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COLUMN FIFTY-SEVEN, MARCH 1, 2001
(Copyright 2001 Al Aronowitz)


INAUGURAL ADDRESS  

Subject: Bush's Inaugural Address put to Song
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000 22:02:35 -0600
From: jo grant <jgrant@bookzen.com>
To: <Librarian@bookzen.com>
 

Subject: Bush's Inaugural Address Song (to the tune of "What a Wonderful World")

Don't know much about history
Don't know much foreign policy
Don't remember how I got through school
I'm sure I didn't break the rules
But what's it matter 'cause my granny says
"Boy, if you want to you can be the prez
 

And what a wonderful world this will be"

Don't know much about the women's vote
Don't know much about the bill I wrote
Don't know much about the foreign vets
I've never voted for 'em yet
But I do know if your dad tries hard
He can get you in the National Guard
And what a wonderful place that can be
Now I never claimed to be an A student
But what's wrong with C's?
And maybe by knowing the names of my cabinet
I can win their love for me
 

Don't know much about air pollution
Don't know much about the constitution
Don't know much about the economy
It never much affected me
But there's one thing that I know for sure
If the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor
 

What a wonderful world this will be  

Don't know much about the national debt
I've never had to pay one yet
If we need to we can sell the States
To the Japanese at discount rates
But I do know if things get bad
Dick and I can always call my dad

And what a wonderful world this will be.  ##

* * *

MYSTERY


Subject: numbers game
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000 01:28:28 -0600
From: Mitch Myers <comeback@ix.netcom.com>
To: blackj

A funny thing happened a few months ago. I was working at my office, just a few miles away from where I live, when I called home to check my answering machine. Instead of getting my outgoing message and the beep, a man whose voice I had never heard before answered, "Hello?' Since I live alone and didn't have anyone visiting, I assumed that I had dialed a wrong number.

Murmuring a short apology, I hung up the phone. I tried my calling my house a second time but the same thing happened. Of course I hung up and tried again, pushing the buttons carefully to avoid any mistakes. Then, for the third time, this same guy answers the phone. I quickly hung up.

I immediately dialed again and the guy answered, "Hello?" for the fourth consecutive time. So I said to him, "I'm sorry, I'm trying to call my home and for some reason I keep getting you by mistake. Could you please tell me what phone number it is that I've reached? And the guy says. "No way, why should I tell you my home number? There's a lot of phone scams going on these days. If you think you've reached the wrong number, which I'm sure that you have, try again and leave me alone." Then the guy hung up.  

The guy's response made perfect sense, but when I slowly dialed my home number (and I do mean slowly) and heard his "Hello?" again, I became upset.

So I said to the guy, "Listen, I'm really sorry to keep bothering you and I know this sounds a little crazy, but my phone number is 773-506-0260, and each time I try to check my messages I get you instead. Could you please just tell me who you are and what number this is so I can try to resolve my mistake?"

The guy says, "Sorry, buddy. You've obviously got the wrong number and I'll be damned if I tell you who I am. Just have the operator dial your number for you if you can't get it right. You sound serious, but I'm tired of this little game and really don't want to talk to you again."  

I have to admit that I was a little obsessed with the whole phone number thing and although I felt foolish when the guy chewed me out, I was also worried that there was some bold, irreverent thief in my home. A guy who gets a kick out of answering other people's phones while he's busy robbing them blind.

Taking the mysterious phone guy's advice, I called the operator, briefly explained my dilemma and asked her if she could please dial the number for me. Of course, she complied and put me right through. This time the guy didn't answer, but I didn't get my message machine either. The phone just rang and rang until the operator came back on the line and said, "There's no answer sir, would you like to try again later?"  

At this point I was really concerned. I immediately ran downstairs, jumped into my car and raced home to check things out. When I got to the house, everything was fine. My alarm system was undisturbed and nothing was amiss.

Although I didn't have any new messages, the answering machine was plugged in and seemed to be working perfectly. I even had someone from my office call my house to confirm that the line was in order, which it was. I didn't know what else to do except go back to work, which I did.

Several days passed without incident. I'd occasionally check for messages and although no one seemed to be calling, the answering machine would respond and I wasn't getting that guy anymore. I soon forgot all about my strange phone problem. Then, one day during lunch, I called to check my messages and the whole thing happened again. I'll spare you the details of my frustrating interaction with this guy, except that he raged at me for bothering him. Again, I became suspicious that something funny was going on. Cutting lunch short, I went straight home to check things out. Again, everything seemed fine.

But everything wasn't fine. There weren't any messages on my machine and I felt convinced that my incoming calls were slipping into some kind of space-time-phone warp. It began to happen more frequently, always at work.

I'd get this same guy on the phone and he'd swear at me for invading his privacy. It got to the point where I wouldn't even say anything when he answered the phone; I'd just listen for some kind of clue until he humg up. He'd shout, "I know that's you, you bastard! Leave me alone!" When I'd call for messages at night and he'd answer I could hear the television blaring shows like "Entertainment Tonight" or "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" It was maddening and I had no idea what to do.

Things got strange for me. I began staying at the office late into the evening and calling home in hopes of catching this guy on the phone. I was checking for messages constantly and nobody else was calling in. I asked a few friends to leave me a message when I was out, but no one got through. I wondered whom I might be missing if this guy was actually intercepting my calls. I switched from an answering machine to a voicemail account at the house. Then I tried to get my office mate to listen in when I'd call home, but the mysterious phone guy never answered when he was in the room. I finally put myself on speed dial at the office and even got Caller ID installed so I could confirm my calls when I got home. Still, the phenomena remained unexplained.

Then I had an idea. What if I get this guy on a three-way call with somebody else on the line? At least that way I could get a third party to confirm I wasn't hallucinating. After setting it up with a buddy and going through twenty-five phone calls over a four-day period, we finally got him. The mysterious phone guy answered and right away my friend says, "Please sir, don't hang up!" He then identifies himself as my associate and earnestly asks this guy to consider the possibility of a glitch involving our respective phone lines. The guy paused for a second, then he said, "Okay, let's just say that I did believe you and gave you my name and number. What would you do then?"  

I admitted that I didn't know what to do with this information, other than give it to the Phone Company and ask them to investigate the problem. Again, the mysterious phone guy refused. "Great," he said. "Then I'd have more people calling me and worse than that, it would involve a corporation. I don't need anyone examining my phone line, I just need you to leave me alone!" And then he hung up.

Last week, things took another strange turn. I had worked over the weekend, calling my home repeatedly and connecting with the mysterious phone guy twice in one day. On Monday I hit the speed dial as soon as I got into my office only to hear an automated voice telling me that the phone number had been changed, and that the new number was unlisted at the recipient's request.

The Phone Company says there's nothing wrong with the line but when they dial my number for me it just rings and rings - no outgoing message, no automated voice, nothing. I've had the same phone number for seventeen years and I don't want to change it, but it seems like there's no other choice. I'd hate to think that people aren't reaching my voicemail or worse yet, maybe everyone's talking to the mysterious phone guy instead of me.

Then again, maybe nobody's calling at all.  

Mitch Myers
-comeback@mcs.com

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