Friday, March 17, 2017


So it’s about five PM, the time when people have just gotten home, put on an apron and begun chopping up stuff for stir fry.  Not me, because I write at home and live on peanut butter.  The phone is only my internet connection unless the house is on fire or a relative has died.  (I’m old — they do that.)

It’s a robocall.  Daines keeps calling me, which is useless since I’m NOT a Republican.  If I were, I would NOT vote for Daines — I don’t like him.  I hang up every time they call.  In fact, I keep a list by the phone — if anyone calls me to campaign, I put their name on the list so I can carry it into the voting booth so I’ll remember NOT to vote for them.

This time it’s my insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  There’s a lady on the line with the soft but firm voice of an ESL speaker.  She wants my birth date as confirmation of my identity.  (My years as an animal control deputy in Portland, OR, taught me that birth date is one of the most efficient computer access codes for law enforcement when they are seeking evidence.)  I give it to her.  She gives me no assurance that she is really from Blue Cross.

She says she will give me $25 (some kind of credit, not cash) if I will answer some questions for her.  I say I already have enough information about me floating around out there, so I decline.  She says, don’t I want $25?  I say, I don’t take bribes.  She starts to try telling me it’s not a bribe, but an incentive or . .  .   But I don’t talk semantics with her.  I may have raised my voice when I said I thought she was being silly — of course it is a bald bribe.  She says briskly, “I’ll call you later when it’s a better time.”  Click.

I can only imagine what list I went on.  I can only dread the consequences to my insurance.  Was this call for political reasons, to get evidence and ideas for countering insurance restrictions?  Was it for commercial reasons, to prepare ads or think up theoretical improvements?  Was it to mark me to be dropped?  Who knows?  

Was it even really a call from my insurance company or possibly a phishing expedition to target me for deception ?  Info to put into the world wide bank of facts and images about me?  Establishing a connection to make my computer into a zombie extension to be used when I think it is sleeping or even off?  I sometimes wake in the night with a brilliant idea for writing and find my computer muttering to itself.  Of course, some of that is the Apple OS people sending OS improvements and collecting performance data, or so they say.  Maybe it’s an idle techie in GF hoping I’m saying something interesting or maybe sexting nude photos of myself — fat chance (literally).  I joke that there are other fingers or maybe tentacles using the underside of my keyboard.  If I’m writing something I want entirely private, I unplug the internet.  But then I realize that there is a key-strike recorder that transmits when I’m coming back on line, a spy delay but still a spy.

In today’s world, where the head of national intelligence turns out to be a major well-paid traitor, none of this seems impossible.  I do NOT want to take time and energy learning how to defend myself against invaders.  Doesn’t really matter whether it’s persistent Chinese pre-teens or the ranch wife down the highway who for a while was seducing Arab insurgents and turning over the info to whatever agency thought they were entitled.  I don’t want to learn code or how to use funny stuff like “@“ and “apps.”  I just want to write something and post it.  I’m not even looking for publication, which is a fool’s errand.

My REAL world is books and printouts right here in the real world.  The exception is YouTube where I am gradually learning a zillion kinds of maintenance, like how to make a toilet siphon and what to do if the printer heads are impossibly clogged.  (Make a mix of 8 parts ammonia and 2 parts isopropyl alcohol.  Swab it onto the little sponge in the printer guts that wipes off the toner-shooter.  I haven’t tried it yet.)

Most of the old white men who are in authority around here, whether in schools or government or law enforcement, seem to find it a point of pride that they cannot and will not use a computer.  (The president of the USA shares this conviction.) Many of the housewives — like my relatives — find it a point of pride NOT to master the household computers because 1) their husband “owns” the computer or 2) it’s for kids.  By now the kids aren’t on the computer anyway — they all carry smart phones.  If you cross the American border with the kids carrying their smart phones, make sure you know what is on them in case the customs people demand the password.

Back to that lady with the ESL soft but firm voice.  Her focus is filling out forms on a computer screen which will be “crunched” into a database.  She is conditioned to do this, like the “good girls” in the schools around here who do intake for docs, dentists, any governmental contact whether taxes or welfare or qualifying for programs.  The people who compose these forms are unknown.  

If the person taking your info cannot fit your answers into the form, they will become irritated.  (The intake youngster for my eye doc wanted to know which eye drops I used.  I told her I had a bowl of them that I had picked up at various times and used whichever one was on top.  She pressed me, I resisted, and she was clearly upset that she might be punished for not filling in that blank, but didn’t dare write in something that wasn’t what was expected.)  

Teachers here use workbooks.  If I were teaching now, I would teach the kids destruction, defiance, and independence, which is why I don’t teach now.  I’d teach them to use a fat fiber-tip to black out things, cut holes with scissors, write in nonsense.  It would cause people to get in a lot of trouble and lose them access to things they need.  I consider it blind extortion — forcing people to conform to rigid expectations because they need the reward, the access.  Kids can’t make those decisions without knowing what they’re doing.  But is it fair for them to be pressed into categories that come from “outer space”?  To be taught to think in terms of little boxes?

I won’t challenge that robophone caller.  If she is legit, she probably needs the job.  But people like Daines had better leave my phone alone.

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