Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

In this age of revolutionary technological advances, I’m continually amazed at how long it takes me sometimes to get to talk to a ‘live’ person on the other end of my call. For example, here’s what I heard the other day when I placed a call.

As soon as the call was answered, I said ‘Hello?’ and started talking. Silly me. Shows my age. After a brief pause, someone started talking on the other end. “Please be advised that this call may be recorded for training purposes.” OK, I thought, I’ll be polite. And then the ‘Voice’ said, “If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it at any time during this call. Or for a complete listing of all company personnel by last name, please press one-nine.”

Since I didn’t know my party’s extension, and I didn’t want to hear the last name of every person who worked there, she had me hooked, so the Voice continued. “Please listen closely to the following menu as our options have recently changed.” I looked around for a camera. How could she tell that I wasn’t hanging on her every word?

And another thing – what menu? Did I dial a wrong number and get a restaurant by mistake? And while I’m asking no one in particular, what happened to the lady with the nice voice who for many years had answered my calls with, “Good Morning, Sir, how may I direct your call?” Did she fail her training?

Now it’s time for the Voice to go through the menu like a waitress reciting the specials of the day. “Press one for English. Press 2 for the sales department. Press 3 to check on a recent order. Press 4 to place a new order. Press 5 and enter your tracking number to trace your shipment. Press 6 to be transferred to technical support. Press 7 to be transferred to administration. For our office hours and address, press 8.”

By now, I’ve long since forgotten the purpose of my call. That was about the time that I heard the Voice say, “To hear these options again, press 9.” Yeah, hold your breath, lady, till I press 9. And as I was looking for the panic button to push, I heard her say, “To end this call, press ‘pound’ or hang up now.” As I stared at my phone in complete disbelief, I heard a dial tone and a different Voice, “If you’d like to make a call……” And that’s why I had to go shopping for a new telephone!

Can you just imagine having to go through a menu like that with one of the old rotary dial phones like we used to have? Of course, back home at Route 4, Seneca, SC, I can remember when we got our first big black rotary dial phone. And, by show of hands, how many of you can remember being on a six-family party line?

I could never remember if we were 2 longs and a short or 2 shorts and a long. So, I’d make a bee-line for that thing every time it rang. Oh, the fun we would have on those things when Mother and Daddy weren’t watching or listening! And most of the other five families were kin to us, so when they caught us listenin’ on the line, they’d say things that we’d go blabber-mouthin’ all over the community.

And it was great stuff, too. I’m talking big headlines… like Lane Morgan gettin’ caught skinny dippin’ in Coneross Creek….or like Ray Nix gettin’ hitched to that sweet Williams girl. What did she see in him, anyway? Or like Thomas Bramlett and brother Oliver gettin’ caught speedin’ in their souped-up jalopies. I think they were doing 60 or something like that right down through the middle of Oakway.

I couldn’t swear to this with my hand on the Bible, but I think Mother and Daddy (and maybe some of our aunts and uncles, too!) secretly listened in on the party line when us kids were totin’ stove wood or drawin’ water or milkin’ Ol’ Bessie. What makes me believe that? Thanks for asking.

Have you ever been caught doing something or being somewhere you weren’t supposed to be doing or being? And your folks already knew about it before you got home? Yep, you guessed it. The ol’ party-line phone system. “Hello, Woodshed. Yeah, it’s me again, back for another visit, no hidin’ place down here!”

I guess all this was rumblin’ around in my noggin the other day when I left my cell phone in the front seat of my car. I asked the perky young, 20-something receptionist if I could use the phone. Her reply of “No problem, mister,” as she was checking out my lack of hair, should have tipped me off. ‘Cause when I asked her another question, it just completely caused a short-circuit in her hard drive. And all I said was, “Do I need to dial 9 to get out?”

The look on her face told me she thought I was a pre-historic dinosaur from another planet. She jumped up, ran over to another person’s desk where I saw her pointin’ back at me. And they BOTH laughed out loud!

We probably won’t ever have to ‘dial 9 to get out’ again from our phones. But there is still and will always be a time to use that phrase. And it just happens to be the 9th Psalm. David gives us some very good advice about ‘getting out.’ Out of what, you say? How ‘bout gettin’ out of loneliness, fear, anxiety, sickness, depression, doubt, danger? David knew his share of all those situations, and his advice in the first 9 verses of Psalm 9 can be a life-line for us to call out to God for His help when we’re in similar circumstances.

In verse 1, David remembers to praise the Lord and tell others of all the wonderful things that God has already done in our lives. Much more good stuff in between, and in verse 9, he talks about a ‘refuge and a stronghold in times of trouble.’ Wonderful scripture. Read all 9 verses. Memorize them. Print it out and put it on the refrigerator door.

And the next time you don’t know who to call, just remember – “Dial 9 to get out!”

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