Sunday, 11 March 2012

Identity Gift

Several years ago, I started receiving friendly emails from strange (to me) sources - Miles Kimball, the University of Iowa, Medscape Psychiatry, Iowa politicians. Sometimes they addressed me as Albert and Dorot, but usually they just seemed to understand me as a past customer, alum, or subscriber. It's kind of irritating to be recognized as someone else. When I called Earthlink to see what was going on, they had no way of correcting the situation, so I never knew if Albert and I shared an email address of if somehow he'd mistyped it and the mistake got passed on. I've made several attempts to remove these Norrises from my own identity, but with limited success.

It wasn't difficult to get off the University of Iowa mailing list. When I tried to unsubscribe to Medscape Psychiatry, however, I got all kinds of questions as to why, and then it kept coming to me anyway. Eventually I identified the people for whom these emails were intended, and I found their address. I wrote to them, telling them that I was getting order confirmations and offers that were intended for them. It may be that I wrote at a bad time, because no one ever answered. So I kept getting things. Miles Kimball once sent me a confirmation for something Dorothy had ordered. There was nothing I could do about it. It seems that a dishonest person with some interest would be able to take advantage of this identity gift.

Several months ago I got a message from Carousel Nissan in Iowa, inviting Dorothy to come in for a special deal, and I called the dealership. The woman said those emails don't come from them, but from the corporation and she couldn't tell me how to stop them. But she did look in the phone book and found Dorothy's name. And after that call I was inspired to do some internet research and found that Albert had died a couple of years ago. Albert Stanley Norris was a psychiatrist who apparently trained in psychiatry the University of Iowa and lived in Cedar Rapids at the time of his death. He was from Canada originally. In his picture, he looks like a nice man, but not like the Norrises I knew.

Obviously as a psychiatrist, he would subscribe to a psychiatry journal; Medscape Psychiatry seems to be a pretty conservative one.  After reading his obituary, I was able to find online a newspaper article Dr. Norris wrote a long time ago about how marijuana is more dangerous than cigarettes. He had little concrete information at that time and seemed to be extrapolating from the general concern about drugs. Albert seems to have been a member of something called U.S. English, because they send messages asking for his membership renewal and support.  And during this election cycle, starting in the summer, I've been getting messages for him from Michelle Bachman,  pleading for Albert to send more money to her campaign, first for president, then for Congress, and most recently just a couple of days ago expressing great fear about the "Occupy Wall Street" supporter who is running against her in the primary.

I don't own a Nissan, love the idea of an Occupy candidate for Bachman's seat, and have mixed feelings about English as a national language, since that type of organization is often also anti-immigrant, or at least anti-immigrant from the south. The email messages I've received have enabled me to get a picture of the Norrises that I'd imagine they wouldn't want a complete stranger to have. I wonder if this unsolicited gift of information happens to other people.

I've finally stopped getting the Medscape messages. Some of the businesses have now just substituted my name for theirs in response to my 'unsubscribe' request. And I will tell Michelle Bachman that Albert is no longer available. More that two years after Albert Norris's death, I'm still getting email for him. 

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