Thursday, August 29, 2013
The Preacher’s Corner
Encounters with little telephones can be jarring
You would think I would be used to the sight and sound of people talking out loud, having animated conversations with no other human being in sight. I refer to those tiny hands-free telephone sets which can be inserted in the ear, so that no microphone need encumber one’s hands.
These are no doubt useful for those with desk jobs, or who work before a computer screen, and need their hands for other tasks. Such a hands-free telephone would also be useful if it is necessary to talk on the phone while driving.
The first time I was startled by someone apparently talking to thin air, using one of these headsets was when I walked into the lobby of the Holly Springs Post Office and encountered a beautiful lady who said “Hello” in a very pleasant voice. Not wishing to be rude, even though she was not someone I recognized, I responded in kind — only to realize she was not talking to me. It was only then I noticed the small appliance in her ear. I bought my stamp and left as quickly as I could, thoroughly embarrassed.
Even though I have seen these little telephones many times now, such encounters can still be somewhat jarring, as the other day, when I was shopping in the grocery store, and here was a gentleman stocking the shelves, carrying on quite a conversation even though the aisle was completely empty.
When I was coming up, talking to yourself was likely to bring on teasing — it was somehow, a slightly suspect behavior. But the march of technology goes on.
Still, I am secretly amused when doing things the old fashioned way wins out over high-tech. Computers do not always work, as on Thursday of last week when the technology that runs the stock exchange went down for three hours. This would not have happened when prices were listed by boys with chalk and blackboards.
Once, doing things by the basics came back to bite me. It happened on an exam my senior year in seminary. At our school, professors placed copies of exams given in previous years on file in the library. I suppose this cut down on the temptation to cheat, or at least to guess what the questions were in the past. Students sometimes spend a lot of time trying to figure such things out, so the old exam files diffused all of that.
Our Old Testament professor was very consistent in his exam questions. He always gave out a single essay question: “Discuss God’s covenants with humans as illustrated in both the Old and New Testaments.” It had been that same question for 22 years. I suppose that was what he wanted us to remember always from his course.
At any rate, my friends and I worked through the night memorizing everything we could about the covenants of God with humans as illustrated in both the Old and New Testaments. You can imagine our surprise, therefore, when the test was handed out, and there were 50 Bible Trivia fill-in-the-blank questions. The names, dates, and places were the silliest, most obscure questions you could ever have thought up.
All of us failed the test. All that is, except for one fellow who we regarded as the class dunce. This boy would not socialize with anyone, kept to himself, was what you might call a loner.
Moreover, he was prone to walk to and from the student residences to class, shaking his finger, gesturing, talking, preaching, arguing and lecturing to lampposts, shrubbery, parked cars, and telephone poles.
We wondered how he’d gotten into our fine, academically demanding institution. This was, of course, before any kind of cell phones. People kept their distance.
But our friend scored 100 percent on the Bible Trivia exam. Therefore, there would be no ranking of the grades. Some of the fellows were already admitted to graduate programs in Old Testament. Now their grades were ruined.
I’ve tried to find out what happened to this gentleman. So far searches of the Internet, Facebook, and other information sources have turned up nothing. I have no idea if he was ordained to the ministry or not. But one thing I will never doubt — this fellow had suffered a lot of ribbing — but for one day at least, he put the rest of us to shame.
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