Tuesday, October 01, 2013

By the numbers...


  There’s a list of phone numbers hanging on the wall of my office that has been there for years. I started the list 40 years ago when I went into business, and I’ve added new numbers whenever we hooked up with a new supplier, and scratched through some when one of our suppliers went out of business. There are some lumber yards on the list that kept the same number, but I had to scratch through their name whenever they sold out to another company, sometimes 3 or 4 times.

  There are some electricians, plumbers and other sub-contractors numbers on the list, also. Some still in business, some retired, and a few that won’t be answering a phone ever again. At least not a land-line.

  While there were entirely too many numbers for me to remember all of them, I did manage to memorize the ones I called most frequently. 855-5213 and 529-9162 still come to mind. There were probably 10 or 12 businesses and as many people that I could call strictly from memory. I couldn’t always remember why I called them once they answered, but at least I remembered their number.

  18 years ago I obtained a cell phone, and over the years I upgraded until I ended up with a phone that stored the numbers of everybody I would ever need to call, along with the numbers of everybody that would ever need to call me. With my next new phone, all I had to do was push one designated button to place a call, and eventually I got a phone where I simply had to say the person’s name that I was wanting to talk with, and the phone took care of everything else.

  Now, no doubt it all made things a lot easier, but a while back someone asked me for my Mom and Dad’s phone number. I realized I didn’t know what it was. I could pull out my phone, say “Mom and Dad”, and then read the number from the screen, or I could say “Call Mom and Dad”, and then ask Mom what their number was when she answered the phone. Of course, there’s always the possibility that she would tell me to wait a minute while she looked up their number on her phone.

  I suppose I could try to justify things by concluding that I had more brain space to remember more important things now that I don’t have to remember all of those phone numbers, but it’s still hard to get past the fact that I didn’t know my parents’ number. And when I stopped to think about it, I realized that I depended on my phone to remember just about all of the numbers that I used to remember for myself.

  I suppose it’s a sign of progress. As a society we have learned to depend on others to do things we can’t do or don’t want to, and it gives us time to do the things we want to do, along with the things other people depend on us to do.  I was raised on a dairy farm, and I’m just tickled to death that there is somebody else milking those cows now so that I don’t have to anymore. And I’m also tickled to death that people are willing to pay me to work for them in order that they can have the time to do the other things that they need to do. Depending on others to depend on you is one of the things that make society work.

  So while it might be a good thing when society depends on you and when you depend on society, it can get a little expensive when the government depends on you. Or when too many people depend on the government.

  I read an article the other day that gave a breakdown on the number of people who receive a check from the government. Between Social Security and Disability payments, welfare and unemployment recipients, and government employees, about 125 million people depend on the government for part, most, or all of their income. Of course, that means the government depends on everybody else to pay enough taxes to keep the people that depend on the government, paid.

  And when we reach the point that there are more people depending on the government than there are to support it, I afraid they’ll have our number.

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