Across The Counter
By Martha Williams, El Paso, Texas
Reprinted from August 1989
Times have evolved adequately to erase some of our most cherished ideals. Back in the gold ‘ole days grandpa had a dairy herd and each cow had a name. Bossy, Betsy, Blossom and Hazel; each cow was given an individual identity. Now-a-days cows on dairy farms are given numbers. Cow number 36, 28, 45. Slowly and behind the scenes jewelers are also becoming numbers. Long gone are the days when one could pick up the phone and chat with a person who not only knew who you were, but knew exactly what you were talking about. When the factory or business responds now, the first thing they say is, “account number?” Awhile back RB picked up the phone to call Heuer Watch for an order. We usually order from the salesman or by mail so this was a relatively new experience for RB who right away tried to be as polite as possible. “Oh hi! I caught you huh? For a minute I thought you may have gone to lunch. “
“Well then, do you have a pencil handy?” She assured him she did and then asked for his account number.
“Account number?” RB repeated. “What’s an account number?” RB had forgotten that most large companies now identify accounts with numbers, and if you forget or lose your number you’re likely to be out of luck. Fortunately the few times this has happened to us we remembered our store name and address which eventually presented adequate information to get the product.
Everything is numbered now. Every cash register receipt, every charge card transaction, driver’s license, phone number, address, access codes, checking accounts and more.
I heard the other day that babies born will have to have a social security number issued as they leave the hospital. Won’t that be cute? Someone will come in to buy a gift in your store and you’ll say, “Oh how nice, what is the baby’s name?” And the customer will respond, “Well the parents haven’t thought all that much about a name, but we can put on the gift card ‘for baby Jones, 455-78-7897.’”
I liked it better when babies had to be named on the spot. Whoever wrote in the good book “His days are numbered” did not know it would take on a literal action years later.
Positive identification of everything may have specific advantages, but if one little number gets mixed up, it is a disaster of great dimensions. RB went to have his driver’s license renewed one year, and while there they snatched his license and told him he had failed to pay a fine in Texarkana for drunk driving. Unable to do anything about it, he returned to his car and said helplessly, “Have I ever been to Texarkana?” (Never mind he was said to be drunk) “No dear, I assure you in the 30 years we’ve be married you have never been to Texarkana.” Right away he filed an appeal and eventually, after driving several months without a driver’s license, his case was resolved. It seems another man with his exact name and birth date but a different Texas driver’s license had been the culprit. Nobody said they were sorry, but he did get his license. I wonder what happened to their numerical driver’s license listings. I guess numbers can be handy if you have a surname like Williams.
Gone are the days when we can order the ‘little ladies watch with the gold mesh band and .25 diamonds.’ Gone are the days when you can order the porcelain duck you’ve sold several times without having the exact order number. Now added to account numbers is the inevitable comment, “do you have a purchase order number?” Golly, there are only three of us here who order so we never had to have a purchase order number. Sometimes the company operator will ask in such a manner that I give them anything so I won’t be thought to be uninformed. “Purchase order number? You bet! Number 23457.” Now that makes me feel like we are running a big store.
Just to get to your state convention if you fly you will require a ticketed number, likely to be purchased by a charge card number, you will be assigned a time which involves numbers and a gate number, a flight number and finally a seat number. I am thinking if I ever get to heaven will St. Peter know me by Martha or will he ask me my social security number? Things have certainly changed since I was young and foolish, but I’m not sure all these modern ways of doing things is entirely better….. and that’s a fax!