A dog named Walter is a member of my household. That he possesses many admirable qualities is not relevant to present purposes.
What does merit notice, however, is that some time ago the name Walter Greenberg was deposited in a computerized data bank, apparently unaccompanied by any notation as to species. By whom, why and how this entry was made we do not know. But the result has been the electronic creation of a phantom personage whose patronage is sought by a wide array of business enterprises.
We try to be truthful with telephone solicitors who ask for Walter. As the case may be, we respond that "he's sleeping," "he's out," or "he can't talk now." This has cost him the opportunity to acquire credit cards, contribute to charities and compete for a vacation for two. When he was very young, he received a call from a rug-cleaning firm, which possibly had a clear understanding of who the prospective customer was. But we're not sure.
Walter also receives mailed solicitation. Computers are found when it comes to producing mailing labels. One day he received three separate invitations to become a subscriber to the Harvard Business Review. Acting on his behalf, I readily dispose of these. But it may be that the computers have marked him as a prime suspect, for on several occasions the solicitations, though unanswered, have been followed by salesmen's house calls.
Walter has never shown any interest in acquiring further education. Nevertheless, he recently was the target of a concerted sales effort by a school of accountancy, which hinted that he might be eligible for a scholarship. After the arrivaal of several mailed brochures detailing the favorable conditions that exist for careers in accountancy, a salesman came to the door seeking Walter Greenberg, with whom, he said, he wished to discuss the accountancy curriculum.
Witnessing our puzzlement, the salesman asked, "Is he very young?"
When this was acknowledged, he diplomatically said, "That sometimes happens. He really wouldn't be eligible, would he?" And he left.
Though we discourage Walter's contacts with the business world, one recent offering was too attractive to ignore. The publisher of an annual directory of distinguished Americans wrote to Walter that he had been selected for inclusion in the next edition, and requested completion of an enclosed form. Not only was no fee required, but moreover, inclusion in the directory was accompanied by an opportunity to purchase the volume at a reduced price!
So we filled out the forms, sticking to the facts as best we could. The entry for occupation posed a problem, but we resolved that with "dog breeding."
It must be admitted that a competition element entered into the decision to accept the directory's invitation. Several years ago, a dog acquaintance of mine, upon payment of a small fee, was certified as a medical technician. We figure that inclusion in the directory of distinguished Americans will give Walter a leg up on that.
Along with all the data now being swallowed up by computers, it will also contribute to the vast archives of informational junk that is being created for the puzzlement of coming generations of historians.
In any case, if you want to talk to my dog, I'm sorry, he's tied up and can't come to the phone.