Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Fell For a Hoax

I'll be the first to admit I've done some pretty stupid things in my life. For example:

**When Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern chose Sargent Shriver as his running mate in 1972, I marveled at how a mere sergeant had been chosen for the VP slot. If they wanted a military guy, couldn't they at least find a qualified officer, like, say, a general? This is a true story. I was 12.

**For many years past the point I should have known better, I never figured out that the "Frontage Road"s I saw in cities all across the country were a special kind of road that existed for a purpose -- namely, to provide frontage. I just thought that was a popular name for some reason. Again, a true story.

**Well into middle age, when talking about that world famous medical clinic in Rochester, I would refer to the MY-oh Clinic, instead of the MAY-oh Clinic. This was first brought to my attention by Mrs. Muley, who became exasperated whenever she heard me again mangle the name. "It's MAY-oh!. MAY-oh!," she would implore.

**Once when I had to make a dinner business presentation in Corsicana, about an hour east of Waco, my brain for some reason confused that city with Waxahachie, about an hour north of Waco. I was halfway to Waxahachie when my brain realized my error, and it was only by breaking the sound barrier through a series of small farm roads, and even cutting through a few cow pastures, that I made it to Corsicana in time. I was stressed out, sweating, and had fragrant hay in my teeth when I arrived, but I made it.

I wish I could say that my days of making stupid errors in judgement are over, but they're not. Last week, I fell prey to an Internet hoax which doesn't even have the cachet of being a new, cutting-edge hoax. This one has apparently been around for some time now. It's old news, but I fell for it anyway.

I was on a blog site I'd never visited, supposedly dealing with marriages and relationships. In a post about marriages that are threatened by infidelity, there was a mention of a product called "Forget-Me-Not Panties." These women's panties supposedly carried small GPS tracking devices in them, undetectable by the wearer. This way, the post said, husbands could now keep track of cheating wives 24/7. The panties also let the person monitoring them know when the wearer's body temperature rose, which apparently was an indication of hanky panky (or maybe hanky panty).

This seemed just too wild to be true, so I went to the link provided by the post. Sure enough, there was a web page -- a very slick, professional-looking one -- for Forget-Me-Not Panties. It contained a page with a technical diagram explaining how the panties worked, an order page with sizes and prices and places to click for shipment, and even a testimonial page with comments from two satisfied customers.

One satisfied customer, supposedly a married man, told how putting the panties on his wife helped him prove she was cheating and paved the way for his successful divorce. The second testimonial (from a supposedly concerned father) told how he had made his teenaged daughter wear the panties so he and his wife could be sure she didn't get into trouble. He said in the testimonial he wished there was a way that a miniature video camera could be installed as well, but he was happy with what he got for his money.

Now, I want you to know that the entire time I was reading all of this, the bells of disbelief and suspicion were clanging like crazy in my head. IS THIS REAL? THIS CAN'T BE REAL! they rang. But then I looked again at the slick website, which seemed to have taken a lot of time and money to produce, and I thought, "In today's crazy, careening world, is this such a departure?"

I remembered reading about new, tiny cameras and recorders that had been developed, in part, to do things such as tape record abusive babysitters as they stayed home with children. I remembered the announcement of a new driving gadget a few years back -- some computer GPS gizmo that attached to a car's engine. With one of these on the car of a teenager, a parent could check the computer files at any time and see just where their kid had been driving, and how fast, and at what hours.

So were trackable panties for suspicious men all that inconceivable? I know there are desperate guys out there who would gladly buy such a product. And no, I don't mean me.

My mistake was that, even though I never got rid of the feeling I had that something was amiss, I decided the subject was too good to pass up commenting on, and I decided I would go ahead and write a post as if the product were real, even if down the road it turned out not to be. I did include a disclaimer which said that I didn't know whether the undergarments were legit or not, but I went ahead and attacked and made fun of the things. And when I finished spewing out my brilliant wit, I pressed "Publish Post" and waited to see if anyone would comment.

Luckily, Gentleman Farmer at Glib and Superficial replied quickly, with just the comment I was fearing:
Oh Muley, Muley, Muley: You done been had, boy. I'm layin' odds it's a hoax. If you go to the website, the "Order" page says that they're sold out, and the "ORDER" buttons take you nowhere. They do offer the opportunity to email for an "in stock" update to "," but I'm not brave enough to sign up.

And here's a story about the origin of the hoax. Apparently the name of the company on the website "Panchira Corp." is a word that, in Japanese, means "showing panties." Story here.
If you read that story he linked to, the author at Web Pro News (who was fooled just like me) said the fake panties company was "an entry of an online contest sponsored by Contagious Media to see whose site would generate the most traffic. Forget-Me-Not Panties was hands down the winner, generating 615,562 unique visitors and netting the creators a $2,000 grand prize."

I was visitor No. 615,563. I deleted my post immediately. I was stupid.

Stupid because I put too much faith in fancy packaging.

Stupid because I didn't do any checking with other sources before I wrote.

Stupid because I ignored my gut instincts and wrote and posted anyway.

That's my story, and may it be a cautionary tale for all of you bloggers like me who are having a lot of fun playing with this new toy called the World Wide Web. Just because we're commenting and reporting using amazing bells and whistles doesn't mean we can throw out the reporter's best friends -- hard work and the truth.

And that's really true about Sargent Shriver. I swear it.


nightfly said...

Don't sweat it, man. I could kill the bandwidth of a small state with all the times naivety got the best of me.

For example, when I was a boy I saw that WW1 lasted from 1914-1918, and WW2 (post-US) from 1941-1945. I therefore got it in my head that four years was the rule for a war; after that I simply assumed that the countries had to stop and have a treaty. Then I got to school and learned about the Wars of the Roses and the Hundred Years' War - and immediately decided that they hadn't come up with the rule yet. I'm laughing now just thinking about it.

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