Ken’s Corner, September 16, 2014
Well, folks, it’s back. Senior Spectrum, the home to my “Ken’s Corner” column for nearly five and a half years is gone (final issue March 23, 2014), but after a layoff of nearly six months, the column is back, now to appear on my Live Journal blog site.
My Senior Spectrum audience was, not surprisingly, seniors. I wrote with older folks in mind, ones to whom nostalgia and historical tidbits, along with observations about daily life in the neighborhood, might especially appeal. I avoided current politics, sex, religion, and anything at all off-color. Even when posting columns to my own blog, I see no reason to change those choices.
Even when writing for an older audience, I also wrote with an eye to offering something of interest to younger readers, a squint-eyed view of daily dilemmas and look-backs at historical people and events, often those long-since forgotten. A conversational tone worked, as I typically write the way I speak anyway. One of my favorite compliments was that my column was like having a conversation over the back yard fence. Just writing what’s on my mind, and doing riffs on old newspaper and magazine articles, saves me from the pretense of committing an act of literature. Nope, this is just me, thinking into the keyboard.
One of life’s unpleasantries is telemarketers, those people who call, sometimes several times a day, and often fronted by recorded messages or automated voice-recognition systems (telephone robots) to sell everything from window replacement to home security systems, solar energy systems, debt consolidation, and health insurance.
The National Do Not Call Registry is supposed to stop those calls. It doesn’t. Far from all of them, anyway. The most relentless violators show up on my caller ID again and again and again, from strange area codes or via toll-free numbers. Some, stupidly, begin (once the telebot has recognized “hello”) with “DON’T HANG UP.” What better reason is there than that TO hang up? One of the most annoying and repetitive callers opens with, “Hello there, seniors!” in a big, professional, old-guy voice. “Well, hello back, skank,” I think to myself as I hang up.
I finally got tired of getting a Real Person™ on the line and playing one of my Telemarketer Repellant recordings. (A favorite has been, “North American Air Defense Center, Sargent Marone speaking. What is your emergency?”) Having had it up to *here* I finally dialed 611 and asked the telephone company service consultant if there was a way to block phone calls. Oh happy day, with a Consolidated Communications (formerly SureWest) digital phone line, the answer was “yes.”
It was not a simple procedure, as I had to set up an online account via the company’s website, pick an ID and password, and enter various information. Once I’d done that, I could enter up to ten phone numbers to block. Voila! The most egregious repeat offenders disappeared from my phone. Well, they did after I figured out which buttons to click on the web page to put the list into action. With that done, I happily contemplated those calls resulting in a buzz or dead air or some sort of rejection notice to the robotic caller.
Unfortunately, more calls came in. Happily, the system also allows me to forward up to ten more numbers to a phone number I specify. Ha! The first forwarded telemarketer got forwarded to itself! And until I fill the available slots, newly added numbers will also be forwarded to that same telemarketer’s number. To this point, it’s probably all robots bouncing to robots. But one of these days, I’ll be forwarding live telemarketers (those too backwards to have robocallers) to a different telemarketer.
With only a handful of numbers I can do that to, I can’t make much of a dent. But just think of the possibilities if hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of fed-up folks followed suit. How long would the telemarketing plague last if thousands upon thousands of their calls bounced to other telemarketers, or right back to themselves? If you have a digital phone line, you might be able to jump on this bandwagon.
For folks who don’t have call-blocking through their phone companies, there are dandy little devices like the “Sentry Call Blocker.” At only $39.99, that sounds like a bargain. A little Googling finds many similar devices. Plainly, I’m very far from the first person to be sick and tired of the junk callers.
The front page, and for that matter several pages following, of the New York Times, September 16, 1914, just a century ago, were consumed by news of the war in Europe. It came to be known as The Great War, and eventually, when there was a new war, World War I. The U.S. was not involved (not directly, at least) as of that early date in the war. But the left-side column of the front page reported on America’s involvement in Mexico. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson agreed to withdraw American troops from Vera Cruz (more or less, as some ships would remain). These days we have mostly forgotten how deeply the U.S. marched into Mexico.
On a happier note, page 7 of the same paper featured a full-page advertisement by Ruppert’s Knickerbocker, “the Beer that Satisfies.” The headline read, “Food-Temperance-and Beer” (punctuated just that way), followed by “The purpose of this advertisement is not to induce people to drink more beer, but to influence more people to drink beer.”
The ad continued, “Good beer, properly brewed, is the greatest aid to true temperance.” The brand, once a best-selling beer, has been gone for decades, but the New York Times reported on March 26, 2014, “Like a beer drinker’s Brigadoon, a red-brick vestige of the enormous Jacob Ruppert & Company brewery in Yorkville emerged for a few hours this week before disappearing, this time forever.” Excavation unearthed what remained of the long-closed brewery building.
“Suddenly,” the article reported, “Yorkville had a newly visible — if modest — link to its German heritage, and an era in which the neighborhood abounded in breweries. And the city had a small reminder of the larger-than-life Col. Jacob Ruppert, the founder’s son, who was active in the business until shortly before his death in 1939.”
These days, I find that a nice glass of wine satisfies more than any beer. But it would be good to reach back through time and bring up a frosty glass of Ruppert’s Knickerbocker.
Copyright © 2014, Kenneth W. Umbach.