Monday, May 16, 2011

Chain of Fools

Chain, Chain, Chain ....

"In love all things are possible," heralded the e-mail, "this message has been sent to you for luck.  Just forward the e-mail to 20 of your most trusted friends, and the luck will be sent to you!"

A couple of months ago, somebody actually e-mailed me the electronic version of probably the most classic chain letter of all time. I was flabbergasted. How could anyone think that I, a sophisticated man of the world --- or at least, of Havertown PA --- would fall for such simple-minded superstitious claptrap?

"On the other hand," said a little voice inside me, "if there's a buck or two to be made, what's a little salt over the shoulder between friends?"

You've probably received this letter yourself a half dozen times in your life.  You remember:

"While in the Philippines, George Welch broke the chain.  51 days later, he lost his wife.  David Fairchild received the letter, and not believing, threw it away; nine days later he died. A young woman in California received the letter but put it aside.  She was plagued with various problems, including expensive car repairs."

I'd forgotten what an old pro the chain letter was at dishing out hard luck.  Its capacity for striking mortal blows was impressive, but I couldn't work myself into a lather over expensive car repairs.  Even if I were dating Mother Teresa, I'd expect expensive car repairs.

Then there were the chain's true believers: 

"Constantine Dias received the letter and asked his secretary to make 20 copies and sent them. A few days later, he won a lottery of two million dollars .... Carlos Deodity received the letter, forgot about it, and lost his job.  Later, he made 20 copies, and got a better job ..."

Even the hapless car repair lady got back into the act when:

" .... she retyped the letter, sent it on, and got a new car."

"Puerile gibberish,"  I scoffed. If the chain actually possessed the power to dispense automobiles, winning lottery tickets, and cushy sinecures, why couldn't it also learn to operate spell-check and correct its rife misspellings and third-grade grammar?

At that very moment, there welled up inside me an oddly familiar little voice. 

"What if it does work?" the voice scolded. "What's to lose?"

 "But how can it possibly work, oddly familiar little voice?"  I shot back.  And what did the chain mean "the luck has been sent to you?" 

It figures that the kind of luck I'd get would be coming third class mail through the U.S. Postal Service.  What if an unscrupulous postal worker intercepted my luck and made off with it? I could just imagine some jerk down in St. Tropez clutching onto my luck while performing prodigious sexual acts with an dizzying array of the world's top super models while I'm waiting like an idiot in Havertown PA for Tony, the mailman who picks his teeth with my K-Mart bill.

The chain was originally written, so the e-mail claimed, by:

 " ... Saul Anthony De Grou, a missionary from Venezuela," and "has been around the world 9 times." 

"If this thing actually works, I said aloud, "why isn't Father De Grou more well known?  By now he ought to at least be the Pope."

"Go ahead and let that stop you,"  chided the little voice. "Next thing you know you'll be reading that De Grou's the big winner on the premiere season of  'The Voice!'"

The chain's prayer to one St. Jude Thaddeus also bothered me. Though the prayer was marked 'Optional,' I had my doubts that St. Jude --- nice a fellow as I'm sure he is --- would come through for one of the Jewish persuasion. Constantine Dias and Carlos Diodity, the chain's most glowing success stories, didn't exactly sound like a couple of guys you'd meet over corned beef at Murray's.

But the voice was insistent.  "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio," it counseled, "that are dreamed of in your philosophy." If there's anything I'm a sucker for it's a little voice from my duodenum that quotes Shakespeare, even though I've never been partial to being called 'Horatio.'

So it was that I found myself later that day sitting in front of my PC, resolved to forward the chain to 20 of my most gullible friends and acquaintances, then sit back to reap my great good fortune.  I queued up the chain letter and began to type the list of intended recipients when suddenly something happened!  

Microsoft Windows froze.

"AHHHH, it's a sign!" the voice shrieked.  "The chain's already broken and your transmission and pan gasket will blow tomorrow!  Not to mention you and I will be dropping dead soon!"

And with that, my pint-sized alter-ego was gone.

Maybe the voice was right.  Maybe it was a sign.  A sign from far above and up on high.  A sign from Father De Grou himself!  Or Bill Gates!

A sign that chain letters really are nothing but simple-minded superstitious claptrap!

Thank you, Good Father De Grou, for reminding me of that.


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