The Public Eye

printed 08/20/2021

Ever since we moved to new offices in West Ocean City a couple of weeks ago — feel free to drop by to give me what-for at 82nd Street any time you want, because I’m not there — life has been a little confusing.

For one thing, we have a new phone system. As everyone who’s been through that knows, learning a new phone system is like teaching cats to drive a stick shift, and you’re the cat.

This is why, for the people who have called me so far, I might have answered inappropriately, as in, “Whaddaya want? Whaddaya want now?” and “I hate this _____ phone!”

With our old system, which I believe was a wind-up model, the person who transferred the call to you would say, “So-and-so is on Line One,” or a light would flash to indicate that Line One was for you.

The new setup has no lights and, so far, has sent all my incoming calls directly to my phone.

This explains why I might have said to one caller, “You call me one more _______ time and I’ll ... ooooh, heeeyyyyyyy, Mrs. Abercrombie, how wonderful it is ...” Click.

I should also point out that joking around doesn’t go over well either. Whispering “I’ve told you never to call me here” isn’t funny when you think you’re talking to the front desk, but it’s your wife.

But the phones are just part of the problem these days. So much seems to be upside down that I’m at a loss for answers. Take, for instance, the current school kids and mask wearing debate.

People worry that mask-wearing will give little kids a complex and maybe it will. But let me tell you what used to give school kids complexes when I was that age — pretending the Russians were going to drop an atom bomb in the neighborhood and having to crawl under your school desk for cover.

I mean there you are, eight or nine years old, the air raid alarm goes off, and suddenly you’re thinking about whether you’ll be playing kickball at recess or will be busy being blown into a puff of loose molecules.

Even at that age, you tend to wonder, “Hmmmmm, school desk versus atom bomb. How’s that going to work out?” And then you start to fret about what would happen if the Russians were to drop an atom bomb when you weren’t in school.

“So, Dad, in terms of structural integrity,” you ask, “how does a coffee table stack up against a school desk? Am I out of luck here?”

He, of course, would do fake math involving wind speed, direction, the disbursement rate of alpha and beta particles, and, not to be forgotten, gamma rays.

“We’re fine,” he’d say, putting down his pencil, and then add, because he was like that, “Just don’t go next door.”

I’m telling you, being taught how to avoid being blown to smithereens by an atomic bomb ... now that will mess you up for a spell. Which brings me back — incongruently, I know — to the phone system.

“Listen, this is it. You bother me one more ______ time, and I’m dropping an atom bomb on you ... ooooh, heeeyyyyyyy, Mr. Putin, just kidding. No, really...”

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