September 28, 1996
OBSERVER / By RUSSELL BAKER
Informed Without Mercy
[T] he doctor says I am being communicated with to
death. He wants me to cut back. I have a
4,000-a-day habit. It will finish me, the doctor says.
Scientific studies show -- well, you know what they
always show. Whatever it is, it's killing you.
With me it's being communicated with. Four thousand
times a day I get communicated with. And I don't even
want to be communicated with. Just now, for instance,
the telephone rang, and rang, and rang. You know that
sound. "Come and get communicated with this very
instant," it says, "or you will miss the chance of a
-----------------------------Yes, reader, I picked it
Come and get communicated up. Such is my addiction.
with this instant! And of course there was
-----------------------------nobody there. I had been
communicated with without
receiving any communication, unless you count the
menacing thought implanted in my mind that next time
I'd better answer the phone quicker if I know what's
good for me.
This happens all the time now. The phone cries, "Come
and get communicated with at once!" I pick up the
phone, shameful weakling that I am, thinking, "Yes,
yes, why lie to myself? I want it, I want it!
Communicate with me, sweet instrument!"
Nothing but silence answers, not even the slightest
hint of a breather trolling the phone book for female
I think I am being communicated with by an impatient
robot in the telemarketing business. Take your sweet
time about lifting the phone and the robot cuts out,
silently cackling, "Tough buns, Buster -- now you'll
never know that a free demonstration of a new miracle
hearing aid will be held at Ravaged Forest Mall this
I am also communicated with through E-mail, fax,
mailman mail, radio, television --.
Excuse me, but I simply must let the Weather Channel
communicate with me about that huge trough developing
over the Middle West. Back in a jiffy . . .
Well, it was more than a jiffy, wasn't it? Sorry, but
five pounds of communication matter was put through the
mail slot, and before it finished communicating with me
the sun had set, the moon was setting and, exhausted by
another day of being communicated with, I needed a
Speaking of the mail slot, tell me this: If the
Government can build a rocket that will intercept and
destroy an enemy rocket entering American territory at
18,000 miles per hour, why can't it invent a mail slot
that can detect junk mail entering the American
household and shred it instantly into the trash can?
How did this nightmare happen? Well, it started
innocently enough in childhood. Once or twice a month
my best pal Frankie would communicate with me with ink,
paper and a three-cent stamp.
Seems harmless, eh? Hah! There was no Nancy Reagan in
those days telling us to just say no. No Bill Clinton
cruised the continent by bus and mighty jet to warn
against yielding to the temptations of being
How quickly we all fell into the vice. The old
telephone operator who wouldn't put you through to Hong
Kong without warning you that it might take a week to
complete the call -- she was eliminated by the
Soon we were being communicated with from all over the
world. Next we were being communicated with from the
Moon, where there was nothing going on, which of course
never saves you from being communicated with. ("What's
going on up there in Saskatoon?" "Not much. Anything
going on down there in the Antipodes?")
The doctor says that by being communicated with just
500 times a day less than my present rate I can add
years to my life, and I am going to do it. Yes, but
I'll wait until tomorrow to start. At the moment I
simply must be communicated with by the World Wide Web
so I can get the score of the Yankee game.
I saw that score in the morning newspaper, but the Web
will let me know if it's been changed since the game
ended. Also it will give me a reason to fiddle around
on the Internet for an hour or two, which will add to
the pointlessness of the day.
Anyhow, why try to quit being communicated with when
you're up against so many polluters exposing you to
secondhand communications? All those people with
beepers and cellular telephones selfishly poisoning
your air by being noisily communicated with right under
your ears --
Ah, the oven buzzer just communicated with me! The
pizza is ready.
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Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company
My 2 cents:
On Sat, 28 Sep 1996, Eric Crump wrote:
> We need to be careful not to be too careful. We can't leap too far. We
> gotta leap as far as we can just to keep from falling short. Prudence can
> be dangerous, my friend. We're talking about finding ways for educators to
> remain relevant in society. We don't really have the luxury of time here.
I agree with the urgency implied here. I am not as influenced in my
professional life with tenure as are my collegial colleagues. I am in
a public school in an urban environment. Tenure comes quickly and
forever. Publishing and perishing is not an issue. We are funded by
public monies. We have ten computer labs in our school We got two new
ones this year. Our school didn't have to raise the money or neglect
another aspect to get these rooms. My point is that Eric's "circus" to
which I subscribed to a couple of years ago is very possible. In public
school we are asked to be as creative as possible and are given the tools
with which to work. As Eric has said many times when this discussion
keeps getting off track by looking at from the eyes of the instiution to
leave that point of view and reference point and look at it from
elsewhere. I hear the collegial argument, but what Eric suggests sounds
damn familiar to what is happening at secondary schools esp with Charter
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