Congrats to parish government for taking the gentle hint and repairing the lettering on the front of the St. Mary Parish Courthouse.

The sign no longer reads "t Mary Courthouse" and the "r" in "Mary" is no longer threatening to end it all by jumping.

Now when people come from out of town or parish or state to do abstract work, go to court, visit the county agent, whatever, weíre beginning to act like we care how we look to them.

Thereís still the matter of a broken lamppost emblem on the sign at City Hall, which Iím sure will be similarly repaired soon.

We shouldnít underestimate such minor details. Itís funny to me how we often go to other places and marvel over how neat they are, how nice, how novelÖand come home completely oblivious to how weíre deficient in the same areas.

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The October elections are heating up already! Candidate forums have been held, folks are showing up door-to-door, advertising being run.

I love a good election. Reminds me of why I got into this business, along with the wonderful hours, numerous benefits and six-figure pay.

Itís interesting to watch candidates as they carry out their campaigns, at all levels. Some are buttering up the voters. Others are nary lifting a finger to solicit a vote. Whether this attitude is cavalier, confident or pompous depends on the candidates. Some are actively seeking input, suggestions, thoughts, gripes and groans. Some would rather avoid their constituents if they know said voter has issues they donít want to hear about. Go figure.

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Well, while I canít say Iíve never touched a nerve before with this column, I really jabbed one with a hot poker this week.

People got downright indignant over my Wednesday article regarding the absence of manners when it comes to cell phone use. Oh, most people took it in good humor, a few even realized they were guilty of hooligan behavior and admitted it with a good heart.

But some of you people. Jeesh!

"Were you talking about me?" they demand.

"Uhm, no, butÖ"

"But what?"

At this point, you donít know whether to lie or run. "Well, now and then youÖ"

"I what? What are you, Mr. Emily Post or something?"

Dang. Youíd think I slapped their mama.

You know, we Southerners used to pride ourselves on being polite at all costs. I mean, you maintained your manners as a lady or gentleman until your last breath. Then along came cell phones, and everybodyís all insulted all of a sudden.

"Hrmph," they say. "Iím so sorry if my Ė insert name or relation here Ė comes first!"

I didnít say they shouldnít. I said you should at least say, "Excuse me a second," or something of that nature instead of just slapping the phone to your ear while the other person is in mid-sentence.

"Well," they reply, seething with indignation, "you hear my phone ring, you see me open it up to answer it, donít you think you can shut up and wait until I finish?"

Wow. Imagine that! Donít you think you can let your Ė insert name or relation here Ė ring one, maybe two more times until I at least complete my sentence? Iíve been known to say stuff worth listening to at least once or twice a year, you wouldnít want to miss it.

Itís much the same as this: I go into some place to pick up a take-out order. Iím about to tell the person behind the counter, "Order for Roger, please," when the phone rings, and they answer it, take an order for a party of like two dozen while Iím standing there, cash in hand, waiting to pick up my supper.

Thatís a sure way to lose a customer in my book. Now, if I walk up to the counter and theyíre already on the phone, sure, I donít mind waiting, the caller was first. But if you hang up from that one and another rings, donít even think about answering it until youíre done with me. If they want your food theyíll call back. Iíll leave you with a plate lunch to enjoy yourself.

But you see the point is, somehow Ma Bell got us conditioned that when that phone rings we gotta answer it. Weíre like Pavlovís dogs when it comes to telephones. Some people canít just ignore them. In fact, you can see them break into a cold sweat after the third ring, tremble and convulse after the fifth and on the seventh their eyes bulge out, ears bleed and they pass out from anxiety.

Me, I can happily ignore you when you call me without a tinge of guilt or a speck of regret. When I decide to take a weekend or evening nap, I unplug the house phone so that only the answering machine will silently reply, and turn the ringer off on the cell phone, and I donít feel the least bit bad about it. Some folks out there wouldnít be able to sleep, being so isolated from the rest of the world and all. Theyíd get up after five minutes and rush to both phones to make sure they didnít miss any calls.

You see, to me, my phones exist Ė and I am paying for them Ė for my convenience, not yours or anyone elseís. Iíve had people say, "Why donít you answer your phone when I call?" and I just say, "Because I didnít want to talk to you/anyone right then," and they sulk off in a huff like itís personal or something. Itís not personal, Iím just a curmudgeon and a hermit sometimes. Iím a writer, and moreís the point, an Indian writer, Iíve got plenty license to be moody and eccentric and stoic if the mood strikes me.

Thatís fine though. Iím not disrespecting your phone habits. What you do on the privacy of your own phone line or cell transmission is your business. Have fun! Heck, Iím addicted to Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns, who am I to judge?

Eventually, thereíll come a time in my life when I will no longer be required to own a telephone and I will joyously throw them into a raging bonfire. Both of them, house phone and cell. Ma Bell can send me letters and gift packages and special offers all they want, but they can save the postage, because weíre never getting back together again after that, I donít care how many free minutes they offer me. Call me old fashioned, a relic, whatever. The dang things are a nuisance, thatís all they are.

Goodnight, John Boy.