This is Not the Charlton You're Looking For
All user ids and passwords have been disguised.
Three first names have been changed.

Samantha Charlton is looking for a room to rent on the coast near Barcelona. Charlton L Apgar has a mortgage with Citi. Jim Charlton is looking into the South Cowichan Eye Care clinic. Three siblings in either Germany or England or someplace in between, at least one of them a Charlton, are trying to divide up their late mother's unusually valuable effects, although I don't know why they should share all the elegant details with me. Irene Charlton is fond of comparison shopping. Jennie Charlton's car reservation is cancelled. (Not my fault.) Robert Charlton's memberships in AARP and AFSCME are confirmed. Bryn Charlton's O2 bill this month is £9.99.

The odd emails began in 2004. A friend who worked at Google invited me to join a very early public beta test of Gmail. There were so few people on the system when I signed up that I was able to get my last name, Charlton, as my userid. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But then strange things started happening, likely caused by accidental blank spaces in email addresses. The result is not spam. These are genuine emails intended for real people named Charlton who happen not to be me.

I rarely respond to these notes to and from strangers. The first time I tried to help was when a nearby working mother named Charlton warned that she was unable to pick up "our" kids at daycare, so I needed to get there quickly to retrieve them before closing time. I dashed off a brief reply alerting her to the problem. She reacted angrily, accusing me of hijacking her husband's email account.

But then another busy young Charlton mother, this one half a continent away, asked me to please bring flowers to her child's christening the next morning. When I explained the problem, her brief reply was grateful and gracious.

As the number of Gmail users grew, so did the number of my identities. A Charlton in Shanghai got his work issues tangled up in my inbox for a while. A Charlton in Hong Kong also shared lots more of his business matters with me than he would have liked. A Mrs. Charlton in Australia has so many points with Qantas that she could probably travel around the world for free, if she wished. Charlton Pettus is still in discussions with a financial service provider. Singapore Airlines has advised Charlton Ho that he should "Update your email address to stay updated."

(It seems unlikely that sending that advice to the wrong email address will do much good.)

I enjoy being in a study group of foreigners in South Africa who are planning to apply to a local university. This ongoing discussion has the dual benefits of a connection, however distant, with interesting people and topics, and the charming knowledge that there is someone in the world whose name appears to be Charlton Charlton. At the same time I am a regular participant at vespers on the beach at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Jean Charlton in Virginia is very proud of her son Russ Charlton in New York. I hope she has a better way of telling him so, since she has his email address wrong. Charlton M Medina is the intended recipient of an oxymoronic email that says, "This is a non-commercial message sent to you by Wells Fargo as part of your account relationship."

John Charlton was impressively quick in figuring out what was wrong with his payroll deduction:

6:34 am Subj: Enroll in your workplace savings plan today!

7:49 am Subj: Confirming your Investment Election

7:54 am Subj: Confirming your Contribution Amount

8:39 am Subj: Confirming your change in Contact Information


Buddytopdog forwarded me an email from, um, a self-identified female marsupial, who expressed an interest in carefully, and I think virtually, two-timing a knight of the old testament, who "was sick and dint call." I won't say which member of the cyber-triangle is the Charlton. Another guy I don't know is offering to come over and do a clean install of my OS because nothing else has worked for me and we're friends. I'm being pestered to show up for a pre-admit visit that keeps getting rescheduled for me at a hospital 400 miles away. James Charlton is having trouble signing up for Facebook. Let's see if we can figure out why. Oh, Ivy Charlton is now having exactly the same problem with Facebook.

Facebook, by the way, is increasing the pressure on me, Charlton Blues, to finish signing up. I started to experiment with it, and it looks like I could easily hijack the account. After I passed the simple captcha I was presented with a "reset-my-password" button to click. I did not click it.

I appear to do a lot of gardening around my house in New Zealand. At the same time my name is Stephen A. Charlton and I am active in student issues at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. I receive a lot of real estate offers from Brazzaville and Johannesburg. Glen Charlton is offered 400 points at Woolworth's. Kathleen Charlton emailed me a photograph that she was trying to share with Wendy Charlton. Bunkerworld welcomes me to membership, and advises me that my password is kellylei. Mattel confirms that I have created an account on Monster High, my screen name is shaunna913, and my password is love512458. Once again, not gonna click.

Timothy Charlton has a BJ's offer from Barclaycard. Amy Charlton is getting a $10 "reward". A child whose name I will not disclose has applied for a "BBC iD", and has listed my email address as that of her parent or guardian. Lisa Rose has let me know that she has put me, Klara Lee Charlton, into her address book. Donald has invited me to Lauren's surprise party in Indiana. BearShare advises me that my BearShare Nickname is Charlton027, and my password is Charlton02.

(Random passwords like that are just the best. Really they are.)

Militarily, Lieutenant Wagner has sent me, Lieutenant Charlton, the briefs from our Marine Corps Reserve artillery meeting at Fort Sill. Monetarily, a chartered accountant says "Hi Paula" and suggests meeting soon in Epsom or Godstone, and I should bring both my parents, who are, unfortunately, long deceased. Creatively, I am an artist named Zoe Charlton and I'm shopping for a car in Baltimore, Washington, or Annapolis. Disturbingly, the Firearms Office of the RCMP has sent me, Shawn Charlton, my permit to transport restricted or prohibited weapons within British Columbia and the Yukon.

Jacque Hicks has invited me to an otherwise unidentified event that runs from 4:45 pm on Thursday until 5:00 am on Friday. I might want to check with my wife about this one.

A tax firm sent me, Clifton Charlton, copies of my last five income tax returns. An employment firm sent me, Alan Charlton, a list of curtain walling vacancies ranging from London to Lancashire. I shop at The Compleat Angler in Bentleigh, Victoria, even though I appear to own my own bait and tackle shops in Launceston, Tasmania and in Redbank, Queensland. Diane Charlton sends email to herself. At least, she tries to, apparently. Charlton Collum has been offered a free lunch with his ski rental, but we all know that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

A medium named Tara is offering to teach me, Charlton Plaatjies, how to open my "Third Eye." In a follow-up note she reports, "Charlton, last night I entered into vibrant telepathic contact with you, why I can't explain."

(Why can't you explain? Aren't you trying to sell me on the value of your paranormal powers?)

(Also, what do you mean, "vibrant"? On second thought, don't answer.)

But maybe I'm Charlton Prins. Or I'm Roy Charlton and I live in Lincolnshire. But I'm Prudence Charlton, somewhere in Europe, and I like restaurants and nightclubs. Whoever I am, I am now registered on smiggle.mobi - Africa's HOTTEST mobile chat & dating site, username +27837389987, password 7202. Hmm. That username looks like a phone number. Should I? I think not.

Kristen Briers advises me, Charlton Briers, "So, Mama and Daddy are going to come over for dinner and a movie. We're going to get Carter Brothers and watch A-Team." Jacquelise Charlton has ordered a "sweet purple" laptop from the HP store, using David Charlton's credit card. The notification includes a button to click to "Pre-sign for this shipment." Um, no. I'm now an alumnus of the University of Cincinnati. I live or work at the Rooidraai Farm in South Namibia, and I like music. I am offered a free entree at Uno Chicago Grill in Yonkers, New York. I frequent Blockbuster in Marathon, New York, where my most recent rental is "Vampires Suck".

Carolyn Charlton shops at Sears. A perfect stranger has thanked me for the flowers that I sent on Mothers Day. Apple reports that my friend Ryan has recommended me, Edward Charlton, for one of their job openings in Cupertino. Pokémon says "Dear parent or guardian, Your child has begun the process to create a Pokémon Trainer Club account at Pokemon.com."

Another Charlton, let's call him Ted, accidentally signed us up together for SpeedDate. This has been quite entertaining. I receive lots of invitations to chat, along with photographs, from women age 19 to 26. I promptly delete each invitation, but I do enjoy receiving unsolicited photos of pretty women with their clothes on. I have declined all opportunities to connect.

(Confidential to Noelle: I may have lingered over your photo a moment or two longer than the others. The deal-breaker for me is simply that I'm happily married. I expect that would also be a deal-breaker for you. Additional issues for you might be that I'm almost three times your age, and that I'm 3,000 miles away. I do admire, in addition to your very effective smile, your apparent comfort in saying up front, in a no-nonsense way, that you want children. I do not want any more children. But I do want more grandchildren. And I really did delete your photo.)

SpeedDate has been after me for six months to complete our (Ted's and my) registration process. So let's say I take advantage of this opportunity to sign us on and update our profile. What else might I learn about Ted? His dating preferences? His credit card number? His marital status? His fondness for walks on the beach? Of course, I did not click on the button offered. Yet again, not gonna, no way.

One time I found myself engaged in no small amount of forensic fumbling around on behalf of a stranger. A photocopier in another hemisphere sent me a completed and fully signed eleven-page application to adopt a very young child. The final adoption hearing was scheduled for the next day. I was able to track down the right Charlton to forward the document to. She seemed quite happy for the chance to get the corrected final application filed before the hearing convened. And I'm glad that my busy inbox and I were able to help out.

Now it seems that the future may bring even more confusion. I just received an email intended for "Em" Charlton. The message starts out, "I'm switching to Siri now ..."

The author can be reached at, well, just think about it for a bit. Note: The proper way to insert a blank space into an email addresses is to
···
Wait! You didn't think I was actually going to tell you, did you?

Whoever I am,
I am invited to speak
at the Five Ashes W.I. Programme
in the village hall
on the A267.

Wherever that is.