Just walk into any business, office, or anywhere and you will see nine hundred colors, types, and sizes of telephones.  Red, green, yellow, purple, lavender, and a rainbow. There are big, little, truck sizes, all forms and shapes.  I wonder how many folks laid awake at night dreaming up this fiasco so a person could communicate.  But no old-fashioned black.  Just not up to date, I guess.

I wonder if Alex Graham realized when he was sputterin’ in a tin can with a string attached where this invention was going.  He’d turn over in his grave.  The magazines advertising phones have at least ten pages of different selections.  All I want to do is dial, or punch, and talk only for a couple of minutes.  Do these fancy phones mean I will have a more intelligent conversation, or will I make more money?  I don’t think so!

Once we had the rotary system, and all you had to do was stick your little finger in a hole, and crank the jar lid back’ards and for’ards seven times and start talking.  That wasn’t good enough, we had to start punching and get beeping sounds. Not to be outdone, we have stop, start, hold, grab, kick, pause, redial, shift, speed, pound, ounce, liter, star, moon, sun, three way calling, hold, waiting, be back after while, call ahead, call back, wish you hadn’t called, and wish I hadn’t called, I’ll never call. You name it, we got it.

Friends, when you call a business, say insurance, we no longer talk to living human beings.  No, we talk to machines.  Try it.  Once you get the answering machine, and the recording thanks you for calling automatically, you are put on hold, because all representatives are busy.  Then you listen to some music that would strangle a frog.  About every thirty seconds, the little squeaky voice will come back on, and “thank you again” for calling, just hold, we will be with you shortly.  When you finally do proceed, you are given the options of automobile insurance, punch one, life, punch two, home owners, punch three, burial, punch four, or earthquake, punch five.

Say you want auto insurance which we all need, but may not have, you punch… ’Cause they have the percent, the charts and the stats to prove it.

After having to listen to a sermon, you punch one for automobile insurance.  Then a recorded voice tells you if want car insurance, punch one, two wheel pick up, punch two, four wheel drive, punch three, automatic, punch four, van, punch five, RV, punch six, dump truck, punch seven, green logging truck, punch eight, a hot rod racing car don’t punch nuthin’, ’cause they don’t insure them, and you have to hear a filibuster on the stats of how dangerous hot rods are.

Neighbor, if you are not thoroughly confused by now, just hang on as here comes the recorded jabber again, “If you want the message repeated hit star, pound, ounces or liters,” that is, if you can use the little phone after you have thrown it against the wall.

After punching, holding and waiting, finally you get a human person which is the secretary. Then she politely informs you that since the communications is so automatic, the insurance agents only work half a day anymore, so no one is there as they’re out playing golf or hunting.  Sorry, call back some other time.  You have only lost half a day, and you are so confused that you can’t remember where you lost it.  There ain’t been this much punching since a Rocky Marciano fight.

Then you wonder why you called in the first place.  All you wanted to know was who played second base for the Dodgers in the ’59 World Series?  Still don’t know.  Actually, you meant to call Junior’s feed mill, but you got a wrong number, and with this technology, you couldn’t turn down the opportunity to experiment and learn.

We didn’t have a telephone when I was growing up.  It was a waste of money.  Daddy “figgered” (Southernese for figured), we needed the extra money for things like clothes and food.  If we wanted to talk to someone, we knew we’d see them at the store, or run into them on the road.  Nothing seemed all that important back then.  Maybe the cows got out or it was “tater diggin” time.  Something important.  Remember?  Stop and think about one thing…It had to be a carpet bagger that messed us up ’cause a true Southerner wouldn’t have invented all this trouble.   Redneck Southerners are too smart and just communicate with a good holler across the cotton patch ... GLORY!

Otis Griffin is the author of the book “Southern Raisin.”  He was born in  Charleston, Tenn., and attended Rosemark Grammar School and Bolton High School. For more from Griffin, log on to shakeragproductions.com.

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email jireland@covingtonleader.com.​

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