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No Tech Appeal

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I was going to sign up for the Do Not Call list, but I couldn't get to it because the phone kept ringing. Since I love taking part in phone surveys ("Yes, my occupation is 'homemaker' "), I must be on all sorts of Go Ahead and Call Lists, and telemarketers don't leave me alone.

You name it, I've been pitched it. Newspapers. Magazines. Car insurance. Life insurance. Pick a subject, I've taken a survey on it. Politics. Drugs. Packaged goods. Media usage.

Occasionally, I'll answer a question truthfully. But mostly, I'm just screwin' with 'em.

I've never bought anything by telephone, but I love the way the callers' voices rise in volume and speed when they realize you're not going to hang up right away. It's a kind of torture, really. I figure they deserve it.

Anyway, my second life as a telemarketing provocateur is getting tiresome, so I resolved to get on the registry. I took a break from fielding calls and tried to get online, but it took three tries and 25 minutes. Then an hour to delete all the spam. By then I'd lost interest, and I gave up and went to sleep.

I know, broadband is the future. And I do have DSL in the kid's bedroom, which makes sense because the little criminal spends so much time downloading songs, I need to keep the line open for when the music-company lawyers call (assuming they can get through).

But I still have dial-up on my own computer, because to hook up DSL in another room, I need to fork over yet another $20 for some gadget that needs to be connected to my Power Mac via an arcane formula no one over the age of 18 can ever hope to understand. And after shelling out monthly fees for the DSL, plus basic cable, three premium channels, two online subscription services, the cell phone, the telephone with call waiting, three-way calling, caller ID and call blocking, the electronic debit card I need for my apartment complex's washing and drying machines, plus a steady stream of outgoing shekels for DVD rentals, music CDs and $30-a-pop replacements for the CD player I keep dropping on the treadmill at the club, I can't afford another technological marvel that will simplify my life.

Now where this gets threatening to marketers is, all of these things have ads on them. Or in them. Or wrapped around them. Or connected to them. And the annoyance I feel about having to impoverish myself to keep up with the Jetsons rubs off on the ads.

Old tech, new tech, it doesn't matter. It's all borrowed irritation. The hidden unpersuader.

Everybody I know has tried to buy something online and just given up because it took too long or the site was too complex to navigate. On top of what we are already paying, another $30 a month for the privilege of getting online faster is a lot to ask. (Don't even get me started on $200 videogame machines or $300 personal video recorders.)

See, marketers think we love technology more than we do. They think we're only kidding when we complain about the cost of all of these things, or can't make something work and throw the blinking bastard out the window. So they load up every conceivable tech tool with blandishments for their brands, oblivious to the fact that we're in such a foul mood after buying these costly "necessities" and then wasting the rest of our lives trying to make them function properly, we're in no mood to listen.

I don't think this has been thought through enough. I think sales are being lost, images aren't being made, and surly consumers are being created by the millions because advertisers have wedded their fates too completely to technology. They're enamored by all of these shiny new delivery vehicles and oblivious to the fact that said vehicles also deliver frustration, anger, desperation and poverty.

If the medium is the message, the message too often is, "You'll buy this because you have to, and we know it, and we'll charge you a fortune, so go to hell. Oh, and here's an ad."

Telemarketing, by contrast, is almost user friendly. (The industry's trade group, by the way, claims 2 million jobs will be lost if the registry goes active in October. How will all those people pay for their satellite dishes if that happens?)

I still want to get on the Do Not Call list. But it'll take a while. A banner ad just crashed my computer.