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I'm getting off my bicycle for a bit today and heading down a different path. I hope you'll follow along. I promise I won't get us lost but I can't say the same for my new African friend.

A few years ago, I joined a free social networking site and recently received an unsolicited email from a 23-year-old woman who lives in Ivory Coast, Africa. She wants to be my new friend. Here is her initial email to me (I blocked out her email address to protect the guilty):

Hello, Nice to meet you. Hope you are doing well. I'm Gift Bernard Hugues a lovely girl, and I dropped your profile and I like what I saw, I believe we can become friends, I hope that color and distance doesn't matter but what matters is the love and caring we have for each other. so if it interest you, please reach me back here at my email address: (sweetgift@xxxxxx.com) or you give me your email address so that I shall tell you more about myself and for further important communication also, send you my picture.

I stop here awaiting for your response. Thanks. Gift sweetgift@xxxxxxx.com

I'm somewhat suspicious so I assume the role of "Milburn Drysdale, president of the Beverly Hills Commerce Bank" (with apologies to the late actor Raymond Bailey).

Dear New Friend, Thank you for writing to me. I was happy and flattered to receive your email. Yes, I think we can be friends and begin a wonderful correspondence. However, we must keep our letters to each other on this site only. You see, my secretary, Miss Hathaway, monitors all my Internet activities. However, she cannot see this website, so we must correspond only on this site.

Miss Hathaway is a very efficient secretary but also very nosy. If she finds out that I have a new friend, she will tell Margaret and then there will be heck to pay (excuse my language there). Remind me to tell you about the last time this happened.

Oh! Miss Hathaway is back in the office now. I'd better get back to bank business. Your new friend, Milburn Drysdale

Will my new friend really believe that she is corresponding with a fictional character from "The Beverly Hillbillies"? To be continued.