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How did these people know my breasts are too small?

When you write a technology-oriented column in the age of e-mail, you’re sure to get plenty of feedback from your readers. I love that part of my job. Every time I check my inbox, I find it overflowing with friendly messages from people I’ve never heard of, but who have apparently heard of me.

Many of these e-mails tell unique stories. For instance, just the other day a reader named Anita Mann sent me a message with the tantalizing subject “re: The Information You Requested.” I thought that was a bit odd, since I didn’t recall e-mailing her any sort of request for facts. But then again, my memory isn’t what it used to be.

When I opened the message, it gave me a fascinating insight into how my readers respond to my work. “Wet, nude teenage girls frolic in a hot tub while doing complex quadratic equations.” I had no idea that Gigglebytes had this sort of effect on people.

Anita Mann only sent me that message once (although other people continue to send it to me), but some readers keep in regular contact. For instance, Will Save sends me 20 or 30 messages a day, offering everything from easy paths to extreme wealth (I never realized there were so many), to special colognes that will drive women wild with desire, to software that will help me spy on and counterattack the people I love. And I’m always getting friendly messages from Miss Rio, a psychic who seems to know everything about me. Well, not quite everything–she keeps asking for my credit-card number.

But Miss Rio isn’t the only reader who seems to know everything about me. As I examine my e-mail, I keep finding proof that my readers know a great deal about my personal life. Until this very sentence, for instance, I have never let on with my readers that I collect DVDs and love a good bargain. Yet rarely does a day go by without five or more total strangers informing me that I can “Buy 18 DVDs for only a Penny!!!!” Not that these fans always get their facts right. A great many women, for instance, keep asking me if I’m single. Still others–and I swear that none of these are women I have known personally–keep telling me that I absolutely have to start taking herbal Viagra. (Could these be friends of my wife?) And what am I to think of those six to 12 messages I get every day promising to enlarge my breast size?

Rally round the flag

One thing about my fans, though–they’re unfailingly patriotic. Especially since 9/11. Not only do they love America, but they worry a great deal that I am not sufficiently demonstrating my patriotism. My e-mail is full of messages with subjects like “Wear the Red, White, and Blue,” “Get Your USA Lapel Pin!” and “Fight Terrorism! Give Us Money!” One message, with the subject “Drive Like a Real American,” offered to sell me a full-sized American flag that I could drape over my windshield as I drive. Another, “Proudly Wear the USA Across Your Chest!” suggested that I enlarge my breast size.

The life of a freelance writer is a difficult one. There are times when I just barely make enough money to get by. The rest of the time I’m broke. My readers seem to understand this, because they’re always sending me financial suggestions. “Buy a House With No Credit,” one message trumpets. “Only You Can Earn Five Million a Week From Home,” proclaims another. One reader offered to “Wipe Out Your Credit Card Debt!” That was a good deal; all I had to do was pay him half of what I owed on my account and he promised I’d never hear from him again.

And then there are all those messages with the subject “We Found You’re [sic] Lost $$$$$$million!” These really make me wonder just how much money I’ve left lying around. It’s hard to say, since the last time I opened one of these messages, it turned out to be about wet, nude teenage girls frolicking in a hot tub. (Come to think of it, I’d be a bit confused if the girls in the hot tub were dry.)

My readers also worry about the loneliness of the freelance writer. Not only do they tell me about teenage girls in hot tubs (and farm animals in Scandinavia, but we needn’t get into that), but they keep trying to bolster my social life. “Friends from High School Are Trying to Track you Down,” one message wrote. Much to my relief, Peter wasn’t still looking for that $5. Another message offered “8 million e-mail addresses,” but I don’t need that many pen pals.

My e-mail leaves no doubt-my readers love me and love my column. They don’t seem to care much for COMPUTERUSER editor James Mathewson. Every day, eight or nine different readers send me mail telling me to “Fire Your Boss.” I hate to disappoint so many of my loyal fans, but my contract with COMPUTERUSER doesn’t give me that power. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about it. I opened one of those messages the other day–sent to me by a fan named Rich Fastneasy. It recommended I enlarge my breast size so I can frolic in a hot tub with wet, nude teenage girls.

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