Bring Back the Phone Booth

  In all honesty, the origin of this has more to do with Karen’s ideas than mine, but I did start the whole thing by interrupting her coupon-clipping to show her one of the comics in the Sunday (Raleigh) News & Observer, November 13, 2011; namely; “Rhymes With Orange,” by Hilary Price.

It’s a one-frame comic set in a cell phone store, with a salesperson and two customers gawking at a rather porcine Superman, naked, putting one leg at a time into his Superman suit and letting the world know he misses phone booths.  (If you’d like to see the original, the website is at the end of this article.)

Remember Christopher Reeve in the first of the modern Superman movies, needing a place to change and wistfully gazing at a Gotham City pay phone that had no booth?  The Superman of my youth always found a phone booth to change in, one with a little seat and windows high enough to shield him from the waist down (I’m referring to my youth, after all, a time when the comic with the naked guy, especially a porcine naked guy, wouldn’t have been allowed in a newspaper, even in the comics and even in Chicago).

Within a moment or two the suggestions for this article were flying at me across our dining room table.  Once the coupon-clipping was interrupted, the creative flow was unleashed.

“What a great idea for an enterprising young person,” she said, “to bring back phone booths by building attractive ones with those little windows and comfortable seating.”

She continued: “Restaurants, doctor and dentists’ waiting rooms, and other places where people seem to insist on sharing their cell phone conversations with the world could install these phone booths with a sign: CELL PHONE USERS GET SENT TO THE PHONE BOOTH!”

And more: “Booths could be installed on busy streets.  After all, you can’t hear on your cell phone with all the traffic noise.  There could be charges for using the booths.”

I finally had an idea: Could be made so you’d have to insert a credit card to get in.  Maybe
that would avoid the public phones that occasionally pop up in the movies, the ones all broken, with the handset missing at the end of the wire swinging in the breeze, and the phone book with all the important pages missing.  Come to think of it, with modern cell phones you just need the booth – no phone book.

And finally she observed: “Superheroes need places to change.”

I think banishing rude cell phone users to soundproof booths is more persuasive, but I certainly don’t want superheroes mooning or flashing us either.

(Website to view the comic: , included with a thank you and tip of my hat to Hilary Price.  Looking forward to more of your humor!)


US Debt Since the Carter Administration

Robert Lovett, a former Secretary of Defense under President Harry Truman, was quoted by Truman in his diary as informing the President that: “A statistician is someone who can draw a straight line from an unwarranted assumption to a foregone conclusion.”

Before writing this I found a website dedicated to the collection of other jokes and humorous commentary about statistics and those who practice the science.  Some of the jokes even go so far as to suggest that statistics may be more art than science.

I’m for considering the source before judging whether a set of numbers are useful or tell me anything.  Consider the following summaries of material you can find at:

As a percentage of Gross National Product, of the last six presidents, Ronald Reagan’s two terms
produced the largest increase in the national debt: 189%.  Next highest was George W. Bush at 89%.  In third place was George H. W. Bush at 56%, followed by Jimmy Carter at 42%, Bill Clinton at 36%, and Barak Obama at 34%.

For national debt increases expressed in per capita percentages, Reagan still holds the lead at 168%; G. W. Bush at 75.2%; G. H. W. Bush at 49.2%; Carter at 36.6%; Obama at 30.9%; and Clinton at 22.5%.

If you go to the website, I think you’ll find the sources for these numbers include the US Treasury
Department and the US Census Bureau, among others.

A few questions:

1)  Doesn’t this show that the national debt as a percentage of gross national product and on a per capita basis increased more when we had Republican presidents?

2)  Given that Carter and G.W.H. Bush were only in office for one term, and Obama has yet to complete one term, doesn’t prorating their figures still make Bill Clinton – by far – the best of our past six presidents at containing the increases in national debt?

3)  Or does all this hint that presidents and our economy are at the mercy of world events, great inventions, new technology, Congress, lobbyists, wars, pestilence, slow internet connections, and other stuff?