PIERRE | We have been together since April 3, 1995. There were some slick patches, sure. But nothing so bad I felt I had to leave.

There is a lot be said for something so reliable, so constant, so always there.

That is, until a week ago.

I started getting word from others. The trust had been broken.

I asked some folks what they would do. Their advice varied, a lot, from getting serious professional help, to not worrying about it.

Then came the second time. It was so flagrant. This was too much, I decided, this was it.

I have to close down my AOL account.

The only name I’d ever really had on the Internet, Bobmercer1@aol.com, would be history.

I signed up for a new e-mail service. Going forward I would be bobmercer2014@gmail.com.

Would this help end the spam attacks being inflicted from Bobmercer1 upon my entire AOL address book? Was it the Heartbleed virus or something else? I don’t know.

But I was sick of it. Whether or not going Gmail was the right step. I felt I had to do something.

It was my way of responding to the embarrassment I felt. My name was being used, without my permission, to harass and potentially entrap other people whose email addresses were in my AOL account data.

I truly was sorry and I still am. How do you answer, other than with an apology, the emails and text messages from friends and professional acquaintances and co-workers that I was spamming them?

America Online wasn’t the first email and Internet browser service we used in our house. But with AOL, we found an on-line home.

Those were the days of dial-up – as in telephone lines. You signed onto the AOL software on your PC and it dialed a phone number to connect to the Internet.

For my job as a reporter, I connected my laptop with the separate work-phone line at my desk at home.

Eventually we bought cable modem service for the house. But AOL dial-up remained a valuable tool for me as a reporter in those pre-wireless days.

Many times when I went to a meeting in another city, I needed to file my story from some government building or business.

With AOL’s 800 number, if I could get the settings adjusted to reach an outside line, I could get my story out.

Now Wi-Fi is nearly everywhere. And when it’s not, I prowl slowly down a residential street or a downtown alley, with my laptop open on the truck seat next to me, eyeing the road while watching its screen for a signal.

I can’t remember the last time I used AOL dial-up. My current laptop doesn’t have a phone jack.

But I kept AOL. It was part of me. Bobmercer1 was my on-line identity.

Then came the spam.

Dear AOL, I hope we can still be friends.

Contact Bob Mercer at bobmercer2014@gmail.com. The opinions expressed by this freelance columnist are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Rapid City Journal.

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