by Jim Harris
I’m a little worried. Verizon has not called me for almost two weeks now. They had previously called my home every night for about two years, trying to get me to switch to FIOS. They also sent me junk mail several times a week offering me “higher speeds,” “less waiting” and “blazing fast internet.” I would throw the ads in the trash and think to myself, “Listen guys, I’m really OK with slower speeds and more waiting. I have an imagination. And the only thing I want to do at blazing speed is get to the bathroom after eating at Taco Town.”
Still, the phone calls and ads came: “Limited time offer!” “Switch today!” “No annual contract!” Switch from what? What do I have now? I don’t even know. And why would I ever want to sign a contract, for God’s sake? Are they nuts? Then I was told that if I didn’t switch, I would be subject to viruses and spyware and that eventually, none of my apps would work. I thought apps were something you worked on by doing sit-ups in the gym.
I would see the FIOS trucks in my neighborhood. Guys in hard hats zipping around the treetops in cherry pickers, installing FIOS for the lucky new customers. Often, they would peer in my bedroom window from their lofty perches, smirking as if they knew I’d eventually have to give in.
Sometimes I’d get anonymous phone calls at 3 a.m. “Hey, Jim, you know you want it. Just say the word, and it’s yours, baby. Listen, hear that sound? That’s the sound of happy people watching streaming movies, Jim. The whole family sitting together — parents, toddlers, even teenagers, united in joy. Join us!”
I don’t know what FIOS is, and at this point, I steadfastly refuse to find out. It sounds like some kind of Greek God, and no doubt it will one day smite me, or what’s even worse, leave me in the dust, digitally homeless. I fell off the technology train around the time that eight-track tape cartridges came out, and the train’s been getting farther and farther away ever since. Oh, sure, I bought a computer just like everyone else, but I didn’t know I’d have to upgrade it every few years. I thought it would be like a refrigerator and just keep on running forever.
Now, I’m just hunkering in a rut alongside the fast track, incalculable multitudes of information whizzing by me at light speed. I lie here like a crippled squirrel on the Serengeti Plains, waiting to be eaten. But no one comes to finish me off, and now Verizon doesn’t even call anymore. I guess it’s all over for me. True, without being hooked up to the info-grid, I can’t be hacked into or spied upon, but neither can I communicate with the world around me, except through the newspaper, which itself is dying a slow death.
Ah, the newspaper! I remember all those glorious old movies in which each new plot development was heralded by a spinning headline and a boy holding a stack of newspapers yelling “Extra, extra! Read all about it!” It was a tactile, human world back then. How would that scene play out in movies today, a spinning smart phone? Not so catchy. And no newspaper ever told me I needed to upgrade or sign a contract or do anything but put my feet up and enjoy the read.
Of course, when it comes to big media, the biggest company in the world right now is Comcast, and it’s getting bigger every day. For 40 years, I watched the Phillies on free TV every Sunday. That was my beloved tradition. Since the team recently signed an exclusive 20-year contract with Comcast, I’ll probably never see another game again. I can’t afford it.
Who’d have ever thought that the real Big Brother would originate in the same city that gave us the Declaration of Independence? At least fate has a sense of humor. Before long, we’ll all be signing contracts to live in Comcast condos, wear Comcast clothes and eat Comcast Crunchies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’ll tell you when and where to jump, how high and how much it will cost. Big media no longer exists to serve us. We exist to serve it.
Oh well. Times change. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a great show going on right now that I have just gotta catch. It’s called spring.