant, guileless smile of a person disadvantaged by learning difficulties. He smelled of wee, but no worse than the people who sit next to you on the Tube.
"Hello Michael," said Osborne. "This lady has come all the way from London to see you do your typing. Will you show her?’
"Michael type good," said Michael. He furrowed his brow, protruded a furled tongue and with unbearable deliberation picked out an email:
ADD I.NCHE.S WITH OUR P.I.L.L!
STIL NO LUCK E*N*L*A*R*G*I*N*G IT????
Our pr’oduct will work 4U!!!!!!!!!!!
"Well done Michael," I said enthusiastically. "That’s very good. Is it true you like sweet things?" And I gave him the chocolate bar that Osborne had quietly passed to me while Michael was struggling to find his eighth consecutive shriek-stop.
I asked Osborne: "Can we talk about this somewhere?"
"In a moment. First let’s see what Mr Bank is up to."
Mr Bank was a thin, grey-haired bald-pated man in a velvet jacket. He was typing rapidly.
Osborne put his mouth near my ear and whispered: "Thinks he’s Jane Austen reincarnated. Not our most productive worker."
By this time the report of the accident had spread among the workmen and boatmen about the Cobb, and many were collected near them, to be useful if wanted; at any rate, to enjoy the sight of a dead young lady, nay, two dead young ladies, for it proved twice as fine as the first report.
ARE YOU ASHAMED OF YOUR PENIS?
To some of the best-looking of these good people Henrietta was consigned, for, though partially revived, she was quite helpless; and in this manner, Anne walking by her side, and Charles attending to his wife, they set forward, treading back, with feelings unutterable, the ground which so lately, so very lately, and so light of heart, they had passed along.
THIS REALLY WORKS!
I said: "But I was sure that was to defeat Bayesian blocking. I never thought…"
Osborne silenced me with a finger. "Come into my office and we’ll talk about it."
[To be continued] ®