By Daris Howard
Special to The PREVIEW
When I was younger and just graduated from college, we moved into a new area and into a new home. The church I was part of had decided to move all record keeping to computers. The problem was, back then very few people knew how to use a computer. So, the congregational leader, who went by the title of bishop, asked if I would help enter the records into the computer.
One piece of this had to do with the donations the members of the congregation gave to the church. On Sunday afternoons, I worked with Henry to enter the data. He would read off the numbers, and I punched them in. This was before the days of the Internet, so when we had checked and double-checked the numbers, we called in to the church headquarters to report the data so the totals could be recorded there.
One day, the bishop came into where Henry and I were working. “I just got the phone bill,” he said. “Do you know what’s on it?”
“What?” Henry asked.
“There are a lot of calls to a dirty joke line,” the bishop replied. “The calls are all made during the youth night meetings. Apparently, the youth are doing some things they shouldn’t.”
The next Sunday, the bishop talked about the issue to the congregation. He preached a little bit of fire and brimstone toward those who would use a church phone for inappropriate behavior and called on them to repent.
“Not only is it a disgrace to see these kinds of calls on our phone bill,” he said. “But the numbers were 900 numbers and had charges both for long-distance and for a line charge. We are going to have some equipment put in so a person must have a code to make a long-distance call. That should take care of the problem.”
Within a couple of weeks, the new equipment was installed. Henry and I were given a code we had to punch in so we could call in the weekly donation report.
Only a few weeks after the new equipment was installed, Henry and I had spent much of a Sunday afternoon recording everything. It was way past lunchtime, and we were both hungry and ready to be home with our families. It was Henry’s turn to make the call, and my turn to watch and listen to verify he read the numbers correctly.
Henry dialed the number and punched in the security code. When the phone picked up on the other end, he smiled. He identified himself and the congregation he was calling from. Then he said, “I am ready to report the weekly donation information.”
Suddenly, Henry blushed bright red. “Listen here,” he said forcefully into the phone. “I don’t want to hear any of that!”
Henry gasped. “Young lady, I want to talk to your supervisor!” He paused a minute and then said it again louder and with more force. Finally, he slammed the phone on the receiver.
Henry was shaking with anger as he turned to me. “That lady, and I use the term loosely, was telling me a dirty joke.”
I laughed. “Henry, did you dial 1-800, or did you dial 1-900?”
Henry was not smiling as he replied. “As far as I know, I dialed 1-800.”
He was so shaken by everything that he wouldn’t call again. So, this time I dialed. A young lady answered and identified herself as a secretary at the church headquarters. She pleasantly recorded the information, and we hung up.
When the bishop stepped into the room, we told him what had happened. He laughed. “Well, I guess we know who was calling the dirty joke line.”
Henry didn’t think it was funny in the least. And when the phone bill came, it showed a 900 number which, other than the nine, was the same as the church reporting number.
“Give me that bill,” Henry said.
The bishop laughed. “We can pay for it.”
“Not on your life,” Henry said. “I don’t want anyone saying I called a raunchy number and the church paid it.”
He looked at the charge on the phone bill, plopped down five dollars, and said, “And keep the change.”
Then he added, “And I don’t want to hear another word spoken about this again.”
By Daris Howard