Thursday, Februry 28, 2008
The Preacher’s Corner
Daddy’s desk never “crashed” in his cluttered office
My father, like many another small-town Southern businessman, kept a cluttered desk. Daddy’s desk in the office off the showroom of his store was a wonder to behold. As a boy, I loved going in there, sitting in his chair, and trying my hand at the big, old-fashioned hand crank adding machine, or the little portable typewriter, where he could bang out letters at lightning speed, relying on his remarkable mastery of “hunt and peck.”
I was always amazed at the way Daddy could flip over bills or invoices, entering the numbers into the adding machine with his left hand, all the while pulling the crank with his right, and never looking at his fingers as they flew over the nine-numeral keyboard. I still have that adding machine and his typewriter. They sit on a shelf in my attic, enjoying a well-deserved rest from their labors.
Daddy’s desk was characterized by piles of papers. (No, let’s try that again. There were piles upon piles of papers.) All the letters and materials of his business and personal life were assembled there higgledy-piggledy, and one could not see wood at any point. It was never cleaned off until Daddy retired. Then, I was surprised to see that his desk was not really a desk at all (it had no drawers), but just a large wooden table, shoved into a corner.
Yet, my father was not a disorganized person. I never recall his being unable to find anything he needed. In fact, the reverse was true. He could ferret out from the warrens of his various piles the most amazing and unusual artifacts, the memories of which fascinate me to this day. (In fact, a good many of the things I write about in this column are gleaned from those bits and tatters that Daddy used to give me out of the various and sundry materials gathered on his desk.)
Which brings me to the subject of my musing for this week. The modern person has not a desk full of papers, but a computer full of e-mail. Yet, the “desktop” of my computer is a greater jumble than my father’s office ever was. In fact, the best way to “lose something” of importance you wish to send me, is to dispatch it via e-mail, for when I open the other 42 e-communiqués of the day, yours, with its very-important content is liable to be smothered among the other forty-odd assorted advertisements, special offers, sports news, off-color jokes, political rants, ideological ramblings, male enhancement advertisements, denominational clergy alerts, and such like, as I scroll through my electronic in-box during the course of a typical day. Anything of importance is sure to be lost. So if you need to alert me to something important, please do not send an e-mail.
Having said all this, I do confess that I am disappointed when, after ten minutes since the last time I checked my e-mail, there is nothing new in my box. Days become long at the clerical desk without a continuous flow of e-intelligence. Some of my regular correspondents can be counted on to send the “joke of the day” as sure as the sun rises. Other old friends are heard from less often, and -- occasionally, just occasionally -- my e-mail brings me actual work.
My life is much less interesting now due to the untimely death of an acquaintance in Helena, Ark. For because of this friend of a friend, I was assured that I was being sent the same risqué jokes by this good (and let me hasten to say, Presbyterian elder) gentleman as were being forwarded to his good friend Bill Clinton in the White House! Such is the wonder of Internet linkups (and also the way many a vexed “virus” is spread).
I confess I never tried to e-mail President Clinton directly. It was amusement enough that we were on the same joke-mail list. Surely the leader of the free world had better things to do with his time. But what does it say about the potentialities of the computer that so much of its capacities are wasted on such trivia?
I am convinced that many people mindlessly forward every e-mail they receive to every other address in their computer, as I cannot believe that people would thoughtfully send me some of the ridiculous and often offensive communications that arrive with their names attached. My own wish in sending (and, hopefully, in receiving) e-mail, is that I would not press the “forward” button unless I were also willing to affix a 41-cent stamp and mail the same item with a cover letter in an envelope. I am convinced that if we had to pay 41 cents to send an e-mail, as we do to mail a letter, that 95 percent of my e-mail would vanish immediately.
But remember, if you want to say something really important, send me a snail-mail, never an e-mail, for when was the last time you got a real letter? That is the event, in our age, that truly sticks in your mind!
The world is very different than it was when Daddy had his desk stacked high with papers. The wonder of it is that Daddy’s desk never “crashed” and he could always find his items of importance or interest, which is better than I can say of my computer with its fragile electronic eccentricities.
I would write more on this subject, but now I cannot resist stopping to check and see if there are any new jokes or political stories in my e-mail. After all, it has been five minutes since the last time I looked. We wouldn’t want the “news” to get old, now would we?
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