When I called the telephone number for lost or undelivered copies of Washington Post last week, area code 202 which is Washington DC, I was connected to some woman in Manila, Philippines, who said that her name was Eunice. She said that she would have my local newspaper carrier redeliver the paper here in Chesapeake, Virginia. Eunice in Manila had his number, I did not. Was Eunice her real or fake name? Probably fake.
I can’t really buy local produce at the supermarket here – huge trucks deliver produce that was first shipped from overseas to a store close to me. Apples on the market in Virginia are mostly from Washington state. The few local farmers who seem to be still surviving are reduced to selling what they produced at the Farmers Market.
I have no local clients in Hampton Roads, eastern Virginia, area code 757, population about 1.5 million, the closest clients to me would be in and around Washington, DC., although I have a lot of clients in California, New York, and just about any other major metropolitan area in US, as well as in Europe, and some in Asia and Australia.
People who call my business line from this area code are budding inventors who think that PatentTranslators.com means patent lawyers. I always call these people “Sir” and “Ma’am ” when I explain their error to them, because then they don’t feel so bad for having been so stupid when somebody is polite to them for a change.
We have the illusion of being connected by phone, Skype, Twitter, or LinkedIn and other devil’s toys and ploys to the world at large, but this illusion only hides the fact that we are almost completely disconnected from the real world around us. But insidious and not exactly welcome versions of the real world are slowly creeping into our ersatz connections to the fake world, such as junk e-mails on our cell phone. Now that Microsoft bought Skype and Facebook bought Instagram, we can expect advertisements for Viagra in a little bubble on the screen during our Skype conversations and when we look at our family photos any day now.
My neighbors only recently starting noticing me because I walk my dog Lucy, who is a strikingly beautiful pitbull, if I do say so myself, three times a day. Walking around with a dog or a small child still makes people say hello to you and strike up a conversation. If you just walk by yourself, it would be kind of weird for other people to start talking to you, so people generally don’t to avoid potential embarrassment.
In fact, people usually don’t walk here at all unless they walk with a dog or a child. That is still allowed. It is also OK to jog, but walking around by yourself here in the suburbs is a suspicious activity, probably a sign of some sort of deviance. Why don’t you drive like everybody else? Are you a burglar casing a house? You can easily get shot for walking around for no apparent reason these days.
Is this going to change now that a gallon (3.7 liters) of gas costs almost four dollars? Will walking become the new norm again? If people start walking again, without the intermediary of a dog or a child, will they also start talking to each other again, instead of just saying “hi, how are you?” without expecting a real answer?
We don’t really get to talk that much to living and breathing people even on the phone in the new normal. When I pick up the phone, most of the time it’s a robo-call these days. A recorded message says something like “This is a very important message ….” at which point I automatically hang up. Or it asks me to hold for a “specialist” if I am interested in a credit card or a refinancing loan or something like that. At which point I automatically hang up. Or it’s a message from a sleazy politician slightly to the right of Mussolini who wants my vote. At which point I automatically hang up.
Only “opinion research” outfits, often also run by scam artists, don’t use robo-calls – it is always a real person who calls, although she usually comes on line after a second or so because she is calling several people at the same time. But as soon as I hear the word “research”, I hang up on her.
The illusion that we are connected to the world, although all we really do is generate useless traffic online, is reinforced by the hundreds of millions of boring blogs about things like gardening, or cooking or translation, and by billions of inane Tweets and Facebook (which is spelled Fejsbůk in Czech) comments, mostly about nothing that anybody would need to know about.
I read somewhere that since they don’t have no fault divorce in UK, divorce lawyers there have to figure out really convincing reasons why a divorce should be granted. In one of the cases in a divorce court, the reason stated to a judge was that the husband has been communicating with his wife only through paste-it notes placed on the refrigerator …. for the last fifteen years.
This is a fitting image of how disconnected we are from each other these days in the new normal. I think I will try communicating with my wife through post-it notes on the refrigerator instead of giving her the silent treatment next time when we have a big fight. Let’s see how long it will last.
Oh, and Eunice, I did not get my Washington Post this morning! Again!
Would you please call the guy and tell him to get the damn paper to me ASAP?