Monday, June 17, 1996

Week of 06/17/1996

Are We Communicating Yet?
We have the means, but are we really talking to each other?
-By David Matthews 2

I recently came up with this excellent idea about doing an article about all these new and wonderful ways we as a society are communicating to each other. After all, this is the beginning of the Information Age; the age where we should be able to communicate with people around the world just like we would if they were next door to us. So I spent an hour or so on my computer's word processor coming up with this absolutely delightful article, and then go down my list of publishers to fax it off to.

Since this article had national appeal, I decided to fax it off to that national newspaper. You know the one, US.. something-or-other. I dial up their fax number, and get a busy signal. So I tried again. Still busy.

I figured I would wait for a few minutes. After all, this is one of those big publications so it's obvious there would be plenty of other news and articles coming through their fax lines. So while I waited, I figured I would check out the Internet. I signed on with that big Internet provider. You've probably heard of them, Net… whose-it's-name. Anyways, the connection lasts just long enough for my browser to download the home page before kicking me off. I tried again, and this time I wasn't even online for five seconds before getting kicked off again. I try yet again, and this time I wasn't even allowed online.

So I typed up a quick letter to their Technical Support team to let them know their access line was still poor, and that it has been a month since I first complained to them about this. Unfortunately, the only way to deliver this message to them was for me to E-mail it to them. Fortunately I'm allowed online long enough to electronically send the letter and then get a letter from them regarding my month-old letter. They said that they've been backlogged by E-mail complaints and that they wouldn't be able to look at my complaint for a few weeks. But in the meanwhile, they upgraded my account to unlimited access, which would be nice if I could stay online for longer than a couple of minutes.

I tried faxing that great article of mine about how we're communicating to that national newspaper again. Still busy. I figure there must be a hot story being faxed in, so I wait.

While I let my fax machine try to send that swell article of mine, I turn on the television set to catch the news. Instead, I got a message from my satellite service that their signal was being blocked by something they call a "solar outage." They don't know how long their signal will be down. Frustrated at not being able to catch the news, I go back to check on that fax. The line was still busy.

So I put the fax aside again and check out what's going on with that big online service. You probably know them from their initials, A… and you know the rest. My modem tries calling the first three access numbers, and each time I'm greeted with a message that says there's no signal, or that the "host fails to respond"- whatever that means. I finally get through by using the "slower than molasses" access number that hasn't been used since 1993.

Just then my pager goes off. Seems my father has been trying to get a hold of me, but between the fax machine and the modem he just couldn't get through. I download my E-mail and then sign off so I can use the phone. I tried to call my father through his cellular phone, but instead I get an automated message saying he's either out of range or his phone is turned off. So I try to fax that somewhat optimistic article on communication again. I STILL get a busy signal.

I turn my attention back to the other piece of E-mail I got through my online service. The first letter was from one of those men's magazines. They said they will be happy to publish my article against certain provisions of the forthcoming Telecommunications bill… it will be printed in the June edition- five months after the bill was signed into law. The next letter came from someone who wanted to compliment me on my Web site, but they never really mentioned what it was they liked. He (I assumed it was a he) also asked when I would be revising my site. I told him I would be upgrading my site… once I can stay on the Internet longer than a minute or two. Finally my friend Dawn from Montana sent me her daily letter. We've been conversing with each other every day for over a year now, and we've even sent each other pictures at Christmas, but we've never actually met. Today she tells me that for some strange reason she feels so distant and separated from other people. I write back telling her I know the feeling.

After waiting ten minutes to send out those E-mail responses thanks to that "slower-than-molasses" access number, I turned my attention back to trying to fax that crummy article about how we're all communicating. I still get nothing but a busy signal. Finally out of frustration, I called up the newspaper's editorial department to ask them just what was going on and why they couldn't receive my stupid article on how swell people are communicating with each other. Instead, I get their voice mail.

I put the phone down and went out to get a burger at the nearby drive-thru restaurant. Coming home, I noticed someone left a message on my answering machine. Seems an intern at the paper responded to my voice mail and said that the fax machine couldn't receive anything because it was out of paper. But now he fixed the machine and it was clear to receive my article on how well we are in communicating to each other. By then I decided it just wasn't worth the effort and threw the article away.

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