Wednesday, February 13, 2008

All that glitters 

Oh, what a dilemma before me! Do I stand by my principles and sacrifice civil politeness? Or do I cut a deal with the forces of greed and bloated web design and return the greetings of an old friend? 'Tis an agonizing choice. What I refer to, if you haven't guessed, is the nigh omnipresent Classmates.com--the website that offers to give you the latest scoop on your school day compatriots. You know, all the people with whom you've neglected to keep in touch over the years. I signed up for the service years ago. Well, sort of. I mean, I forked over my name and information for a chance to read up on all the kids from days past. There weren't many folks on the rolls back then, but I enjoyed the little peek I got and figured I had done my good deed on putting my name out there for those other alumni who were curious on how we all fared. I also turned the offer to "go gold" and pay for the privilege of getting all the contact info and starting a reunion and all that. Anyway, the years have passed and in moments of boredom I have surfed back to the site to look for new names and generally add bits and pieces to my profile. I think in one of those visits I must have turned on the e-mail notification, because in recent months (I haven't been keeping track how many), I've been getting e-mails that some people have been... signing my guestbook. (insert squeal of delight, if you're so inclined) I didn't even know I had a guestbook. Anyway, at one point I ventured over to the site to check it all out. It turns out that only the "gold" members can read their own guestbook. It turns out that you have to go gold to even see who has signed your guestbook. Now, if my curiosity had outweighed my common sense, I would have forked over the cash to see who those long, lost friends were. However, I have acquired a bit of wisdom, or maybe just cynicism, over the years and I fear that there's a good chance that at least some of signatories are marketing folks from Classmates.com, rather than some girl I once doted over who now wants to start a nostalgic romance. (I put that in there because my wife has started reading my blog and I want to give her a good chuckle when she gets this far.) As you might imagine, I've become quite unimpressed with the worthiness of the whole site. (Should I start a new paragraph here? Yes, I think one is quite overdue.)

So yesterday, I came face to face with the dilemma. The ante has been upped. I've got an actual message in my message box (again, I didn't know I even had a message box) from an old high school friend. Not just any friend, but the one and only Gizzard, who was the Groucho Marx of our class. Ah, 'twould be wonderful to reconnect with ol' Giz, to see if the angry young man has grown into a cranky old fart or at least a slick life insurance salesman. But alas, when I went to the venerable Classmates site, into my very own message box to see my very own message, I see that the message header has been footnoted. I quote: * Indicates this message has not been paid for. grumble. Now, I may be mistaken, but I think that Giz had to pay for the golden privilege of sending me that message. However, I can't read, much less respond to it unless I pay as well. So basically the faithful gold member is paying Classmates.com for the privilege of pressuring other people to give money to Classmates.com. It's not exactly a dumb idea, because I do feel a bit guilty about not connecting with Giz. (Not $15 worth of guilt, mind you.) On the other hand, I'm a bit tempted to just pull my name from the site entirely and go fuss about some other evil in the world. Nah, that won't do. Because sooner or later I'll be surfing the net in sheer boredom and I'll run across one of the ever present banner ads...

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