|Phone on the Range
|Richard S. Halada
Issue #58 (September 1986)
Everyone agrees that a telecommunications revolution is underway here in south central West Texas. Except for Ed Murdock, who runs the Nelson City Times down the street; what's he know anyway? Even Ed (who can't spell "mesquite,' as his last issue demonstrated)
will admit that it was NIT which pioneered the glorious tradition of barter in the world of high-speed communications.
'Please deposit your drawers for another three minutes.'
[quoteright]I'm the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the National International Telecommunications Company (NIT), the organization supplying long-distance phone service for our quiet but distinguished little corner of the globe. From the moment of its inception, I was determined that NIT would not be just another wasteful, heartless, mega-conglomerate. For starters, all of our pay phones (nobody has private phones 'round here, 'cause the minister can't afford one, and he preaches agin 'em) are crank-style; suits our clientele (we call 'em NIT-pickers) best, and we've installed fifty old Chevy and Oldsmobile batteries under the City Hall, charged by part of the juice each caller cranks into the NIT-work. By Christmas, there's more than enough electricity stored to power the lights on the Christmas tree over Elmo Sleed's garage for over three nights running! We've been considering installing bicycle-type generators, so we could power the big "Food-Gas" sign too, but the minister can't afford a bicycle either, so we best not.
Our phone booths are multi-use, and we've constructed both one and two-holers. Our motto is "Don't Waste Your Time While You're Waiting for a Line."
Getting back to barter though, we've been concerned for a long time about folks who lack jingling money for phone calls. Besides, there's no place to put coins in our phones. So we've begun accepting trades for calls. Usually we can arrange the length of the call and the value of the trade at the switchboard, but I remember one day when Willy Boyd ran overtime, talkin' to his future bride in Atlanta and I had to break in, "Willy, that ol' shirt's about used up. Please deposit your drawers for another three minutes."
See, outside the booths we've built boxes like the Salvation Army has. (Well, they are Salvation Army boxes but they'll never miss 'em.) We also put up livestock pens, which is where we gather most of our trade goods. You can always tell if a feller has a gal in another town, when you see him driving sheep toward a booth! And if a phone-call chicken lays an egg, we'll throw in another minute free of charge. A lot of folk out here have taken to keeping a hamster in the glove compartment in case they need to make an emergency phone call. Anyone interested in following in NIT's footsteps should be aware of the need to post a large sign on the pen "No Predators." It took a month of lost revenue before I could figure out why it seemed that everybody was paying their phone tab in either bloody feathers or fat coyotes.
Credit-card or sassy callers are easy to handle, too. When Roman Joe's rich uncle called in from Baltimore, he had to make twenty-eight singing campaign calls around town 'fore I let Roman Joe on the line.
NIT's also latched onto some fat defense contracts, too. The Bureau of the Interior is going to give us two hundred head of mules, and we're going to build 'em five cruise missiles over at Elmo's garage. They'll all have real cruise control and chrome fenders (don't tell the Russkies), and I foresee a grand future for NIT no matter what the minister or Ed Murdock says. For more information, see our fine half-page ad in next Tuesday's Nelson City Times.
A member of West Texas Mensa, RICHARD S. HALADA has recently changed careers from being a geophysicist. He has a batch of degrees and is working on more.
Richard S. Halada
Calling himself "a former geophysicist," RICHARD S. HALADA writes us that he is "delighted by scientific conundrums" and a "consumer of newspaper fillers, humor, horror, and science fiction in large quantities."