CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - What's Essential?

(03/12/2001)

By Jack Cawthon

Once again we were facing winter storm warnings of the direst sort. Washington D.C. might receive the brunt of the severe weather. It didn't happen this time, but if it had we once again might have had a closed-down government and the plea for all nonessential government employees to stay at home.

Roll those words around on your tongue before spitting them out: nonessential government employees.

In all my years of loitering around the public trough on The Payroll I cannot define essential government employee, unless it is one who tends the coffee pot and keeps it on steam. Let one of those suckers cool down and it's like a glass factory furnace-it can take weeks to get it back to good operating efficiency.

Of course, if you are expecting a government check then an essential employee is one who gets the check out.

From my own experience, calling employees nonessential will assure a turnout second only to Check Day. You better believe I made it in even when the post office called it off.

We just don't cope like in the good old days. Spot my old folkery in that remark?

Back on Barbecue Run we didn't worry about water lines freezing or losing our utilities in a winter storm, as we didn't have any. All we had was a running path to the shed house. We kept exposure to a minimum.

I once worked with a fellow who dreamed of moving to the country to rough it. He had devised a plan to install an electric heater in the outhouse with a switch inside the house. All one had to do was flip the switch before the appointed round. Talk about comfort station!

Have trouble with that new automobile starting up? I remember when a dead battery didn't mean a thing. You just inserted the hand crank and were on your way with little more inconvenience than a broken arm from the kickback of the engine.

Radio dead? Just peek inside at all those little glowing tubes. Pluck out the one that wasn't and insert a new one, just like replacing a light bulb.

Now, computer chips operate everything. I once associated chips only with potatoes and buffaloes, or the one I carry on my shoulder.

We hill people are born with auto sensory perception (ACP), meaning we can fix cars-or could. I always prided myself with checking the points and fuel system, two common problems that might shut down an engine. At least I could limp the vehicle into a shop where a person with a better education that mine, meaning he hadn't gone to college, could do a proper repair.

But one morning when my "made in America" automobile refused to run I raised the hood and there facing me were all the electronic advancements we had achieved by winning the war over Japan. We had won the war but the Japanese had won the piecework.

By now you must sense that I have a slight problem with technology. I still use an electric typewriter and for years used a manual one to pound out my aggressions to prevent assaulting superior beings of a higher power, commonly called bosses, among other names.

After they nailed me anyway, I used to skim the help wanted ads. I would often find one similar to this: knowledge of photography, editing, layout and printing procedures necessary. (Hey, that's me, I burbled.) Then, came the clincher: experience required on 650 ramjet bite, desk-top publishing with standard transmission and disk overdrive, supercharger, with 3,300 kilohertz, reaching 0-60 in l4 nanonyms. I had had it. I was obsolete.

Wonder how I manage an online newspaper? I type this stuff on an electric typewriter, transfer it to Soft Words, whatever, and then yell for the Little Woman (5 ft., 3 ins.) who does something with it that I really don't want to know about, and then watch her when she can't figure out what's wrong. At times like that, I always feel sorry for her as she has never learned to cuss good and I'm afraid she may choke to death some day.

When things go right I can later find the Hur Herald site and disappointedly learn that my writing hasn't improved one bit by the electronic transference over what came out of the old Smith-Corona in the beginning.

I may be redneck, but I ain't high tech. I believe there may be a country song with that theme.


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