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Ringing in the new year: At home in the dark

By Staff
Jan. 7, 2001
At least this time it was my home telephone. Last time she called I caught the roaming charge. Her greeting was warmer than usual. "What's all that racket , you pompous mush-headed, mealy mouthed antique?"
I was quick. I stifled the speakers and said, "And a happy, healthy and prosperous new year to you." This was certainly not quick enough.
When the telephone rang I had been enjoying one of my Christmas gifts, a set of CDs built around Ken Burns' history of jazz. I had settled down into my favorite reading spot just between the two large speakers on our music system. Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet were launching into an exuberant cornet-soprano saxophone dialogue.
Instead I got to enjoy a pithy monologue.
This was going to be a tough bullet to dodge. I do like big-ticket projects almost as much as I like hypothetical characters. But after 100 years in front of a chalkboard, I am not unarmed in moments like this. So in the manner of Socrates I inquired, "What's a straw man?"
Clearly it was time for another diversion. "At least I don't give out your name, address and telephone number." This was not an adequate smokescreen.
Sometimes it is difficult not to be defensive. But this time I was poised for combat. So "half a league, half a league, onward," I charged.
She did not appear to mellow. "Scaggs, your grasp of the obvious is outstanding. But I've not heard you use a single number. Okay, justify the costs." I was trapped again.
She fired back before I finished.
Bill Scaggs is president emeritus of Meridian Community College and a senior consulting
editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at