Here's My BlitzMail Password

by John W. Ferrie | 7/3/96 5:00am

Last term I was surprised along with the rest of Dartmouth to hear that someone had been installing programs into the public computers on campus. These programs successfully stored the passwords of anyone who happened to use BlitzMail and revealed them to that mysterious someone. Now, after I heard this news, two questions immediately popped into my mind: 1) What kind of complete loser would have the time on his/her hands to design and implement such a thing, and 2) Did I have anything to hide?

The answer to question one was fairly simple: probably someone who was going to make lots of money next year programming software for Bill Gates' eventual take-over of the earth. Answering question two, however, was a little tricky. After all, I was as guilty as anyone else of getting the "natural BlitzMail urge" when in Baker or just about anywhere else permitted by law. It was possible that some of these messages, if read by eyes other than my own, would prove embarrassing or even, dare we say, admissible in court. I couldn't be sure, so I decided to take a look.

Opening up my BlitzMail, I was greeted as usual by ... nothing. No double beep, no clink-clank, no duck quack -- no stupid sound whatsoever. In other words, no new mail. It seems that Secret Number One for the e-mail cat-burglar would be that I have no friends. OK, that's not too bad. I could deal with that. Everyone suffers BlitzMail droughts at some point. So I moved on.

Double-clicking on my BlitzMail rectangle, the "In Box" appeared. However, this process took several hours as it became apparent I had not cleaned it out in several years. One hundred and eighty-six messages, my computer told me. "BLITZMAIL MEMORY IS RUNNING LOW. START DELETING MESSAGES OR START LEARNING TO USE THE PHONE." Intimate Secret Number Two: I'm a very messy guy. No sweat, I told myself, if anyone just took a quick look around my room they could see that. Untroubled, I then scanned through my "In Box."

I am not proud to tell you that some of the blitzes dated as far back as 1992. However, it was easy to see why I kept them, considering they contained such moving messages as "Your Green Card balance of -450.00 is now two months overdue; Please pay since we tried to charge your credit card but, strangely enough, the number you gave us does not seem to exist", and "John, please stop following me or I'll have to notify the police. I just don't like you in that way."

Reading these messages again brought tears to my eyes. Each was like a tiny, computerized scrapbook of Dartmouth memories. Secret Number Three: I'm rather sentimental.

Next, it was time to check out my BlitzMail folders and discover what they might reveal about me. To my surprise, I only had two folders: "Important Crap" and "Stupid Crap." Well, I suppose this was a good indicator of how I see the world. In my "Important Crap" folder were mostly messages from various Dartmouth administrators and my father.

My father's messages were on the bland side. Most of them had to do with creative financial schemes to get the most out of my Dartmouth Experience. For instance, in a blitz dated 02/18/93, he wrote: "Hey, great idea! If you can take ten courses in one term, you'd only have to go to D. for one year! That way, we'd save a lot of money! Check into it! You're a smart kid, I know you can do it! Dad!"

I honestly believe his liberal use of exclamation points makes him feel more fatherly, as if he's right in my room shouting advice in my ear. At least I hope so, since I don't think it's what you might call "normal."

There was also a very nice blitz from the Registrar welcoming me back for the term: "Hello 109-70-3700. We've noticed you're back for more classes. In fact, rumor has it you'd like to graduate this term. Ha! Ever heard of the Registrar "accidentally" losing student records? Did you really think we'd forget that day freshman year when you complained about our business hours? -- Love and Kisses, The Omnipotent Mass of Women Previously Known As The Registrar.

My "Stupid Crap" folder was dominated by mass-blitzes from guys in my fraternity. They contained such profound and soul-searching questions as "Yo, anybody wanna deal some meal at FC in twenty?" or "Who the hell's been using my hair conditioner in the shower? -- you know, the Vidal Sassoon Mango-Banana Sunshine Hair Relaxer For Sensitive Men. Whoever you are, when I find you, I'm gonna kill you." Truly these are Dartmouth's translators of Catullus of which College President James Freedman speaks. When I moved on to my "Trash," the names there looked eerily similar to the ones in my "Stupid Crap" folder. Every now and then I must confuse the two.

It appeared then that the only thing left was my "Sent Messages" folder. Would this be the bonanza of intimate knowledge about me, my very own micro-chipped Pandora's Box? I opened it and, to my great relief, there were only a few messages, all of them harmless. One was to my father: "I am in great danger. No time to explain. Send money."

There was also a blitz to a certain Dartmouth professor: "Prof. Jefferson, your reluctance to accept the $1000 from my personal "grant" slush fund is surprising, as is your statement that it would be "immoral." "Immoral" is a rather strong word to apply to promising me an "A" in your course, I think. Is it "immoral" that you -- a hard-working, honest man of academia -- should be given his proper due every now and then? I think not. And more importantly, would your beautiful wife consider it "immoral" to use the money for, say, a new fur coat? I think not. Ask her yourself."

To a person named "Carluzzo" I had only this to say: "Prof. Jefferson is not listening to sensible talk. Give him the horse's head. Big John."

As you have seen, in the end my BlitzMail account proved quite innocuous and, if anything, a bit boring. I can't understand why I had been so worried in the first place. So I suppose all I have left to say should be directed to the e-mail password thief: if you want to get into my account, feel free. All you need to do is ask. Or, when you're not too busy invading the privacy of others, try reading the paper.

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