By DAVID MACFARLANE
Monday, July 7, 2003
As my lines of communication with the outside world fall away, one by one, the problem I face is trying to decide whether this is a good thing. It's possible that complete ignorance of everything that happens beyond the confines of my own body is a healthy alternative to subscribing to cable television, reading Toro and listening to drive-home radio shows. You never know.
I have to think that absolute abstention from all forms of media and telecommunications must have its points, and never having to watch the country music channel again would be one of them. Life without Lou Dobbs and Aaron Brown does have a certain appeal, I must admit. As much as I like Russell Smith, and Leah McLaren, and Trevor Cole, I'd prefer, on the whole, not to have quite so firm a grip on their back story the next time I run into them.
On the other hand, there's nothing more tiresome than someone whose sole claim to spiritual achievement is that they haven't read a newspaper or a magazine since 1967. This may come as a cruel blow, but people might as well be told that if they're hoping to attain enlightenment they're going to have to do something a little more spiritually rigorous than cancel The Globe and Mail and Toronto Life.
It all began with telephones. I'd always had a reasonably non-adversarial relationship with the telephone. It rang. I answered. The subject of carpet-cleaning rarely came up. But now we live in a world in which highly paid consultants with MBAs from prestigious universities put their heads together, sit in on focus groups, conduct exhaustive polls, and come to the conclusion that calling people up at dinnertime would be an effective marketing strategy. Are they mental? Well, possibly they are. After all, they paid good money for loafers with tassels. (And why -- I'm just curious -- do they always have such small feet?) But personally, I hold to the view that really irritating the general populace on a daily basis -- between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., usually -- might not be the best way to convince anyone who is not pathologically lonely to buy subscription seats or change phone companies or answer a few questions about breakfast cereals. But what do I know? I was the one who thought real-life television was too dumb, even for television.
Now when the phone rings, I don't actually answer it any more. Not in the traditional sense. Sometimes I miss it completely. Sometimes I wing it. But every now and then I get it with both barrels.
Next it was faxes. For some time now, my fax machine has had little purpose other than to receive messages about cheap airplane flights. As well, carpet-cleaning companies figure prominently in this campaign to use up all the ink cartridges and paper in my office. Or at least that was pretty much the case until my fax machine tragically found itself under a recent swing of an axe. In fact, it occurred to me just the other day -- I was shovelling my weekly half-ton of Canada Post-delivered junk mail into the furnace at the time -- that every advance in communications technology seems to end up having something to do with carpet cleaning.