Unsafe at any speed down Interstate 75
Sunday, Dec. 3, 2000
I maintain a fairly long list of unanswered questions. While I publish my E-mail address and regular telephone number, I do keep my cell phone and fax numbers a bit less accessible. So I don't know who gave her my cell phone number. But I am reasonably sure I'll never find out. Another of life's many mysteries I'll never resolve.
There we were. Tooling down I-75 through those wonderful east Tennessee hills heading toward Atlanta. Knoxville was just behind us. A history filled audio book had diverted me from enjoying the "Give it up, Gore" script scrawled in dust on the back of the large trailer Sally was tailgating.
At any rate, my cell phone ring called me back from the 14th century to this time and place. I have long used "Ode to Joy" as my ring signal. One of life's small pleasures. No more. I may even change the tune.
So I resolved to be congenial. "Well, hello, it's a surprise to hear from you." And before I could get a breath and stammer an insincere how are you' kind of greeting, the tirade was under way.
Yes, gentle reader, the human lightning bolt struck. I should have set the ring for "Ride of the Valkyries" and offered a silent prayer that we might be on a cell edge so a breaking signal might let me turn off the phone. And it occurred to me that a bit of small talk might get us to the cell limit.
However, when I slowed down for air and ideas, she observed, "As I recall you are roaming so just keep rattling. It's your nickel."
My penny pinching proclivities overcame my need to protect myself from verbal pillorage. I raised the question, "So what's on your mind."
And I became defensive. "I'll let the Jimmy' slide but it is Mr. Jefferson,' if you please. You better get a reading lesson. I've defended our national electoral college system. Don't I recall your bashing our national government? Too much government? Give the power back to the people."
This time I rolled on. "And it seems to me you like to keep your buddy, Alexander Hamilton, in the closet. Don't I recall he advocated a strong role for the central government in our federal system? Wasn't he sort of Mr. Federalist' to George Washington's Mr. American?'
Let system work
And then she fired. "You inconsistent academic air head. You've argued against our state's system of using electors to choose a governor and now you are for using a system of electors for choosing a president. Talk about a double standard."
Certainly I have edited out a number of other words she used. I would call it street language but gutter talk is more accurate. In fact, "pin head" was about the kindest term she employed.
At this point my telephone crackled a bit. I seized the moment. "We're starting to break up. Let's get together in Meridian. I'll try to explain the difference between a national and local government."
Before I could snap the telephone shut, I heard "You bet your sweet …" Snap. And in the silence that followed I thought I heard, "We will" preceded by an adjective or two modifying a description of my posterior. I'll need the Atlanta Symphony Christmas Gospel Concert Saturday night to steel myself for arrival home the day she reads this … to be continued. For sure.
Bill Scaggs is president emeritus of Meridian Community College and senior consulting editor of The Meridian Star.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.