Sunday, December 2, 2012


inundated : past participle, past tense of in·un·date (Verb)
Verb: Flood.
          Overwhelm (someone) with things or people to be dealt with:

Many years ago, I'm no longer quite sure if it was in the late 1970's or early 1980's (I'd have to think about it and I don't want to take that much time to figure it out as I'd never get this written) Jerry Campbell, my best friend at the time (miss you, Jerry), and I used treat our everyday lives as though they were revue format musical comedies. We'd even cast them with performers we thought appropriate for the roles. We'd spend some of our free time on odd mental exercises, like the time we decided to have a contest to see who could create the worst musical comedy title. I suggested "Willy!" with an exclamation point - at the time, such punctuation in a show's title was considered an invitation to doom and disaster. "Willy!", of course, was going to be the musical version of "Death of a Salesman". Jerry won the contest with "Okey Dokey", the musical version of "Grapes of Wrath".

At one point, Jerry, who was a stage manager and occasional director, was between shows. I needed an extra hand in the film booking office I was managing, and hired him as a temp for a few days. By the end of his first day, he'd turned the job into a show. His concept was that the actor Paul Sand would play my part, by standing in the middle of the office while clerks brought slip after slip of paper to me to read and initial. Duplicates of the slips would fall at my feet, and by the end of the first number I would be completely buried in slips of paper.

Sometimes in life, we can plan for the times when we know we are going to be inundated by forces beyond our control. When I was running that large bookstore in Times Square, for instance, it was an easy call to put large pieces of plywood over the windows and get out by 1pm on New Year's Eve.

I guess my point here is that in structured situations, one can often plan coping strategies for times when one finds oneself inundated by something or other. (Over the years, I've grown to appreciate the New Year's Eve strategy of putting up protective barriers and getting the hell out.)

My first computer was a Commodore 64c. I had rebelled against the standard Christmas gifts in which my family indulged - always something useful - socks, underwear, etc. I started giving things that were "fun". And so, after a couple of years of this, my father and stepmother asked me what I wanted for Christmas that was fun. I immediately blurted out that the gift I would choose was unaffordable . They asked what it was, and I told them it would be one of those new computer gadgets as I thought learning to use one was was going to be important to my future. This was around 1985, and the most economical computer, the Commodore 64c, could be found at the discount houses for about a hundred and fifty dollars. A few days later, the folks made an offer - if I really, really wanted it, they would split the cost with me, but there would be no other gifts. It was difficult, but I managed it.. The 64c came with a graphical user interface called GEOS (which was quite superior to anything Windows developed into this millennium), a 5.25" floppy disc drive, and a 300 baud modem. With the modem one could connect to bulletin board services like C-Net and Q-Link. The boards were organised by subjects. You would go online, and using a special "reader" program upload a message to, say the 'cooking' board and ask for a recipe for lemon butter. You'd log off, and log on again later in the day. You'd download your packet of messages into the reader, check the cooking board and you might find that someone had uploaded the recipe - from Australia! What an incredible device, what a wonderful world. One could spend an entire half hour reading and writing to one's groups.

Along came the world wide web. With pictures. Email began to use the same kind of programming and was capable of using graphics. Times have changed.

As the last month of 2012 begins, I wake my computer from sleep mode in the morning. My email has acquired about 50 messages overnight - that is, once my anti spam program removes the 200 or so bulk mail advertising messages which came in after I went to bed.  I start deleting the useless crap.

During this past year's election campaigns, I made the mistake of following a link to the Obama campaign and got on the Democrats' email list. My inbox was deluged with pleas for money. Some days I'd get about 10 messages from the campaign, and separate emails from the President, his wife, Nancy Pelosi, the Vice-President, a few other top name Democrats, a couple of move stars and/or rock and rollers. I wouldn't have been surprised to get emails asking for money from John F. Kennedy or his brothers.

Over on Facebook, there are so many messages from "friends" and people or organizations I've "followed" that it can take a couple of hours to wade through one afternoon's activity. As it turns out, people who post can also post directly onto my "page". Wait - someone else can post on my page? Yup. It's not mine anymore. It's no longer the picture of me that I want to present to my friends or the world at large.

Things have gotten to the point that I seem to be somewhere over the horizon of "overwhelmed" whenever I sit down at the computer now. If I make even the slightest attempt to glance at the things my friends want me to see, I won't get the chance to visit my favorite sites or investigate subjects about which I'd like to learn.

And if I do get to a site, even a portal news site? There are ads my pop-up blocker can't seem to conquer. They superimpose over the text, and must be clicked off. Then another pops up from the bottom of the page. It can't be clicked off unless you click on it long enough for a promo video to start, click that off and then the  popup reveals the "x" by which you might close the damned thing.. Until you open another news article and it starts all over again. Then, as you start to read, something floats across the page asking if you want to take a survey.

I wonder what the price of a digital camera is like, and so go check a few ads. Suddenly, for the next month or two, I get emails from Amazon, EBay, Staples, 27 discount houses,and three auction sites for cameras. I wonder what would happen if I sought out porn, but I don't really want to find out.

An email arrives, asking me to sign a petition for what seems like a very worthy cause. I "sign". I'm suddenly asked to sign three more. And share on Facebook. Because I signed, I get an automatic email from the petition's creator, asking me to share the petition on Facebook.

I go back to the news, and as I'm reading an article a little window moves in from the right hand side of the monitor. Click here if you want to share on Facebook.

I've never felt the need to tell everyone I know what petitions I sign, what causes I support, what news articles i read, when i fart, whether or not it was a smelly fart or a wet one, and etc. ad infinitum. It's as if there is no acknowledgement that i might like a little privacy now and again. i stop using the capital "i".

i feel overwhelmed. It's December and the Christmas ads are multiplying with some weird exponential formula that seems intent on reducing me to a bowl of jelly.

All these years later since the day I turned on my Commodore 64c, i am beginning to be afraid of the places my computer wants to take me. The unwanted, unsolicited emails and posts have piled up around me. It would help if there was a song cue.


Anonymous said...

The computer sucks up more of my time than I would like. I have flatly refused FaceBook/Twitter/Pinterest...gave up Google+....the pop up ads are a bother indeed. Once I looked for real estate in our area and got pop ups for real estate in our area for months after. So far I am lucky with the email spam...maybe only ten or so a day but it's early times yes? Will we have to give up our computers to regain our personal privacy?

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

The only way to unclutter the mind from time to time is to simply unplug. A couple years ago, there was an article in the newspaper about a National Unplug Day, where everyone was encouraged to get out in the world and smell the proverbial roses. The funny part? Towards the end of the article, it said there was an app available...

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

mbj/Delores - Part of my reactions to all this has to do with expectations. As with the Facebook thing, I don't mind that people can post to my "timeline", but I had thought that area was mine as there is a "news feed" where other posts show up. I remember (and sometimes prefer) the www before it became a commercial enterprise. As for the spam, well, I'll refrain from further expression of my feelings in the name of civility. But it is still a bit much to wade through to get to the good parts - which are certainly there. In Abundance.

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

Susan - That's great! An app for it indeed. I don't know if unplug day would be wonderful or frightening, though.