CSotD: Catching up with reality

Starting with a blank panel this morning because I don’t want to single anyone out, nor do I want to run a half-dozen or more cartoons all pointing out that Bernie Sanders sure does talk loud.

I guess they hadn’t noticed before.

When I moved back East a little over 30 years ago, Bernie was already mayor of Burlington, and, while I was across the lake in another state, it was the same television market, so I saw him on the news regularly.

I’ve stayed within a stone’s throw of the Green Mountain State ever since and Bernie’s had his volume set at 11 the whole time, which might have remained a regional secret if he hadn’t run for president in 2016.

So I gather he must have really cut loose the other night for so many cartoonists to decide to comment on it.

It almost makes me wish I’d stayed up late to watch, because Bernie’s unbridled enthusiasm is what has so endeared him to people in a part of the country famous for being dour.

Brighten the corner where you are, Bernie.


And speaking of unmodulated voices, Clay Jones often writes essays that exhibit a bit of passion, but today’s is a barnburner.

I’d already covered the GOP’s irrational attack on light bulbs, but the only thing this is missing is having Jane Curtain sitting uncomfortably beside him until he falls off his chair and disappears.


Modern Times

Retail notes the brilliant advances in technology and how they’ve made commerce so much easier.

Chips in our cards were going to speed up everything, but, so far as I can tell, the big difference is that, when you swiped, your card was instantaneously recognized, but now it takes two or three seconds to “access the features of your card.”

And you still need a PIN, which they told us we wouldn’t, and you still need to approve the purchase most places but not all and I can’t find a pattern.

I’ve heard of grocery stores in Britain where you just get what you want and walk out and they don’t even have checkstands anymore. They just debit your account.

Meanwhile, not only are things slower — or at least no faster — at the checkstands here, but the hipsters slow things down boarding airplanes because they have their boarding passes on their phones and have to fuss to get it lined up properly, instead of just letting the boarding person scan a piece of paper.

A little over a decade ago, Visa had a commercial where everything runs smoothly until some schmuck tries to pay with cash.

I haven’t carried cash in several years, but things haven’t gotten any faster.

Though, harking back to “Why did everyone just notice that Bernie is loud?”, it’s interesting that people who pump their own gas, bank at the ATM and select their own groceries from the shelf instead of having the clerk do it, have suddenly become militant about the job-killing prospects of self-checkout stands.

And if you really want to talk about some Good Old Days, there was a brief foolish wonderful moment in the late 60s, O Best Beloved, when the credit card companies — brace yourself — would mass-mail unsolicited credit cards to college students on the understanding that, if they used them, that meant they were accepting terms and conditions.

This is called a “unilateral contract.” It’s also called “flushing money down the toilet.”

Students knew it was unenforceable and they could have as much free beer and pizza as they wanted, as long as they kept the tab for each purchase below $20.

More than that and the seller would — I swear I’m not making this up — take out a little booklet of bad card numbers that came out every month, look up the card and confiscate it. That little book got awful thick during this period.

The students would, by the way, never use cards with their own names on them. They’d either swap cards with a friend or they’d take them downtown and sell them. Either way, it was a shrug and a “What card? I never got a card!”

I don’t know how long this foolishness went on, but more than about 30 days should have been sufficient and I remember it as being a couple of years.

A couple of really good years.


And as long as I’m remembering the Olden Days, I’ll join Pig in remembering the Time lady, though I seem to remember her being automated, too.

Though, if there wasn’t some bank sponsoring a Time-and-Temperature number, you could call the Operator and she’d tell you what time it was.

And, even after Direct Dial was firmly established, you could call her for “Assistance in Dialing.”

I wouldn’t know how to find a live voice on the end of the line anymore, and I suspect there isn’t one. Maybe she’s down at the grocery store, working as a checkout clerk.

One of my young reporters is named “Sylvia,” and I made some remark about “Sylvia’s Mother,” which neither she nor her mother got. After pointing them to the song, they both understood why Shel Silverstein wasn’t simply calling Sylvia on her own phone but our Sylvia, who has just turned 14, needed an explanation for why somebody kept demanding more money.


You could put together a pretty long list of telephone songs that technically no longer make sense, probably starting with “Hello, Central: Give Me Heaven” (1901).

We’ll have an even longer list of even better songs, once they’ve got us all in self-driving cars.

Technical Humor

Q. Why is an Amazon Echo better than a second wife?
A. She doesn’t notice when you call her “Eliza” instead of “Alexa.”

4 thoughts on “CSotD: Catching up with reality

  1. Man, I haven’t heard that song in 30 years. Always kinda liked it. Thanks!

    I think the Time Lady is Pastis’s best character of the last five years. Probably completely befuddles the youths, or would if the youths ever read newspapers anymore.

    My grandmother was one of those “sit at the big desk and plug wires into holes” telephone operators in the 1940s, who lost her job to automation in the ’50s. I really WANT to be more upset than I am about cashiers losing their jobs to self-checkout lines–it seems like one of those grave injustices I should fight against–but scanning my own stuff is still kind of a novelty and I know I’m going to do it right. Sometimes unfortunately, quicker and easier usually beats slower and more expensive. But I still miss the toll takers on bridges.

  2. I suspect all the notice given Bernie’s voice was actually because it was accompanied by a pronounced frog – that probably made al of us keep clearly OUR throats. Which gets annoying.

    This would be similar to the phenomenon by which a person only really talks “too much” if you don’t like the things they say.

  3. I wouldn’t mind the self-checkout if they would give a discount for doing my own bagging. As it is, I only use it when the lines at the manned stations are a lot longer than at the self-checkout.

  4. Brian – my dad’s mother was an operator in the 20s-30s, and my wife was one of the last cord-board operators in the 70s (and maybe just into the 80s) at Southwest Bell. I used to pause old movies with telephone operators to show the kids what mom’s job used to be. (And I love my electronic toll recorder – sometimes those toll lanes back up so far, I’d need to keep a novel in the car.)
    Becky – I find bagging my own groceries to be a benefit – I can avoid the 3 cans of corn on top of the loaf of bread and the 3-quart container of bleach (I hate the practice of DOWNSIZING containers!) on top of the grapes.

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