I know my input on this blog is supposed to be about Newton, or at least Waban, and with a very tenuous association, it is. I live in Waban and find I am subject several times daily to a rapidly recurring and irritating annoyance happening right here to me. But, I guarantee, it is happening to everyone in the City, State and Country, too.
In fact, I find that I am a two-time victim. The first is self-inflicted and the result of a Pavlovian conditioning learned through seven decades of stimulus-response training. The second is the intrusion of a guaranteed protected First Amendment stimulus that slavishly elicits my futile responses!
What the heck, you ask, am I complaining about?
I am being oppressed morning and night by calls from candidates and causes. As I leap from my chair in perfect Pavlovian response to the bell ringing, to reach my landline, I am questioned as to whether I would like to reduce my electric bill or whether I am “Sallee”. The causes, from solar power incentives to legalization of marijuana, are easy to dismiss. I merely hang-up, disgusted by the intrusion, but glad to have the power to “Click!” But the candidate messages that begin by asking a question like “Is Nelson there?” are more difficult to cut off without being rude. Dutifully and politely, I respond with the dignity of Ernestine and ask “Who is calling, please?” The person then continues with “I’m (Imagine name of Political Wonk), calling to ask your support for (fill in the blank) and hope you will help us to elect (fill in the blank) in November.” I still hesitate to hang up, thinking “so and so” is waiting for my response. But when I try to speak, the conversation gets a little weird as the caller responds or continues with absolutely no understanding of my words. AHA! It’s a robo-call that made me think I was speaking to a person! Only then am I able to “Click!”
Happily, I have found the perfect way to react earlier without breaking my revulsion at being rude to another human being. When I answer the phone and a voice asks me a simple “yes/no” question, I answer “Cheese!” If the celebrated politician goes into his spiel, I immediately “Click!”
The trouble for me between now and November is that I will still leap to answer the phone. At least my kids and grandkids have broken this Pavlovian slavery!
Bottom line: If you call me and I say “Cheese,” please know that I have not gone “Crackers!”