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Rupert Howell Column

Rupert Howell

Facebook ‘friend’ comes with much ebaggage in tow

“Hi, howell@panola.com” the email said after inviting me to check photos on Facebook.

“I set up a Facebook profile where I can post my pictures . . . and I want to add you as a friend so you can see it. First, you need to join Facebook! . . . Thanks, Steve,” the email read.

The email apparently came from an old nemesis and friend Steve Still who had to go all the way to Quebec, Canada to find a beautiful woman who would marry him.

In an earlier day I had poured dehydrated syrup powder in his swimming suit on a Boy Scout camping trip. He retaliated later, selling my buddies and me bad whiskey and charging too much for it.

Steve is about as “Batesville” as one can get as he was raised here during the ‘50s and ‘60s. His late father, J.V. “Buck” Still, was tax collector/assessor forever and his oldest brother, Hudson, was alderman-at-large for many years. Another brother, David, and late sister, Jimmie Carol, all went to school here also in the 50s and 60s.

Did I mention that his late mother, Miz Hortense, made the best lemon ice-box pie in the world?

Steve began working as dispatcher for the Batesville Police Department in the mid-’70s, later becoming patrolman and then moving on to Greenville after furthering his education and becoming a parole officer or counselor or some position that didn’t require a lot of physical activity.

Steve’s dispatching duties coincided with summers while I was in college. On  occasions after having had a few too many I would go to the police station and “turn myself in,” simultaneously finding sobriety before turning in at my parents’ house.

It was a symbiotic relationship as life for the late shift dispatcher in Batesville was usually boring and the editor’s son didn’t need to be driving about the city “over the limit.”

To his request to join Facebook I replied, “You are complicating our (Miss Rita Jean and my) lives. We have been resisting any urges to join social programs such as Facebook mainly because Rita is scared our son might reject her as a ‘friend’. “

Rita doesn’t take rejection very well.

Then I suggested, “Why don’t you get into something cerebral like a Panolian subscription online. For a small fee, we deliver each issue right to your email box where you can view pages just like you are holding it in your hand but without the ink.

“In it you will find facts about your hometown community that no one is reporting but the staff at The Panolian,” I wrote.

I reinforced my thoughts letting him know that, “The (another) town drunk (humm) has again been arrested and released for time served—the mayor is still selling used cars on the side, the majority of the town board is younger than he is—news and facts as no one else is reporting and news and facts you need to know,” could be found within the publication.

“Don’t get caught up in the trendy Facebook, Myspace, Twitter didder…..,” I went a little overboard with my sales job.

He replied, “ I don’t know what happened with this Facebook thing.”

He explained he had signed up at the request of a longtime friend after a recent class reunion.

Another schoolmate convinced him to put a few pictures on Facebook.

“Okay, I finally figured out how to do that . More people started requesting that I confirm them as a ‘friend’. That was okay, but then suddenly, somehow, Facebook got a hold of all my email addresses and sent everyone on my address list a request to become my ‘friend’,” Still noted.

He added, “Rupe, some of those requests went out to people that are not among the living anymore.

“But that’s not all,” he added and revealed that  he had the American Consulate in Quebec City’s email address in his computer. They were also sent a request to be his “friend.”

Not being aware of what was happening he checked his email and saw that he had received an automatic answer from the consulate stating that his email was important to them and someone would contact him within the next 48 hours.

“At first I thought maybe I was in trouble and the old Steve Still mind-mode kicked into action. I started thinking of things I have done (Yeah, maybe like selling overpriced rotgut to your little buddies in 1965) they wouldn’t approve of and making up excuses to have ready to tell them when they call,” Still wrote.

The next morning he was relieved when he figured out the problem and started receiving email confirmations accepting him as “friend” from dozens of people on his address list—some of whom he has never heard of.

“This technology crap is really hard on an old country boy,” he ended.