Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

March 3, 2014

Thingie madness

By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun

— If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times — I hate computers! I don’t want anything to do with cell phones with their myriads of applications. I don’t want anything to do with “blogging,” “tweeting,” “friending,” and “liking.” I am 74 years old and I still have never used an ATM machine. In fact, I have been known to walk past an ATM outside a bank, go into the bank, hand over a debit card, and have a real live person issue me some money. The nearest I come to using computer-assisted equipment is my garage door opener.

Oh wait — I do have one exception to my Neanderthal outlook on the computer age. I use my trusty iMac every day to check e-mails, delete the spam and social networking requests, and compose these rants through the “Pages” application. I have learned two very important applications through necessity. I have leaned how to “export” my missives into a “PDF” format before I e-mail them off to His Royal Editorship there at the paper. And I have learned that it does absolutely no good to try to correct typos by using “whiteout” on the screen.

Yesterday, I had a panic moment or two when I tried to get on Mr. Computer and I kept getting a message that said I was not connected to the internet. I checked my XFINITY Wireless Gateway thingie and all the “Power, US/DS, Online, WiFi, and Tel-1” thingies were lit up, so I was at a loss. I picked up the phone to call Comcast for help and found it was dead also. This didn’t make sense since the TV was on in the other room and all these services are “bundled.”

I said I don’t have a cell phone, but The Good Wife does so I enlisted her support to contact Comcast and, lo and behold, her cell phone power thingies indicated she needed to charge the sucker up. Oops, sorry about that. Now, I got really concerned because this was Friday and I have a weekend deadline with the Editor-in-Chief for submission of my weekly rants. In my frustration I let her know that any recurrence of non-charging her thingie could cause her to regress back to being called “The Little Woman” and we all know she doesn’t like that name.

She finally got powered up, went through the extensive menu to finally get that “friendly 24/7 help desk technician” on the line, and brought me the phone. Don’t you know that, when I grabbed that teeny-tiny instrument in my big paw, I managed to hit some thingie that disconnected the call. Thankfully, while she was preparing to go through the whole rigmarole again, Mr. Friendly called us back.

After Mr. Friendly asked me a few embarrassing questions which exposed my ignorance about these things, it was determined that my wireless gateway thingie needed to be upgraded and he could accomplish that remotely (probably from the Philippines) if I disconnected the power and cable from the gateway thingie for 30 seconds. He said that it would then take about 10 minutes after reconnection for the upgrade to be complete. He said that, if there were still any problems after the 10 minutes, I should call him back. Yeah, right.

I sweated it out for at least 10 minutes and, by then, I was getting some blinking thingie lights so I hoped the gateway thingie was curing itself. After another 10 minutes all the lights were on steady except the phone which was still dark and the WiFi which was blinking stupidly. Finally, after another 10 minutes of waiting for the other shoe to drop, all the thingie lights were on strong, my dial tone was back, and I could climb back on Mr. Computer. Whew. Thank you, Mr. Friendly.

I am such a throwback that I am still a staunch supporter of the U.S. Postal Service and I would hate to see it lost or privatized. Part of my last job in civil service was supervising a huge mail center that probably handled more daily mail and packages than the Corsicana Post Office. In addition to tons of incoming stuff, my budget for outgoing mail was $3.5 million per year. Of necessity, I got very involved with the USPS and learned a lot about their efforts to automate mail handling through address hygiene, ZIP + 4 Codes, pre-sorting discounts, and equipment automation (here computers are a good thing).

The USPS is in severe financial straits and they are trying to stay afloat without raising the price of postage to the point where they will lose even more business. We can all expect that: smaller, inefficient post offices will be closed in the near term; Saturday delivery will probably go away; and cluster boxes will be the norm rather than door-to-door delivery. Having said all that, I am sitting here with several 100-stamp rolls of “Forever” stamps as a hedge against future rate increases.

One proposed cost-cutting effort right here was to close the local Processing and Distribution Center which services all the post offices in Sarasota and Manatee counties. This proposal had all the indications of a self-inflicted wound and local and state officials and some Washington lobbyists just got it shot down. First of all, 300 jobs would have been lost from the community. Secondly, it would have been a logistical nightmare and the USPS delivery standards would have gone down the tubes.

Under the proposed cut back, local mail would be trucked up north daily (about 65-70 miles) to Tampa to the General Mail Facility where it would be cancelled and sorted for delivery. Then it would be trucked 140 miles south to Fort Myers (right past Sarasota) where it would be processed by delivery routes. Then it would be trucked about 65-70 miles back up to this area for final delivery. That is dumber than a box of hammers and is almost enough to make me cash in my “Forever” stamps and make more use of Mr. Computer.

See ya...


Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: