Tuesday, April 03, 2001

Neighbors hidden in cybertrash

        Marty is distressed. No, that's too mild, something Marty would call “one of your weenie words.” Actually, he is horrified. “I just can't believe I agree with you,” he groused.

        Marty's world must be shifting on its axis.

        He could always count on me to be wrong.

        For six years he has been turning up on my voice mail like a canker sore, with some regularity but no predictable cause.

        He has left messages with his views on everything from teacher salaries (“They're overpaid.”) to capital punishment (He's all for it, with the stipulation that convicts be tortured first). Marty has never revealed his last name and rarely bothers with his first.

Lonely newcomer

        “It's me,” he'll growl, followed by a half-dozen reasons when I have lately been “stupid, stupid, stupid.”

        But this time, “You're right,” Marty says. “Dr. Sabin is a great man” and, “We shoulda done something years ago.”

        He was responding to an account of the dedication of the Albert B. Sabin, M.D., Education Center at Children's Hospital Medical Center last week.

        Bill Rehkamp of White Oak agrees, saying we'd have gotten around to it sooner, “had Dr. Albert Sabin been a professional jock.”

        Unlike Marty, who communicates only by voice mail message, Bill sends e-mail.

        The computer allows a lot more of us to “talk” to each other, but sometimes it's no substitute for the real thing.

        A woman named Susan writes:

        “I'm new to the Tristate area. I've lived on my little cul-de-sac for more than three months now and not one neighbor has knocked on my door. I know the process would be easier if I had dogs or children at home, but right now, it's getting damn lonely.

        Susan says she doesn't expect her neighbors to bake her a cake, “just say hello, tell me how we recycle around here, tell me who my neighbors are.”

        This sounds like a job for the Welcome Wagon lady, but she was downsized three years ago when the company became convinced that we find machines more interesting than human beings.

Virtual competence

        She won't knock on your door anymore with refrigerator magnets and gossip, but you can cyber-knock on her door at www.welcomewagon.com. You won't get pencils from auto lube shops or a comb with the name of a hairdresser. Just a list of merchants.

        The Welcome Wagon lady is floating around out there, rubbing cyber shoulders with everybody else who wants to sell us something without looking us in the eye.

        Today, I could have purchased 1 liter of water from the River Jordan in a blown glass bottle for $49. Or a university diploma from “prestigious non-accredited universities. No required tests, classes, books or interviews.”

        Even for brain surgery?

        But I don't know why I would waste money on a university degree when you can “Make Money While You Sleep” with an “excellent e-commerce business.”

        For some reason, another entrepreneur thinks I would be a good prospect for Viagra online and, worse, that I might like to meet beautiful, compliant, foreign women. (Only if they will bake a cake for Susan.)

        And after an hour or two of trying to find a Bill or a Susan among the cybertrash, I really wanted just to hear an actual voice.

        Even Marty's.
        E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/pulfer.


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