Virus warning! Be on the alert for the Tourette Virus. It will insert random obscene words into your text files. You will not be able to eliminate these words with a simple Find and Delete search because the virus uses hundreds of different obscenities, and it will spit them out randomly. You will have to go through every one of your documents to discover where they are. Then, once you’ve deleted them, they will appear again when you close the file or try to save it. This is a real nasty one. It can be picked up with ordinary music downloads, particularly in the country music genre but in others as well. Please pass this warning on to everyone in your address book.
Have you gotten this yet? You probably will. I’m the author of it. Thousands, maybe millions, have read it by now. I’ve gotten it back several times. That’s when I know they’re good, when I start getting them back. Did you see this one?
The energy expended in the average sneeze could generate enough electrical power to start a car engine.
Contrary to popular belief, biting your fingernails is good for your teeth. And swallowing your fingernails is a good source of protein.
Ferrets can rotate their heads 360 degrees.
Panthers are the only mammals who have both male and female reproductive organs (from the Greek, “pan thera” or “all genders”).
Many digital cable boxes contain hidden cameras.
John F. Kennedy increased his life insurance by $500,000 three hours before he was killed.
Adolph Hitler’s favorite song was “Bie Mir Bist Du Schoen.”
And so on. Some of my best creative work is done during the occasional downtime at my job. I’m a proofreader for a major direct marketing agency. You know all that junk mail you barely look at before you throw it away? That’s what I proofread. “Letter-perfect from the mail to the pail,” is what I say.
The next time you get a sweepstakes notice, check out the small print. No, you don’t have to read it, that’s my job, just take note of how much of it there is. Realize that I’ve examined it, in all its grueling detail, on at least six different occasions, and if there’s a typo in there it’ll be my ass.
If you listen to music through headphones, and the rhythm falls in sync with your heartbeat for more than fifteen seconds, any variation in it can result in a dangerous arrhythmia.
I’ve been publishing in this way for two years now, and no one’s caught me yet. Somewhere in the agency, I’m sure, Big Brother is scrutinizing our extracurricular workstation activity, but they must be looking for porn downloads or hits on terrorist Web sites. In any case, if I haven’t been fired by now, I probably won’t be. At least not for this.
Do not keep plants in a closed room for any length of time. They will oversaturate the air with oxygen. When you enter the room, your static electricity could cause a fire.
Alyssa Wong dropped by my cubicle this morning with a bunch of galleys. She’s one of the traffic people who take the work around, from the computer geeks who input it, to yours truly, who hopefully catches their mistakes, to the powers that be, who then change their minds about nearly everything and start the whole process again. She’s my favorite, a beautiful Asian woman with big, almond-shaped eyes and long, dark hair. My knees grow weak in her presence.
“Mark,” she said (I love it when she says my name), “could you do me a favor? Do you think you could proofread my resume for me?”
“Are you leaving?” I asked, my heart sinking.
“I’d like to,” she said with a little shrug that I found adorable. “Wouldn’t everybody?”
“Not me,” I replied earnestly. “What else would I do with a degree in English Lit?”
She laughed. Alyssa has the most melodious laugh I’ve ever heard. I could listen to it for the rest of my life. “You’re never serious, are you?” she chided me.
I could be serious about you, I thought, and then was unable to speak. Fortunately, I was saved when I remembered her request. “I’ll be glad to look at your resume,” I said, in a voice that I hoped sounded efficient, yet warm. “When can you bring it by?”
“Would sometime after lunch be all right?”
“It’s a date,” I said, and immediately felt like a total idiot.
Five Possible Signs of Cancer
Frequent urge to yawn
Need to urinate more than once during a twelve-hour period
Lack of energy after sexual activity
Dryness in the throat upon awakening
Unexpected weight gain
I was taking a break from a particularly odious piece of work, a medical pamphlet with tons of prescription information, by browsing through one of the search engines that look for Web sites containing e-mail addresses. I originally started out by copying addresses from e-mail forwards I’d get, and built up a pretty good database that way, but then I discovered these search engines. They’re wonderful tools, and I owe a large part of my success to them.
My collecting pleasure was interrupted, however, by a familiarly grating voice. “Marco Polo, my man!” It was Kevin Wazlewski, my least favorite traffic person. He always calls me Marco Polo, it’s his idea of clever wordplay. “Just wanted to give you a heads-up, ol’ buddy. The Banana Safari Catalog is gonna be comin’ at you in full force tomorrow.”
I couldn’t look at him, his buff jock physique, his pecs arrogantly stretching his tank-top shirt. Mostly, I didn’t want to look at the gleeful expression on his face. “Great, Kevin, thanks,” I murmured, waving my hand vaguely in his direction while staring at my computer screen.
“Just thought I’d pass it along,” he said happily. “I know you don’t like sudden surprises.” He gave the side of my cubicle a playful smack that made it shake.
It’s true. The worst thing you can do to a proofreader is dump a large job on him without prior notice. In Kevin’s case, though, warning me only helped get his sadistic rocks off, because he could see me suffer twice. “Have fun!” he sang out, as he continued down the aisle.
A man was driving to school to pick up his two children, but he was running late. Suddenly, he had a premonition that they were going to be kidnapped. He frantically sped up the car, praying to God to protect them until he could get there. In the fervency of his prayer, he lost concentration and didn’t see the traffic stopped ahead. His car slammed into the rear of the car in front of him, killing him instantly but disabling the other vehicle, which was being driven by a convicted child molester. God, in His wisdom, will protect the children of those who truly believe in Him. Pass this story on to all your friends and loved ones.
Alyssa came down with her resume a little after two. She sat in the chair beside my desk, crossed her shapely, elegant legs, and watched me as I read it, causing me no little distraction. But I concentrated fiercely and managed to spot a few mistakes that, although minor, made me feel proud of myself.
“This is nice,” I said, glancing over at her. “Do you want to be an art director?”
“Eventually,” she said, “but right now, I’ll probably settle for a horizontal move, maybe traffic manager at some other agency where they promote people faster. I’ve already made one change in my life this week, so why not two?”
I guess she wanted me to ask, so I did. “What change is that?”
“I broke up with my boyfriend.”
“Oh.” Now I had no idea what to say, which is what always happens when someone tells me something personal about themselves.
“I’m sorry,” is what came out.
She gave one of those wonderful, mellifluous laughs. “That’s sweet, but you shouldn’t be. It was a long time coming and I’m much better off.”
“Well, in that case, I’m glad,” I said.
She laughed again. “Glad to make you glad. How about you? Is there a significant proofreaderess in your life?”
“Not at the moment,” I answered. Not at any moment in the history of the world, I thought.
“Well, I really appreciate your doing this for me.” She stood and reached over my desk to pick up her amended resume, putting her close enough for me to smell her perfume, which was the most intoxicating fragrance I’d ever experienced. She paused at the entranceway to my cubicle and looked back at me. “If there’s anything I can do in return, please let me know, okay?”
My mind was in utter turmoil. Was this an opportunity? She’d always seemed to find my company agreeable; she actually thought I was funny; she just told me she broke up with her boyfriend. “How about having a drink with me after work?” I found myself saying, not believing I was doing it.
She looked pleased for a brief moment that made my spirits soar, but then she said, “Oh, I can’t.” Her voice sounded genuinely disappointed; at least I thought so. I’m used to women patronizing me, I’ve got radar for it, but this didn’t sound that way. “I’m supposed to get together with Kevin,” she said apologetically. “He has a virus protection program for my PC, and he’s going to help me install it.”
“Kevin Wazlewski?” I asked, my stomach giving a lurch.
“Yes, he sent me an e-mail about a new virus that’s really scary, the Tourette Virus. You can get it by downloading country music, and I do that a lot.”
“Oh,” I said, oddly relieved, “you don’t have to worry; that’s not real.”
“It isn’t? How do you know? I looked it up on FactChequer and they didn’t say anything about it.”
I was actually disappointed to hear that. FactChequer.com is my New York Times Best-seller List. If it’s on there, it means a lot of people have gotten it. I don’t care about being debunked, just about being read. But more than that, I cared about her, and not having Kevin Wazlewski install anything anywhere.
“It’ll be on FactChequer soon, believe me,” I said. “I know it’s false.”
Could I tell her? I so wanted to. It’s frustrating to be famous and be the only one who knows about it. I yearned to share it with somebody, someone who’d understand. Would she? I hoped so. “Because I’m the original author,” I said.
She blinked. “You’re what?”
“I’m the writer.” I told her about all the e-mails I’ve been publishing, some that have become classics, like the so-called Dyslexia Worm, the one that switches around any numbers it finds on your hard drive. It was exposed as a hoax on FactChequer two years ago, and I still see it going around. I even got up a few of my favorites on the screen and showed them to her. The whole time she seemed fascinated, shaking her head in wonder, but not saying a word. “So you don’t have to worry about the Tourette Virus,” I said in conclusion, “and we can have that drink after all, if you want.”
To my dismay, she looked at me the way someone looks at a package of raw chicken that’s a couple of days past the sale date. “I don’t think so,” she said. “You know, when you first started telling me all this, I thought you were kidding. But you really mean it; you really do these things to people, lying to them and frightening them.”
It felt as if I’d been slapped. “Have you ever noticed the stuff we crank out at this place?” I retorted. “What I do is no worse than that, and it’s much more creative. And people actually read it.”
Her tone had now become icy. “I don’t want to be responsible for getting you fired, so I won’t report you,” she said evenly. “I’ll just keep delivering work to you as usual, but we’ll hold the chit-chat to a minimum from now on, okay? Thanks for looking at my resume.” With that, she turned on her heel and left.
It was difficult, because my eyes kept watering, but I went back to reading the work in front of me, a sheet of voluminous prescription information about the rare but horrific possible side effects of a new cholesterol-lowering pill. If people were going to experience liver failure, at least it wouldn’t be misspelled.
Be on the lookout for the Empty Life Virus. It will take the form of a Self-Pity program hidden in an otherwise innocent-looking Desire download. Once in your hard drive, it will begin to create Loneliness files that will increase exponentially, until you are no longer able to access any shareware at all. Ultimately, it will irreversibly corrupt your entire system. Please forward this message to your friends and family, and anyone you truly care about. Before it’s too late.