The Humble Farmer

Banquet Speaker, Entertainer, Humorist

Location: St. George, Maine, United States

I enjoy standing on stages in front of sober people who like to laugh. I enjoy playing bass in a jazz band.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

March 4, 2005 _______ Radio Rants


1. A recent food study from Sweden says that French fries, potato chips and some kinds of cereal are not good for you. I wouldn’t have believed that had not a representative of the grocery industry immediately denied it.
2. The US Department of Education concluded that nearly half of the adult US population was illiterate when it comes to such things as understanding a bus schedule, filing out a bank deposit slip or computing the cost of having some work done. Do you believe it? I do. I’m a card carrying member of the club. I am unable to understand my Central Maine Power bill. Several people I respect studied the document and fared no better than I. Listen to my account summary. Prior balance: minus $17.25 Payments received through 2-26-05 $0 plus. Balance forward. $17.25 minus. New charges Adjusted delivery charges $8.26 minus, Electricity Delivery: CMP $7.07 plus. Adjusted electricity charges $8.62 minus. Electricity supply, $2.18 plus. Total new charges $7.63 minus Current Account Balance: $24.88 minus. No payment is needed with this bill, it says, and I’m glad because I wouldn’t know what to pay. To help clarify things, however, below all that there is a section called Central Maine Power Delivery Service Account Detail which says Delivery charges of 226 KWH Cancel $15.33 and below that Delivery Service 52 KWH Rebill $7.07 and below that the number $8.26 minus for total adjusted delivery charges. When it comes to bills, this particular study in obfuscation is a relatively simple one because you’ll have to agree that telephone bills are even muddier. Now ask yourself, why should any company mail out a bill that their customers can’t understand. And you know why, don’t you? If you can’t understand your light bill are you going to find fault with it?
3. If the lottery paid 180 million dollars, would you buy a ticket? I wouldn’t. You probably wouldn’t, either. Odds are against you. But if you heard someone on the radio offering to give you, for the price of an email, an excellent hard-cover coffee table book just published by Down East Magazine, would you take the time to snap out an email and ask for it? No, you wouldn’t do that either. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a book by Cindy McIntyre. This book has old pictures and new pictures of 50 or so towns in Maine. It is a beautiful book. I said that the person with the best reason for wanting it could have it. Only one person wrote and said, “I want it. This is my address where you can send it.” Even if you didn’t want it for yourself, the $28 price on the back cover would stagger your father in law when you gave him the book for a birthday present. He works in Wal*Mart. He doesn’t listen to this program. He’d never know. So why didn’t you ask me for it? Are we afraid of being suckered? Do we hear so many voices crying “free, free, free” from all sides that we simply don’t believe it anymore? I’m about to say something that you’ve heard me say before, and it will pay you to say it over and over to your children and grandchildren. Over 35 years ago I went to graduate school for three years, for free, at the University of Rochester. Perhaps my only qualification was the fact that I wrote them a letter and asked for financial aid. Over 35 years ago I was chosen to be a delegate to the Xth international congress of Linguists in Bucharest. When I got to Romania and asked to meet the other American delegates, I was told, “There is but one from each country.” I was amazed that I was representing Harvard, MIT and the University of Maine at Machias, and I said, “Why did you pick me?” Professor Mohrmon looked me up and down and said, “Perhaps you were the only one who applied.”
4. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Is this always true? It’s true part of the time because I saw an example today. One of my pet peeves is emails that arrive with no contact information on them. I get hundreds of emails from Pete and Leslie and Joe and sometimes they want something and when they do you would be safe betting 20 to one that they don’t tell me where to send it. I have spent dozens of hours trying to locate friends, who might be living in a culvert down in Eastport, for all I know. I tried to find them on the web just so I could thank them for a favor. A week or so ago I tried to give away Cindy McIntyre’s book on this program, and out of all the letters I got, only two people included their mailing address. If you ever taught second grade and had to help kids put on their rubbers and mittens you might be able to grasp what I’m talking about here.
For several years I’ve been wanting to buy something from Joe out in Colorado, and I finally got around to it today. I’ve heard a lot about Joe over the years. He’s got a product I want. We have mutual friends, so even though there is no mailing address on his website I felt safe in mailing him a check. So I emailed Joe and asked him where to send the money. He snapped his address right back. But I had to rush off on a trip and then I had a cold for a week, so I didn’t get the check in the mail. And within three days Joe sent me another email saying, “When you’re ready, I’m ready. $104.” I was glad to get that reminder, I needed that reminder, but even more I needed Joe’s mailing address which he didn’t include in his second email. To help you understand this, Joe recently had a stroke and he’s 74 years old. But wouldn’t you think that somewhere out there in email land, there would be a few folks somewhere between the ages of 7 and 74? If you handed in your doctoral thesis and never saw it again because you didn’t put your name on it, I’d like to hear from you. I’m
5. I write to a lot of meeting planners so I wasn’t surprised to get an email that said, “Meeting Time and Place of Meeting.” But I was surprised to open the email and read: “Current Matches: 1. Ashley Swenson is within 20 miles from your location. She is married, but her husband is away almost every weekend and some weeknights.
2. Hannah Mccoy is within 17 miles from your location. She is married but looking for another relationship while her husband is on the road.” What’s going on here? In 69 years I’ve learned that people can get in a lot of trouble without trying to look for it. Right off the top of my head I can name several permanent swaps that inadvertently resulted just because some friends got together on a regular basis to play cards. And carpenters. I can name two carpenters who gave a whole new meaning to the term customer service. My father was a carpenter and although this is the first time I’ve thought of this for perhaps 50 years, I can remember having the impression that there were places where father didn’t dare get on his back to crawl under a sink. So there have always been lonely widows or divorcees who were just waiting for a chance to take up the slack. Way back in the dark ages you’d pay 50 cents to read in the Maine Times Personal column: “Antique dealer seeks attractive young woman interested in one nightstand.” But now it’s coming into our homes, unsolicited, in our email. Has this foolishness affected you or someone you know? Do we really need to be invited to wander? I’m
6. Dear Humble, Thank you for your wonderful show. It is delightful to study to out here in California, and I love a constant reminder that Maine is the way life should be. I have been using your show as an example to my friends of what a true maine accent is. However, we've had some problems with the internet connection, and the volume often isn't loud enough even after we've turned up the volume on the computers all the way. Is there anyway you can load your progams onto the internet a little louder? Thanks, Hans H.

Hi Hans, Thanks for writing. I am crushed that you find what I am saying to be of less interest than how I am saying it. You have pointed out a problem with my delivery. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it. The first analogy I come up with is the monkey who draws a crowd for his ability to recite philosophy and science. No one pays any attention to what the monkey is saying because they are amazed that the monkey can talk at all. My mail indicates that most of my radio friends have been able to get past my speech impediment. Thanks for writing. I'll pass your comments along to Nikki, although I think the volume problem is on your end. Thank you for writing and thank you for listening.
7. Dear humble, I ran into Norman Mason---the son---who knew you from college days at Mason's Variety in Gorham. His face brightened when I mentioned your name, and the ride his Mom took with you came up. I believe that he said she is 93---and living in a group home in Yarmouth. Her memory is fading a bit, but otherwise she is well. Mark on the Dock in Portland. Thank you, Mark. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been driving that same car now for 54 years. It’s interesting to think that the car is just the same as it was 54 years ago. The car has stayed the same but I’ve changed. If you went to Gorham Normal School, you must remember Masons. The store. And I do remember giving Mrs. Mason a ride in my model T down there in Gorham --- must have been back around 1962 or so. I have a picture somewhere of Mrs. Mason and my Model T. I remember that in 1962 Mrs. Mason was very very old.
8. Did you know that you can earn a college degree in only two weeks? That’s what the email said. You can earn any college degree in only two weeks, and I believe it. Yes, I would bet ready money that I have many intelligent but uneducated friends who could, in two weeks, pass all the examinations necessary to obtain a degree from any college in the United States. And because you can think faster than I can, you’re already saying, “Of course, anyone could do it, if their ancestors lived for hundreds of years in Russian ghettos or practiced medicine in Viet Nam.
I have visited lawn sales where it is possible to buy good books for a quarter. I can remember finding a spotless brand new book called “Caring for your baby and child.” I mentioned to the woman selling it that the book was in awful good condition. She said, “Yes, after I had the kid, I never had time to read it.”



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