Dear Big Daddy,
I’m a middle level manager in a big state department. I travel all over California in my job and Jerry Brown says I’m about to lose my state-issued cell phone. How am I going to communicate on the road?
— Muted in Midtown, Modesto, Monrovia and Mono Hot Springs
As someone whose days in the flesh were spent before cell phones and text messages, Big Daddy only knows what some of the new arrivals tell him about the latest means of communications. I preferred to do my communicating man to man or, better yet, man to woman. But I digress.
Frankly, I don’t like giving advice to state employees. They are wired differently than normal people, get strange over time and worry more about pensions than the meaning of life. Actually, that applies to most reporters I’ve met, too.
Anyway, let’s say you work for the State Department of Cogs and Sprockets and you’re sent to Imperial County for an important meeting with county cog regulators in El Centro after which you have to tour a cog plant in Calipatria. As usual, your support staff makes the airline reservations into San Diego and your motel reservations in Brawley. No sweat there. You won’t need your celly for that.
You get your state car in San Diego and drive to your meeting with the county cog inspectors in El Centro. You have your meeting, straighten out a misunderstanding of Regulation 106.A(13)c. and as you’re leaving, one of the county guys gets a call from the production manager of the cog factory, who tells him to tell you that he’s gotta postpone your plant tour until day after tomorrow.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. You need to notify your office in Sacramento so the Cogs and Sprockets director and your boss in the Cogs Division of the department won’t think you’re AWOL.
Here are your options. Take notes:
• You could ask the folks around Calipatria if there are any young, lean men with the ability to ride fast horses. You drive them to horse ranches, purchase fast mounts with your state-issued credit card, and set up a pony express route to the Riverside office, with stops for fresh horses at Indian casinos. You also will need to pay three or four native American scouts as guides to the best, shall we say, rest stops. The Cogs and Sprockets Express riders refresh themselves with beers and a floor show at all Indian casinos between Calipatria and Riverside. This should take three days.
• You could ask for a phone book – you know, one of those big paper books with white and yellow pages with names and phone numbers of people and businesses in it – and check to see if there is still a business in El Centro that will send a telegram. (My sources tell me, however, that Western Union is only a memory, much like me.) For those of you who have never read or sent a telegram, a telegram was the email, Tweet or text message of the 19th and 20th Centuries.
• Or you might scour El Centro, Calipatria, Verdant, or maybe Brawley until you find an Orange Julius, buy an original Julius and a relish dog and pay with a fifty-dollar bill. Ask ’em to give you change in quarters. Then, being careful not to drop relish on your shirt or your state car’s upholstery, you could drive around until you find a pay phone, if you can find one that’s not been disabled by a drunk guy who tried to pay for a call with beer bottle caps.
• You could just go to a service station, tell ’em you are a down-and-out state worker who just lost all his money at the nearest casino, beg ’em to let you use their phone and promise ’em you’ll fill out an expense claim for the call when you get back to Sacramento and mail ’em the money. (This one always works because it’s usually the closest to the truth.)
There’s one other option. Don’t bother to call in at all. Go to the nearest casino. Have a few drinks. See a show. Cancel your reservation in the motel in Brawley and get an upgraded room at the casino. Gamble all night and sleep in the next day. Your boss doesn’t know where you are. Neither does your significant other. Neither does your other significant other.
Then if you ever do get back to Sacramento, call Jerry Brown and thank him for liberating you from that damn cell phone. Tell him Big Daddy says hello. Make sure you say, “Big Daddy.” Otherwise, they’ll think you’re Dick Floyd and we’ll both get mad.