By Maddie Thompson
At 3am on a Saturday night you get this email:
“Hello. My name is Prince Oogway I am writing to you from the Nicaraguan embassy. Great danger has occurred and you may be able to help. You need to send me 2000 USD so I may secure save travel to my homeland Nicaragua. In return I will send 10,000 bitcoin for your help. Much blessings to you.”
Now, you don't know how this message got past your spam filter, nor how a Nicaraguan prince has access to your email address, but something in your delirious mind seems to think that this is the funniest thing you have ever read and requires your utmost attention. So obviously, you write back:
“Well greetings to you, Oog! I’m so pleased you have come to me for help. It’s been so long since we talked! How’s the wife? The new kid? Did all that nasty business with your mother ever get sorted out? Glad to be talking again. With much love, Maddie.”
You put your phone down and go to bed, completely forgetting about your new electronic pen pal. A week later, when you are sorting through your email, trying to find that Old Navy coupon, you see your dear friend has sent you a new message:
“Wife is good, mother is dead. Please send money soon, danger rises. You can send it to here.” He includes a PayPal account linked to ‘x76munhar43x’ “Blessings.”
Oh my God! Now you are invested. In your imagination, you were talking to her but a few years ago! Shocked at the news of Mama Oogway’s death, you need to know more. So clearly you have to reply again!
“Oog, I’m so sorry to hear of your mother’s passing! When was the funeral? Is this why you didn’t attend my sister’s wedding? She was pretty upset, as you could imagine, but the circumstances make complete sense now. As for the money, it seems I am only able to send payments to you in 75 cent increments. It also asks for proof of recipient’s address when I try and continue. Could you please send me your address so I can continue with the transaction?
Yours in grief, RIP Mrs.Oog.”
You worry about the risk of bringing your sister into the equation, especially considering you don’t actually have a sister. Then you remember that you are talking to a fake Nicaraguan Prince about his fake dead mom and decide that this is the correct move to make in the long game of email-scammer chess.
A week later you get another report back from your dear friend, Prince Oogway:
“It is Oogway. Not Oog. prof of address is added. Update me when payment goes through. Blessings.”
Attached is what seems to be a fuzzy picture of a driver's license, where the name clearly says Edmund, and the photo is suspiciously removed. It was worth mentioning, there was no actual address on the card, only a phone number. You build up the courage and dial the number in to your phone, you are answered by a disgruntled worker at a Ben and Jerry’s in Ohio.
Wow, first he won’t come to your fake sister's fake wedding, then he renounces your nickname for him, and now he isn’t even providing the correct information to send him exactly 2000 USD (in 75 cent increments). Rude. Your response to Oogway is this:
“Oogy Boogy, I thought we were closer than this. I forgave you for my sister’s wedding and I forgave you for that hot summer night in ‘06, but I don’t know if I can forgive you for this. After all we’ve been through together and you treat me like this? I’m hurt, Oogway. I’m hurt.
PS The license doesn’t have an address on it. Was this on purpose or just to further mess with my feelings?”
You do not end with a kind send off just to make a point. What. A. Dick.
His reply, with all of the elegance and wit of a 90’s soap opera:
“Maddie, I did not mean to hurt. Stress is rising with the danger. Apologies. Have you sent the payment through yet? Blessings.”
You read his message and understand. You can imagine the absolute treachery and stress of being the fake prince of a democratic country. Especially following the death of a fake mother. Before you can reply with your acceptance of his apology, you receive a new message from the same email address:
“Hello! I am Sherry Thomas I work for Paper and Paper company who would like to present you with a business opportunity. Accept and earn up to 1,0000 USD!”
What a shocking development! You thought you were just talking to Prince Oogway of Nicaragua and now some imposter comes in to take his place!? Furiously, you write back:
“Oogway, is that you? Who is this Sherry Thomas and why does she have your email? I know we’ve had our disputes, Oogidy Boogidy, but you seem to be in serious trouble! Please reply soon! Your worried companion, Maddie.”
You anxiously wait for a response for two weeks, time you spend pacing the interface of the Gmail app. You check your email hourly for a reply. Your friends suggest you have a problem, but you’re too invested in the saga of Oogway to care. When the notification of his email pops up, you drop everything to read it:
“Many apologies, was hacked. When will payment be going through? Blessings!”
You write back immediately after you read this.
“Oggdo Boggdo! Oh thank God buddy! You’re back! I missed our chats.”
This thread of emails continues for almost 6 months. Weekly, you chat with Oogway and each time he requests the same thing as before, to help with a crisis at the Nicaraguan embassy by means of PayPal. You stay up until 2am to read the latest message you got from Oogway every night. You’ve canceled plans and neglected homework to scroll the soulless void of Gmail for hours, and even done research into how to find Oogway's IP for a quick punchline. However, it doesn’t ever seem to cross your mind that perhaps you are putting too much effort into a conversation with someone who is probably speaking to you through Google Translate. Does Oog even care about this relationship as much as you do? For all you know, he may be out messaging with other girls! Maybe even a princess from Ethiopia or something. You quickly begin hate-researching the history of Ethiopian monarchies for no particular reason.
It’s in the middle of your best friend's birthday party when you retreat to the bathroom to write to your strange Nicaraguan pen-pal that it dawns on you. What had started as a sleep-deprived joke has now turned into a month-long, all-enveloping, inside joke with yourself about a scammer on the other side of the world. Stories of obsessed artists falling into madness over their craft fill your brain, and when you look down to your phone, you see your search history comprised of the political state of Nicaragua and the etymology of the word Oogway. It sends a message plain and clear: This is just sad. You get a text from your friend (a REAL one) asking where you went, and feel a pang of guilt for ignoring them for nearly five minutes.
You put down the phone and go back to the party.
Back at home, you eventually settle into bed and check your email out of habit. The tiny blue dot signifying an unread email stares at you scornfully as you begin to read the latest correspondence from your dear friend, Ooga Wawa. As you draft your newest reply, you take a glance at the time. 3am. When it all started. A strange sense of deja vu overcomes you and you know that it is time. This is where you and Oogway need to separate:
“Oogawama Ding Dong, I have something to say. I think it is time for us to part. It’s not you, it’s me. I will miss you deeply but this can not keep going on, it’s too hard. I need to focus on me right now. I’ll always remember the memories we’ve made. Don’t forget about me, this hurts me to say as much as it does for you to hear. Perhaps we’ll talk again, but for now let this be goodbye. Many blessings to you as well, Ooger Booger.”
You shut your phone off and go to bed. When you wake up the next morning and check your phone, you see a notification from Gmail:
“Good greetings!! I am Jefferson Thomas and I have a strong investment opportunity for you. I work with Royal Philippine Bank and need YOUR help to start up a stronge business.”
You begin to write a reply.