This is a simple column by a complex
“What happened to my
I’m having to alter my everyday behavior because nobody really knows how to handle the incoming junk bombarding mailboxes, television sets, telephones and e-mail.
A law going into effect in mid-July offers Americans an option, but far from a cure: Sign up for the national registry requesting telemarketers to cease and desist. Critics – mostly telemarketers – cry foul and harsh, and that such a law, state to state, already exists. However, nobody other than them knows about it, so the calls keep coming, usually around dinnertime.
I simply ignore the rings, FF the commercials, toss the junk mail and delete the SPAM and virus attachments. The problem is, the intrusion has become nearly unavoidable and bordering on criminal.
Friday, May 16, I answered the phone after one ring, shortly after 5 p.m., because I was expecting a call from a babysitter (the one who’d flake out on me at the last minute over a weekend camp retreat) and I don’t have caller I.D., which costs extra, along with *69. I wound up listening to this heavy Indian accented guy jabbering a mile a minute from his scripted sell while my 16-month-old son James jabbered along, pulling at my pant leg so he could have the cordless for himself.
The only reason I didn’t hang up mid-sentence, is because this Indian-sounding man started off knowing about my Chase credit card membership, my name and address. I’d thought he needed confirmation on some information in order to send me something related to Chase, the way he’d prefaced his spiel with, “As a valued member of Chase, we want to give you a free phone card...” This conversation is being recorded, is that okay?, I am under no obligation to buy, can cancel at any moment, here’s the number, package’s in the mail, yeah, yeah.
When he kept repeating that I’ve been “enrolled,” I kept interrupting with a, “Whoa, wait a minute. I don’t want to pay for anything. You’re just mailing me the information, that’s all.” Reassurances abounded.
Then, the bill arrived, charging me $40-plus monthly, cancel by calling this number now or it’ll automatically be removed from your Chase credit card, plus, I’m already out $1 and some change for the introductory offer.
Around that same time period, another guy invited an estimator over on Thursday to measure our windows for replacement, no charge. I figured, we’d planned to replace them anyway with more child-proof versions (James’ screens just pop right out), it’s free, and it’s a reputable company, what the hell, but the effortless way this Frank person already sold me within 15 seconds told me that the telemarketing establishment has gotten very very dangerous. I couldn’t even get him to just leave a number for me to call back after consulting with my husband first.
Their livelihoods depend on the fast sell at all costs. It felt like facing my mother before one of her thousands of get-rich schemes. I could never say no to her.
They must’ve gotten together and consulted with her or something.
Online, it’s a matter of sheer number. Sometimes, I spend more time deleting pop-ups, rebooting my computer because of a syntax error in one of those pop-ups that stalls the screen, deleting the SPAM and attempted virus attachments, than interacting with friends and family members or writing my columns. If I want information on obsessive-compulsive urges to lick frogs, dance the salsa in green underwear and hang up on mom when she starts in on my butch wardrobe (“No man gonna love you looking like trash!”), I must wade through a thicket of invitations to spread my legs, bend over, swallow, inject, spy cam and invest first. I can’t even e-mail jpegs of my son to some people anymore, because they’ve received so much crap themselves that they’re no longer accepting attachments.
Soap Opera Digest executive editor and “It’s Only My Opinion” columnist Carolyn Hinsey has refused e-mails without soap-related subject headers outright.
There have been times I’ve simply avoided favorite links because I can’t deal with the pop-ups. The Seattle Weekly’s web version used to be a regular Wednesday haunt of mine, until I sat there one morning, trying to click out of a syntax error message and click onto a column link, any column link. I couldn’t, because the error pop-up kept, well, popping up too fast. I shut down, then ran screaming from the computer room.
Most of my friends don’t even answer the phone anymore either. So we play the modern version of phone tag, where we spend our time listening to our voice mail, leaving a voice mail of our own and back and forth until one of us gets fed up and drives over there in person. Unless that person lives in an apartment, with a dial-up to get in, upon which case I pretty much have to just settle for snail mailing Jon with updates, instead of hanging out like we used to do at the Speakeasy ragging on all the art fashionistas in their berets and turtlenecks. The crazy guy has some interesting phone recordings though. I wonder if he’s back on pot...
When you forget that everything is up for sale at 5 percent interest, including regularly scheduled programming for the fall line-up and reality-TV’s latest installment of human dysfunction, it’s no wonder road trips and weekend getaways, as well as yoga, meditation and recreational drug use, are way up.
I daresay Starbucks achieved world domination by tapping into people's need to be left alone to just hang – without an invisible glass wall housing little suited white men taking notes for the Nielsen demographic stats. A little sell—the burnt offerings extended to CD and coffee mugs notwithstanding—gone a long way for two hours of peace and communal vibe.
Look, I’m not sociable by nature, a product of the military brat syndrome of moving around constantly just as I’m getting used to a brand new group of neighbors and divorced parents at age 8 in a bitter, sometimes violent, dispute over custody, as well as this OCD thing that flares up now and then—it’s off, goddammit!. But the advertisements have gone from passive to aggressive, from just sitting there blighting Mother Nature to picking my locks in the middle of the night in a breaking-and-entering charge plea-bargained into an acquittal before the first gavel breaks wood.
And if I’m not careful, they’ll succeed in driving me further into house and home, and bedroom and corner in the dark reading a Harlequin Romance paperback with a flashlight under my grandmother’s quilt.
That is, if I’m even spared that.
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