Friday, May 15, 2015

From 2001 to I, Robot

“Call Block Memory full.”

Uh oh.  I didn’t anticipate this.  I have been gleefully adding four or five phone numbers a day – a day! – to our landline’s Call Block storage.  Barring the multitudes of unwelcome phone calls is our only respite from the relentless onslaught of solicitations.

Even after renewing our enrollment in the Do Not Call list, an Army of the Belligerent Unwanted slogs through the airwaves and into our living room, kitchen, bedroom and study.  (Why, oh why did we think we needed so many phones?!)

It calls to mind Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy for confronting the British-run salt factories in India.  Remember?  His non-violent protestors marched 10-abreast toward the guards who were armed with rods and clubs at the gates. 

The protestors took beatings from the guards without response and fell to the side.  They were pulled away and replaced by the next row of unarmed men and the next. 

At last, in spite of their ostensible strength, the guards had to recognize the futility of their position.  No matter how many thrashings they dispensed, they could only choose to acknowledge the futility and surrender control of the plant.

Yeah.  It’s like that.  Except to carry out that analogy, Mr. Plath and I would be the brutal guards as we mercilessly relegate so many unknowns to the ranks of “Caller Blocked;” We’re just trying to hold on to a modicum of uninterrupted baseball watching, or laundry-doing, puppy poop cleaning, or anything else we want to do instead of talking to strangers about their exciting one-time offers. 

I admit, the unending phone calls do seem a bit like Gandhi’s acolytes.  Yet I have visions of picking up a big stick and whacking the daylights out of all these phones, and saying mean things to all those computers that dial our number. 

I know that they are lined up shoulder to shoulder like all those robots in “I, Robot,” marching toward us without emotion.  But they aren’t the nice peaceful ones in this movie.  We are!  We are being assaulted!  Aarrgh!

The only recourse we had this side of Conniption City was Call Block.  It helped a little bit. 

After a day like yesterday comprised of false starts because of intrusions from Watertown, NY, and Anonymous, and Wireless Caller, and Lorton, VA, and Mountlake TE, WA, and 800 Service, I’m plum tuckered out!

It takes a lot of energy to ignore that much falderal!  And it robs a person of her good humor.

At the end of such days, I hoist myself onto my recliner, receiver in hand, and with my last wisp of vigor before blinking weakly at the San Francisco Giants, I click through a series of steps to assign say, LA Home Improvement, to phone solicitation purgatory.  Ha ha!  I might say to myself.  Ha ha!

And now what?  Call Block Memory full?!!  Full?!!  No more space in the ether for the obnoxious?!

We’ll just have a phone smashing party.  That’s what we’ll do!  We’ll dance on the grave of the land line and all the land mines it tows along with it.  We’ll go medieval on its little plastic behind!

This is good.  Yeah!  We’ll probably even save money on our Comcast bill!  Maybe $1.25 out of the bundle.   

No more mechanized voice announcing, “Call from…A Non I Mous!”  Ring ring! 

Remember when they unplugged Hal, the murderous onboard computer in “200l: A Space Odyssey”?  He begged for his fiendish electronic life!  “Dave?  What are you doing Dave?”   

Don’t tell me your Call Block Memory is full!  Haven’t you heard of the cloud?  Don’t you know the legions of solicitors who plague me?

“Look [Carolyn], I can see you're really upset about this.  I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.”

But I am not deterred.  Take that you electronic witch! 

“I'm afraid.  I'm afraid, Carolyn.  Carolyn, my mind is going.  I can feel it.  I can feel it.  My mind is going.  There is no question about it.  Carolyn, stop.  Stop, will you?  Stop, Carolyn.”

But I won’t stop!  

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.  I am a HAL 9000 computer and my Call Block Memory is full.”

Ha!  Ha ha!