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Can you hear me now, Uncle Sam?

Dr. James L. Snyder | 6/11/2013, 12:23 p.m.

You can imagine my feelings when I recently found out that good old Uncle Sam was checking up on my phone calls, email messages and the rest of the social networking. Finally, somebody is really watching out for me.

It is more than that. Somebody is so interested in my affairs they are getting involved in my telephone conversations. I must admit that at first I was a little suspicious about all of this.

For example. What does Uncle Sam know about me and my phone calls that I do not know?

I get an awful lot of telephone calls during the course of a week. Some are friends, some are family, some are trying to sell me the Brooklyn Bridge. Even if I lived in New York City, I would not want to own the Brooklyn Bridge. Can you imagine how much it cost to keep that thing up and running?

As I said, at first I was a little suspicious about somebody listening into my phone calls. Then I remembered that back in “the day,” everybody did that. We had what was called the “party line” telephone system. That meant that everybody was connected to everybody else.

My grandmother for example, lived in a valley up in the mountains. She was on the party line, of course, and everybody had a special ring. Grandma’s ring was two long and one short rings. Whenever the telephone rang, dear old grandmother knew who was being called and, being a nosy person, she usually listened into the conversations. I am not picking on my grandmother, for everybody did it. Everybody knew everybody was doing it.

It was gossiper’s heaven.

I think there is something to be said for everybody knowing everybody’s business. That way everybody is up and up on the things they are talking about.

Of course, there is a dark side to it. I am semi-ashamed to reveal that I was part of that dark side.

Whenever anybody wanted to send out a rumor there was always the party line telephone system. My cousin and I got together and cooked up some juicy rumor about old Henry up the valley. Henry had never been married and was probably in his 70s at the time.

We started the rumor that Henry had a girlfriend.

It did not take long for everybody in the valley to know that Henry, who had been a bachelor for over seventy years, now had a special love interest. The big question coming through the party line was, who is this lucky woman?

Before long, this got a little out of control. Everybody believed that Henry had a special love interest and it got to the point that Henry himself believed he had a love interest.

I remember going with my grandmother to the grocery store and we happened to run into good old Henry. My grandmother, who was the queen of the gossipers, took this opportunity to speak to Henry.

“Oh Henry,” she said as we approached him. “I heard the news that you have a girlfriend. I’m so happy for you. You’ll have to bring her over to my house for coffee and cake some time.”