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!”

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Julia Malakie

Coincidentally, I just decided to cancel my landline as of the end of the month. I actually like the political calls and will miss them. I won’t miss what I call the fake electric company, that seems to call every other day in one form or another.
But I was prompted to cancel by absolute exasperation with Verizon, which back in February was able to stop servicing copper wire in my area, and forced everyone onto fiber. DSL was discontinued, the rates for fiber were going to be $20 higher after one year, and $40 higher after the second year. So I wasn’t going to stay long anyway. But not only that, ever since the switch to fiber, direct debit billing has not worked. About five times since February, they assured me direct debit would work on my next bill, and it never has, even though the copy I get in the mail says my account will be debited. I just couldn’t stand the incompetence any longer, when I hardly use the phone, and have two smartphones for internet.