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Silver Threads: Operator, please!

Hello! You have reached the home and office of Bettye T. Anding, contributor to the website. Press one if you would like to comment on her latest column, two if you have an idea for a future column, three if this call has nothing whatsoever to do with the column.

If you know the numbers of the extension phones next to her computer, the kitchen where she sometimes loads the dishwasher, or the one at her reading chair, press them now. If you need a list of the extensions, press four. To reach her husband, press five; press six for their dog. Press seven to repeat this menu.

The menu has its own mini menus. For example, if you liked the column, press one and say a number from one to 10 indicating how much you liked it. If you didn’t like it, press two and you will be cut off. If you press the list of extensions, you will hear a recording telling you at approximately what time I will be at each. You may leave a message. If you press five to reach my husband, you’ll be given his cell phone number because he’s usually out and about. If you press six, you’ll either get silence or agitated barking.

You will never, never ever get a person.

I predict that 911 will go this way, too. Hello! This is 911. Press one if your house is on fire, two if someone is breaking in, three if you think you’ve had a heart attack, four if you’ve just fallen down and can’t get up, five if your car has plunged off the Crescent City Connection into the river, six if — you get the idea.

I got all irritated at menus this morning when I discovered my cell phone is missing. I’ve called it and it’s shut off, goes straight to voice mail. I went to the theater where I saw a movie last night and, with the help of the manager, searched under the seat in which I sat.

Then I decided service to the phone should be suspended and called my wireless company and got — a menu! I couldn’t get through it, mainly because at a crucial point well into the tiresome process of pressing numbers and entering information I lacked the pin number my husband uses when paying the bill. So I drove over to their office and got —- a person!

It all makes you want to go back to the good old days.

When I was a kid, a woman named Miss Audrey routed phone calls in our village. I’d turn the crank and she’d say “Number, please,” and I’d say “R.K. Tucker residence, please,” and she’d say, “Is this Bettye Ann? Well, Bettye Ann, your mama’s not at home right now. I think I just saw her car go by on the road to your Aunt Millie’s. Want me to call there?”

Thinking about going back to the good old days got me to thinking about the movie I saw last night. It’s the new Woody Allen one, and I won’t spoil it for you except to say that it has a little bit of time travel in the plot and the girl with whom Owen Wilson is in love tries to convince him to stay in the early 1800s with her.

“But they don’t have antibiotics,” he says fearfully.

That’s kind of how I feel about the good old days. Phone menus may aggravate me sorely, but I definitely need to stay in a world where they have antibiotics, not to mention electric lights, automatic transmissions, X-rays and MRIs, washing machines and dryers — and the list goes on.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of The Times Picayune Living section, for which she wrote Silver Threads until her retirement. Email her at


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