Anne Coburn-Griffis - Putnam Sentinel

There are so many things we take for granted. If you flip a light switch, something will turn on as long as the appropriate bill was paid. The sun will come out tomorrow (you can bet your bottom dollar, that.)

Before we had utilities to pay, were there utilities to pay? The first year that retail price indexes were recorded for electricity, gas, fuel oil and coal (EGFOC) in the United States was 1935, according to the “Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970: Bicentennial Edition.” The British taxed tea, which may explain why there are so many coffee shops, although a good cup of modern tea costs so much less than a double dipper expresso mocha latta latte.

Hold the phone! EGFOC should actually be TEGFOC because, in 1911, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) acquired the Western Union Telegraph Company in a hostile takeover. By 1918, approximately ten million Bell system telephones were in service throughout the U.S.

TEGFOC became TEGFOCC in 1949 when, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, cable subscriptions first became available. Free broadcast television put the cabbosh on that in the 1950s. Then cable became “new” again in the latter 20th century when about 58.4 percent of all American homes subscribed to basic cable television services.

All this led to a recent family gathering where one uncle was perched on top of a narrow ledge of the house, swiveling an indoor antenna while My Steven spoke to a human from a company that rhymes with “fish” about lousy internet service, which the human reported was due to our Back 40 service being provided by an old junky satellite while other customers (paying the same amount) are receiving beams from a shiny new model.

Conversation hummed steadily around me, punctuated by gasps as uncle swung a leg over the ledge and shouted “Now what’s coming in?” and Steve’s voice rose in controlled frustration. My belly was full of a superb birthday celebration meal, the couch was cozy and a cat purred in my ear, taking me back to a time that we only know when lightning strikes just right.