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"Hello, you've reached"

by Art Carey

            Today, after dealing with computer messages, telephone calls, and snail mail, I came to a conclusion: Everyone wants a piece of meómy time, my attention, my participation, my agreement, my support, my money, myÖwhatever.

            Okay, maybe not everyone. But it seems that way, judging from pop-up alerts on the computer screen, calls from unfamiliar area codes, and a flood of letters, brochures, and catalogs destined to be recycled.

             Some, from organizations I donít even recognize, ask for an email address or telephone number. At first, I was flattered at this attention until I realized that satisfying it would result in an avalanche of more requests for money. They share. andÖoops, a news alert just popped up on the screen and vanished. Where was I? OhÖIíd wind up getting information I didnít want or need that interrupts me and wastes my time.

             Television? Thatís no refuge. I donít need the networks interrupting what Iím watching with bulletins about fires, explosions and other disasters. Then Iím reminded that details are available on the 10 oíclock news. Actually, I can survive without the 10 oíclock news, too, thanks to the internet, which never sleeps.

            To be fair, there are interruptions I can tolerate on TV, such as mandatory orders for evacuation during storms and fires, bulletins about abducted children, or warnings about escaped prisonersóif the story is local. I just wish there was a filter to separate the few messages I want from the ones that I donít want.

            Maybe I should be grateful at having access to a 24-7 data dump. It beats being lonely and ignored. Perhaps Iíd miss hearing from my alma mater that the university is preparing to mount yet another fund-raising drive. Donít they have enough buildings already? Maybe they need a new campus to fit them all in. Oh, I hope no one thinks of that.

            And then there are charities. When I opened my wallet more widely after retiring, no one told me that charities and service organizations swap the identity of donors to spread the wealth. I feel like a beached whale being nibbled to death by minnows. The wastepaper basket next to my kitchen table where I sort mail fills rapidly with pleas for financial assistance. Some perish unopened unless I detect the bulge of a coin placed there to get my attention. 

            I feel  guilty because I rely upon unsought mailings for notepads to make lists for shopping at Safeway, return address labels, and Christmas seals. But gloves and socks and shopping bags?

            Particularly annoying are telephone calls that are clearly scams. Do I really have an unpaid traffic ticket that could result in a jail sentence if I donít pay a fine? Better straighten that out fast by dialingÖ!

            But I have a secret weapon. Itís my telephone, which has a screen and recording device. Messages appear in print. I can sort out the callers I want to hear and ignore the unwanted ones. Just leave a message! Fortunately, few callers do. They want personal contact to make their pitches.

            An election is over, but political fund-raising ignores the calendar. Pleas for money arrive before elections, during them, and afterward. Iíd like to wring the neck of whoever suggested, ďSayÖAs long as we have an email address for him, why donít we give it to candidates in lots of congressional races so they can make INDIVIDUAL pleas for donations!

            Of course, there are advantages to living in an electronically connected world. I donít write checks much any more. I tell my bank to make monthly payments for utilities, food, and other daily expenses by tapping one of my accounts. When I order something online, I usually pay for it with a credit card. Thatís convenient, but itís also risky. My bank recently refused a credit card payment request from someone in Australia. Was it me? No. Think fraud. In banking terms, that meant my credit card was ďcompromised.Ē I have a new card, delivered within 48 hours. But I face the daunting task of informing several dozen recipients by email and telephone to ignore the old card and to use the new one. What a pain!

            Unfortunately, I canít live as an anti-technological hermit, cut off from electronic and print communication. Shopping malls and stores are dying, hammered by the internet and the COVID-19 virus. What would I do without Amazon, my one-stop general store that delivers purchases, sometimes in 24 hours? I guess Iíll just have to live with the informational overload, try to avoid scams, and let people fight for scraps of my attention. Thereís just not enough of me to go around.

Virus-free. www.avg.com



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