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Just as a movie actor does not go to movies very often, including his own, so I don’t read too many fellow columnists. It’s hard enough to crank out your own stuff without taking the chance of finding someone else much better at the job than you. There’s just so much battering an ego can take.
Of course, if E.B. White were still alive producing his incomparable essays, I would be reading and worshipping his every word. The world of essays – and that, after all is what a column is – became a darker place when White died.
There is one columnist I do enjoy reading. His work appears in the Bangor Daily News, three times a week. I think he’s an excellent writer. I called him once to tell him so. I also told him there were times when I could gladly shut his computer lid on his fingers.
For some reason, and neither of us can figure out why, we both get inspired to write on the same subject, at the same time. This would be OK except that his column appears ahead of mine by a few days, which could lead anyone who reads us both to think I’m riding on his coattails – to mix a metaphor pretty badly.
I’m not. Once in a while I will play the lead but since he doesn’t read my paper, it doesn’t bother him. He’s a nice fellow and we shared laughter about my predicament. He didn’t offer to call me before writing to see if I were working in the same space, but then, I didn’t offer to call him.
So, here goes my weekly offering on the subject he covered yesterday. Maybe we both get annoyed at the same time by the same thing. I know Andy Rooney and I often do.
Granted, I am living, and trying to survive in the age of cyberspace communications. I’ve just used the term without any idea of what it means. Electronic communications are spinning madly around me. I’m caught in a vortex, helplessly buffeted and battered by equipment, even language, beyond my ken.
I do not own anything more complex than a cordless phone and as long as I remember to put it to bed in its recharging cradle every night it’s not too troublesome.
I have a TV and VCR, which were easily functional until I became connected to a digital system, which has disrupted my life. Not only is it expensive, but the cable company seems to fiddle around with it, changing channel numbers and procedures every few months and the exorbitant rate changes too. They’ve had so many different phone numbers; one whole page in my address book is taken up with them.
My phone has been OK but last week I decided it was dumb to have two phone companies – one for long distance and one for everything else. I called the long distance people and put everything in their basket, saving about fifteen dollars a month and a postage stamp. I also got two services I’ve never bothered with – caller ID and Call Waiting. They were thrown in free with the package, but I’ll bet you I never use either one.
Cell phones are proving to be not such a good thing, if newspaper and TV newscasts are to be believed. You don’t have to look very far to see them in use. Recently, I was waiting in a hospital lobby where a young mother stood with four little kids. She had two strollers. One held a baby about 8 months old who was trying desperately to reach a plug in a wall socket. There was another with a 2 year old who was screaming and beating up a 4-year-old boy who was plaguing her. The oldest, about 5, was playing with the four pay phones, in danger of being ripped from the wall. While all this was going on, the mother of the tribe had her back to her offspring and was talking on a cell phone. As I sat there, at least five other people strolled by yakking into cell phones.
The grocery store seems to be another beehive of people with grapefruit in one hand and a phone in the other. Can’t people make lists anymore? Does everyone have to have a shopping consultant on the other end of the line?
Of course, the scariest scenario is the driver of a car with a phone glued to an ear. I passed a woman putting on mascara while talking on the phone, and she was the driver!
A driver of an 18-wheeler recently overturned his rig while reaching to answer his phone in the cab. No call waiting?
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