and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

Many modes of communicating
made for Mother's Day mess
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Saturday, May 16, 2009

Drums. Flags. Smoke signals. The Pony Express. Carrier pigeons. The U.S. Postal Service. Telephones. Western Union. Shortwave radios. Undersea cables. FedEx. Faxes. FTD florists.

Human beings have always attempted to communicate with each other over the miles. Lately, they've added e-mail, texting and Twitter. The Age of Aquarius is the Age of Communication.

And yet ... there I was, at noon on Mother's Day, lounging in my lawn chair in the lovely May sunshine, wondering why I hadn't heard from my only son. Since the cardless Saturday mail delivery, I'd been indulging in a number of theories, including that he'd been abducted by aliens or kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel; a California fire had jumped the Sierra Nevada and the family was fleeing via lonely Route 50, heading for Utah; the entire family was in the hospital with swine flu; or Lance had adopted an older couple with liberal politics to replace his conservative dad and libertarian me and that new mom had received the card I thought I should be getting.

Yes, I checked the "family" inbox of my e-mail account. Yes, I checked the red button on my answering machine each time I'd go into the house.

So there I am planning to call Nevada soon to check out everyone's health, having settled on the adopted-new-mother theory; when, finally, there's a flashing light on the answering machine. My son's voice wishes me a happy Mother's Day, then asks if I got an earlier message.

I return the call and talk to the grandchildren, who are serving their mom her tea and juice in bed. Son is surprised that I have disinherited him.

"Didn't you check your office voice mail? Didn't you get the e-card from the Sierra Club?" he asks.

OK, so I have two communication devices for missed phone calls the answering machine, and something connected with my Comcast system that picks up if I ignore call-waiting, which I usually do. Then I often don't notice the notification signal in my dial tone and so have found messages weeks old.

Sure enough, I found Lance's Thursday message telling me I have a gift certificate waiting for me at the Marblehead Garden Center.

But I couldn't find the e-card from the Sierra Club, which wouldn't have gone into my family inbox. I figure I probably deleted it with all the other unsolicited e-mail in my "general" inbox.

It never occurred to me that my son would use e-cards; he avoids technology in his personal life, uses it only for business. When I send him e-mail, the subject line says: "From your mother: Read it!"

But I should have remembered his dislike of the Hallmark business plan. When he does send me a card, it's usually handmade, like when he was 8, the same age his twins are now.

Did you see the "Arlo and Janis" comic strip, in which their only son texts Janis a Mother's Day message, which she e-mails to her laptop, prints, then places in a scrapbook? I plan to send it, via snail mail, to Lance, along with the handwritten thank-you note for the wonderful basket of purple and pink Supertunias I bought with part of my gift certificate.

So I had a great day, small thanks to the Super Age of Communication.

Is it just me, or has something really gone wrong with the whole communication concept?

The phone rings, I can't see caller ID without my glasses, so I answer it.

There is a moment of silence, the usual clue that a solicitor is on the line, waiting for me to say "Hello, hello!?" At which point I quickly hang up.

My e-mail program has cut down on spam from strangers, but I still get urgent messages from friends who should know enough to check the information for accuracy before forwarding it to their entire address book, including talk-show hosts who must get thousands of these things. And many haven't learned to mark all the addresses as "blind cc:" so that each recipient doesn't get everyone else's address. Even if they have sense enough not to "reply to all," the addresses can be harvested by spammers who troll for these things.

Also, if any message no matter how inspirational implies that if I don't forward it to 10 friends I'm morally deficient, I don't forward it to anyone. I also don't assume that the celebrity to which it is attributed actually said it. Instead, I go to, type his or her name into the search line, and check.

I do appreciate some of my unsolicited e-mail, and even forward it. My general rule is, send jokes only if they made me laugh out loud and inspirational things only if they made me teary or very happy (e.g., Susan Boyle singing; cockatoo dancing; the wild lion remembering his human friends; puppies and kittens being cute).

Yes, by all means, ban texting and cell-phone conversations while driving trolleys, or driving anything. I carry my cell phone only for emergencies, don't know how to text and so far refuse to Twitter. But I am resolving to talk to myself more.

My son assures me that he would never forget Mother's Day. So next year, son, please, just borrow the twins' crayons and make me a card.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.