You said “Goober”. Is this correct?

“Sarah, get me Barney!”
When Andy Taylor wanted to call Barney Fife, he didn’t have to dial the number. His phone didn’t even have a dial, so he just picked it up and asked Sarah to put him through. Life was simpler back in Mayberry.

In the 1960’s, the phones in my house had real rotary dial, and five spins would get you a local call. Then came push-button phones, and with them longer numbers to remember, first seven then ten digits.

Now we get to the good stuff: voice recognition. Cell phone technology is leading the way on this front. By the way, remember when the only person in town with a phone in his car was the sheriff? Even with a rotary dial, this was clearly a tool of the future I could hardly wait for. Anyway, if you haven’t called directory assistance from a cell phone lately, stop reading now and dial 4-1-1. Most likely you’ll not get a person, but a very polite recorded voice.

Fake person: “What city and state please“?
Caller: “Dallas, Texas”
Next, some very soft futuristic sounds that sound, oddly, like the sound heard on Jeopardy while waiting for the categories to sort themselves.
Fake person: “Alright. Now, what listing“?
Caller: “Starbucks”
Fake person: “You said…Starbucks…is this correct“?
Caller: “Yes”
Fake person: “Alright. I’ll connect you now, at no additional charge“.

Cool. Of course it’s not perfect yet; sometimes the fake person can’t quite understand my East Texas speech patterns. Makes me wonder if she would have understood Sheriff Andy Taylor.

Maybe, but somehow I think Andy would have preferred good ol’ Sarah.

Can I speak to a machine please?

The modern day equivalent to the buggy whip would be the answering service. In a world with voice mail, why do businesses still use humans for to take messages? Is it because the human can do a better job of taking messages? Nope. The human cannot convey the exact wording, voice inflection, and tone of a message as voice mail can.

Now I know that many people from the greatest generation still hate talking to a machine. They want a real person!! I’ll grant that there is nothing more annoying than the digit-pressing labyrinth of your telephone company’s customer service line. I like a good receptionist as much as the next guy. But answering services are a different story. The answering service knows nothing about the business, and can only tell you when their client will be back and that they will leave your name and number. If you try to leave an actual message beyond this information, it’s going to lose everything in translation.

And they’re rude. Indifferent, at best. Why not? You are not their client! You are the client of their client, therefore you do not matter.

Doctors claim they still use them because they need them for emergencies. But today’s voice mail systems can route calls anywhere at anytime at the push of a button. There’s no excuse for still hiring human answering services.

Unless you hate checking voice mail messages…

HELP SAVE MOTHER EARTH

So I’m in this hotel, and there’s a sign on the bathroom wall:

HELP SAVE MOTHER EARTH
Every day, millions of gallons of water and tons of detergent are used to
launder towels and linens that were only used once.
We will change your bed linen every other day.
If you require changes every day, please notify the housekeeping department.

PLEASE LET US KNOW:
A towel hanging anywhere means “I will re-use”.
A towel(s) on the floor means please provide fresh towel(s).
Right. The hotel chain cares about the environment.

I must admit, this is a bit of marketing genius. Environmentalists will praise the chain for being earth-conscious. The hotel saves oodles on water, soap, electricity, wear on equipment, and labor costs. Win-Win.

But as a customer, I can’t help feeling a little ripped off. Bed linens are one thing, but towels and washrags? At my house we wash them after each use. Sure, I can leave the towel on the floor and they will wash it, but then I’ll be on this guilt trip – the evil, greedy consumer wasting precious resources and beating Mother Earth with a club. It’s not the policy that bothers me, it’s the fact that they are using the “save the planet” line to add to their bottom line.

Ultimately, I suppose there’s no denying that this is a good policy. It conserves resources, which is good for the environment, good for the bottom line, and hopefully, good for the consumer.

Okay, I’m over it now.

Ear gauging, Big Macs, and human sacrifice

Gauged.

My 15 year old daughter used the term in a tone that was not the least bit disparaging. As in, “so-and-so has her ears gauged”. For all I knew this could have been a science project, but from the context, I correctly concluded that she was referring to the practice of placing barrel shaped rings into one’s earlobes, and incrementally increasing the size of the rings until the flesh has stretched to the desired diameter. I am relieved that my daughter has no desire to enlarge her lobes, but I was a bit surprised that she did not seem as repulsed by the idea as was I. Not that I have anything against creative self-expression; if someone wants to mutilate their body, that’s none of my business.

Except when they want to serve me food.

Case in point: The day after my daughter told me about her friend’s ears, I went into a McDonalds. I was only halfway in the door when someone yelled at me, “WELCOME TO McDONALDS.” (This in itself irritates me, but I’ll save that rant for another article.) As I approached the counter I saw the source of the yelling: a teenage kid who apparently was absent the day they taught how to wear a cap. But the yelling and the cap and the fact that he had no idea what he was doing were only minor annoyances compared to the earlobe abuse. The last thing I want to see while trying to choose from a menu of McDelicacies is a see-through body part. When I want to look at something behind your ear, I’ll just ask you to tilt your head, thankyouverymuch.

I have never understood the attraction to poking holes in one’s body just because one can. Even the “harmless” tradition of regular old ear-piercing has always seemed a bit primitive to me. Just because we have those things called ears hanging out there, we think we need to hang decorations from them. When I was growing up in rural East Texas during the sixties and seventies, ear-peircing was a right of passage for young teenage girls. In those days, it was a big deal, involving trained medical personnel and follow-up visits. Now you can have your ears pierced in the mall at a kiosk in the time it takes for mom to buy a cell phone from a kiosk.

The serious issue here – and this also applies to the whole tattoo thing – is a cultural trend in our society that preaches we can do whatever we want with our bodies, including desecration. If it offends others, good. If it dishonors God’s creation, even better. America’s departure from Judeo-Christian values is giving rise to a neo-paganism which is expressing its values through rituals, including “body modification”. Perhaps it is these pagan origins that make this behavior so repulsive to many of us. But to many it’s merely a pop culture fad. Its popularity among mainstream young people probably has little to do with paganism; instead it stems from the basic human need to irritate one’s parents, coupled with the current trend of “herd individualism”. When combined with the increasingly secular nature of our society, however, such rituals are indicative of a generation that is not simply playing at paganism, but truly embracing it. We see plenty of evidence of this shift around us. Think about it. Ancient pagan cultures did not value the human body or human life. They often honored plants and animals above people. They engaged in self mutilation. Some engaged in infanticide. Sound familiar?

Pierced and tattood young people are not a cause, but an effect of this shift. Ironically, it is those educated elites who teach that the concept of God is a dangerous, primitive myth, who believe that an enlightened society will emerge from the abolition of moral absolutes, that are instead leading us backward into a culture much more primitive, and much more dangerous than they imagine. Not to mention the negative effects it can have on a Quarter Pounder with cheese.

First Blog attempt

It’s 10:35 on a Monday night and I have to work tomorrow. I should be in bed by now, but instead I decided to type “Blog” into Google to see what all the fuss is about.

So here I am. I’ve entered the blogosphere. We’ll see what develops.