Urban Legends and Chain Letters

If you don’t find a column from me in this same space next week, it’s because I didn’t forward an email to ten friends within 10 seconds of receiving it. I don’t know if my fate will come in the form of a car accident, a rare, incurable, fast-acting, fatal disease, or being forced to live without caffeine.

Sometimes the chain letter threats are vague: “Forward this to ten of your friends or else the good luck stops here.” Sometimes they’re a bit more specific: “Forward this to ten of your friends or else your children will have eight snow days in a row while your husband is playing golf in Tucson and the road to the wine store will be impassable with all the neighborhood mommies knowing who to blame.”

These dire warnings/instructions follow two types of emails: Flowery and Flawed.

The Flowery Chain Letters let me know someone’s thinking of me today. After wearing out a mouse, two mouse pads and breaking a finger nail to open 15 “Fwd’s” to read the actual message (while gaining access to every other recipient’s names and addresses) I’m instructed to catch my happy rainbow. Then I’m admonished, If I really love Jesus / Am a true friend / Against putting ketchup on eggs, I’ll prove it by forwarding this letter to everyone I know.

Proof is a prime element missing from Flawed Chain Letters, a.k.a., Urban Legends. It’s like standing in line at the grocery store scanning the covers of The Globe and National Enquirer and exclaiming, “Holy Cow Earl! Put that orange juice back! Says here it causes your hair to fall out. I knew there was more of it on the bathroom floor last time I had a cold.”

I’d like to be around next week to eke out one more column, so please, before you hit “FWD. FWD. FWD.”, take the quick and painless Bus Stop Mommies Is It Worth It To Forward This? Test:

1. Would you swear on your First Born’s head, or worse, your last box of Thin Mints, what you’re signing your name to is true?

2. Can you prove it? Did you check www.snopes.com for the latest facts and fiction?

3. Would you still forward the message if you had to go to the store, make copies of the letter, buy appropriate envelopes, $98 worth of stamps, go home, fold, stuff, hand address and mail each envelope?

One of the popular, promising endings to Email chain letters is this: “Send this letter to 6 friends you’re thinking about right now. If the letter comes back to you, it means your friends are thinking about you too!”

Either that, or someone activated a new Message Rule on their computer: “Automatically Return Forwards.”

Karen Rinehart is a syndicated newspaper columnist, public speaker, and creator of The Bus Stop Mommies™. Her book, Invisible Underwear, Bus Stop Mommies and Other Things True To Life, is a popular read in book clubs, school pick up lines, and soccer fields. She enjoys hearing from readers across the States and as far away as Australia, Japan, and England. You can read more at BusStopMommies.com. Karen lives in North Carolina with her two kids, two dogs, and one husband, where they attend St. James Catholic Church. (Well, they leave the dogs at home.)

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