Packet Rat: General George and Elvis, move over

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

The Rat has always hoped to achieve some small fame, some well-deserved recognition for his long and illustrious government service.

And while that day may still come, it never hurts to help one's furry self.

'They're finally putting me on a postage stamp!' the Rat bragged as he came in the front door of his burrow. He presented his puzzled wife with a crisp new sheet of snail-mail stamps bearing his noble visage.

'Please,' she sighed suspiciously as she held the sheet of thirty-seven cent squares up to the light. 'Tell me this is a gag, and not mail fraud.'

But, indeed, the stamps were legit'the product of a test program the Postal Service is conducting with Stamps.com. The PhotoStamps program allows individuals to upload images from their computers to the online postage vendor and have them immortalized on postage'for a premium.

'You mean, you actually paid extra for these?' Mrs. Rat asked in what her husband hoped was mock disgust. 'Who the heck are you going to send letters to with these? You hardly ever send out hard copy anymore!'

'Who said anything about sending things with them?' the whiskered one whined. 'They're bound to become valuable to some philatelist some day, after I become famous. ...'

The Rat's rhetoric was interrupted by his spouse's howls of laughter.

Actually, the postage scheme had gotten the cyberodent's synapses firing on other ways for government agencies to make up revenue shortfalls with personalized products. 'I was thinking that the dollar bill might be next,' he told his now-wheezing wife.

'What, to have your picture?' she questioned incredulously.

'Anybody's picture. People might go for personalized cash; heck, they could print dollar notes from ATM machines and there'd be little risk of someone counterfeiting singles. And just think how quickly they could make up the deficit if the Treasury got a buck-fifty for every dollar put into circulation.'

'OK,' Mrs. Rat smirked, 'replace the father of our country with the face of someone stupid enough to pay a 50 percent markup on petty cash? Who'd fall for that swindle?'

'Well, think about it,' replied the Rat. 'With Election Day coming up, can you think of a more effective way for Dubya and Kerry to buy face time? It might be the only way either of them will ever grace a piece of currency. And Bill Gates could probably put his face on a billion or two just from what he made on dividends this year'he could bundle bucks with Microsoft Office.'

'Speaking of Bills,' said the Rat's better half, 'I've figured out how to put your stamps to good use.' She handed the furry one a stack of freshly-stamped window envelopes, with his face smiling in the top right corner of each. 'I trust these won't come back because of insufficient ego.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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