Monday, October 22, 2007
THE FRIEND CATCHER
I got this email from "Mr Sunday Fagbohunka" the other week, outlining a unique business proposition:
Dear Mr Martin,
Firstly, God's blessings on you and I trust you are in excellent health. My name is Sunday Fagbohunka, and I represent an important and progressive data and media organisation. We have just formally opened new premises in London.
We enjoyed very much some of your activities on "Behind the Implode" (sic) and would like to present you with some work. We will be happy to pay £200 for each day you work at our sophisticated Berwick Street office. You can choose whichever days you wish to work, so it will be easy for you to take time away from job. If you were to pretend to be sick for a week, you could make £1,000.
Please accept my highest regards and I pray you find this proposal agreeable
Well, what would YOU do? I gave him the nod and was emailed back an address on Berwick Street, and told to report to Captain Ometoso. I rang up my real workplace crying, saying I couldn't get over Kate McCann's extraordinary bravery, and was granted three days of compassionate leave to recuperate. "EASY 600 SMACKERS, HERE I COME" I sang to the tune of She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain as I strolled past Sister Ray towards the lair of my new temporary employer.
I was greeted by a bearded white man in an electric blue suit, who introduced himself as Mr Krempton. "Captain Ometoso is, ah, extremely busy at the moment," he said, simultaneously breaking eye contact. "He's talking to very important clients in New York, Singapore and Vatican City! You've definitely made the right choice coming here today. I'll show you to your, ah, work station." His breath smelt of Toilet Duck.
We entered a tiny room with two laptops chained to a desk and a futon stuffed in the corner. There was a skinny woman on a swivel chair tapping away at one of the laptops, she barely acknowledged our presence. A radio was playing some godawful MOR cheese. "Ah, this is young Samantha," Krempton muttered with a pained expression on his face. "You'll be working with her, but bear in mind that despite the fact she's mute, she does carry a rape alarm, and I am NEVER far away! Do you understand?"
"Loud and clear," I replied. "I'm here for the money, I don't want to try it on with anyone."
"Ah...good...GOOD!" Krempton exhaled, looking slightly relieved. "Yes,that's a very... GOOD thing! Now...you sit down besides young Samantha there...that's it...now, here's your work...if you make suitable progress by 12.30, I will treat you both to a delicious McChicken sandwich! How does that sound?"
He'd handed me a list of names, one printed in black, the other in red, spanning six sides of A4. Each black name was linked to a red name. "What am I supposed to do with these?" I enquired.
"The names in black are already registered on the Facebook network," Krempton explained. "See the corresponding red name for each 'black'? You'll be pretending to be that 'red' person. The 'reds' are real people from the 'blacks'' past. We need you to create fake email addresses for all of the 'reds', create a profile for each on Facebook, and, ah, befriend the target 'blacks'! Once the 'blacks' add you to their friends, we'll be able to snoop on their profiles! Now, I must attend to Capt Ometoso - I'll be back before lunch!"
"What sort of job's this?" I whinged to myself once he'd gone. "I thought they wanted me to do blog posts about nazis." I started to half-heartedly register a fake Yahoo account for "TOM HOWLETT" when Samantha suddenly swung round in her swivel chair and barked, "How much are you getting paid?"
I told her. "The thieving pikey bastards!" she raged. "I KNEW I was being underpaid...I'm on a daily rate of £50! Institutionalised sexism!"
"It's your fault," I retorted. "Your lot should have crucified the bastards when you had them by the balls! But you decided you wanted rampant rabbits and pole dancer arses instead! You sold out the struggle for womens' liberation, you believed all those mumsy columnists banging on about Playboy being the new feminism! Judge Pickles must be crying with laughter. Well done, you've reclaimed the bedroom, but you're still getting £150 less than me! Hang on, hang on - Mr Krempton said you were mute?"
"Bah, I wouldn't believe a word that pervert says," she snorted. "My first day on the job and he was trying to grope my tits. He soon backed off though, when I pretended my iPod was a rape alarm."
"Can't we change the station?" I frowned, as a Chris de Burgh song came on.
"I love this song!" she snapped. "And no, we fucking can't! You might be on £200 a day but you've only been here 2 minutes, show me a bit of respect."
"Whatever," I snarled, doing a Facebook search for "ANDREA YESHI". "This job is fucking rubbish. Why do they want me to persuade these people that I'm an old friend from the past?"
"Surveillance," Samantha intoned as if she was speaking to a baby in a pram. "Jealous husbands, bitter and jilted lovers, prying parents, HR departments who want to ensure key employees aren't mixing with undesirables...Facebook beats the fuck out of ID cards, it's completely eradicated the concept of anonymity. Once upon a time, people simply disappeared or dropped out of sight, they often had genuine reasons for wanting to do so. Facebook is a whopping great hoover, sucking them all back into the memory bank. We'll all comprise one big, friendly network soon, and anyone outside of its range will be utterly disenfranchised."
So - I ploughed through the names, I saw messages scrawled on 'walls', 36,000 people had banded together to "GET IAN HUNTLEY OFF FACEBOOK". I conned users into thinking I was someone they used to know, God knows who, just so that Ometoso and Krempton could delve into their profiles, join the missing dots, analyse each network and provide vital evidence to clients racked by insatiable curiosity.
I felt my head splitting, partly from the lack of air in the room, and partly from the godawful MOR tunes. As the Korgis' wretched Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime bled into some pile of equally funereal wank by The Feeling, I started to go mad. "ANDREW SHEPTON" had accepted my fake "KEVIN FRAYNE" as a friend, greeting him with a private message asking if he was still with Susan after "all that AIDS test shit", and requesting him not to bring up certain stuff, as his employers were in his network - "but we really should hook up for a beer at some point!". Mania gripped me. Still logged in as "KEVIN", I started to 'poke' various female Facebook profiles. One, "NICOLE CANNING", poked me back. "GET THE FUCK OFF FACEBOOK, YOU MORON!" I PM'd her. "THEY'RE CLOSING IN! HOW LONG BEFORE YOU BECOME ONE OF OMETOSO'S TARGETS?"
I joined a group, "VOTE BORIS FOR LONDON". Some disgusting, self-satisfied pig who fondles his own kids and thinks Asian girls are easy had left a message for all: "NEWHAM WOULD BE MUCH BETTER IF THE CHAV FAMILIES MOVED OUT, LOL! I JUST WONDER, WILL IT STILL BE SUCH A DUMP WHEN THE OLYMPICS BEGINS??? IT WONT REFLECT WELL ON LONDON AT ALL UNLESS THEY MAKE MASSIVE CHANGES"
I was now logged in as **** ****** - she wasn't on Ometoso's sick list of 'reds', but she was a cool, half-Arab militant lesbian girl I knew around 1994-1995, who once got busted for ripping up jazz mags in a newsagent in Victoria Station.
I started to spam the cunts in "VOTE BORIS". "LAURA NORDER WAS RIGHT -THE FUTURE OF LOFT LIVING IS INCREASED FEAR OF CRIME!" I bombarded the bastards. "STAB THE FOXTONS SWINDLERS IN THEIR MINIS!! MISSING PERSONS ARE THE TRUE INVISIBLE ARMY! STRENGTH THRU ANONYMITY! ITINERANT POWER!" I photoshopped a pic of Maddie McCann, replacing the Look Into My Eyes legend with the slogan MUMMY, I DID A RUNNER FOR A REASON and then forwarded it to everyone in the sordid pro-Tory collective.
"Fuck this bollocks," I told Samantha. "Fancy going for an alcopop picnic in Red Lion Square?"
"Do I hear tummies gurgling for a delicious McChicken sandwich?" lisped Krempton, suddenly sticking his head round the door. "How's it all going?"
"I've had a few results," I said, handing over the list of names I'd ticked to indicate which profiles were ripe for probing .
"What, only TWO?" Krempton screamed. "Good Lord, what have you been doing all morning!? Shopping on Wikipedia, no doubt!"
"Look, you can stuff this job," I said. "Give me £50 and I'll be on my way. And I don't want a poxy McChicken sandwich, I've just trawled through the very depths of depravity. I can't believe this, you're basically acting as middle men for a bunch of snoops!"
"Oh my Lord!" he wailed. "You tried to violate young Samantha didn't you? Oh, I knew it was a mistake to hire you! I tried to warn Capt Ometoso, but he's been hitting the rum of late and he simply can't compute common sense when alcohol fugs his underdeveloped, African brain."
"Oh, fuck off," I swore. "Young Samantha's been telling me all about your dirty little stunts, you filthy satyr, so just give me my dosh and I'll be off." I turned to Samantha and gesticulated for back-up. Instead she simply whimpered and recoiled as if I was about to hit her. She then threw herself behind Krempton, while pointing at my crotch and waving her iPod around.
"That's it!" Krempton thundered. "Get out now, before I call the police! Predatory scum like you make me want to vomit!"
I obviously wasn't getting paid, so I nicked a biro, legged it back onto the street, bought a couple of bottles of Hooch and headed for a solo lunch outside Conway Hall. Well, they say these email offers are too good to be true.
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