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FROM THE VALLEY: From 1 to 5, rate this column

By Tom Valley

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let's face it, enough is enough.

Why in the name of grade-school report cards are we pestered by e-mails or a phone call (the cable folks) asking us to appraise their companies after we avail ourselves of their services?! It's ridiculous.

The irony is: the biggest complaint I have about the cable company is the amount of time it takes to address a simple issue only to have them call me back - after the marathon session - wanting me to complete a lengthy survey, wondering what they can do to make the experience better. They can start by not calling me back!

Another example. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was on-line to purchase some tee-shirts from Walmart. After I got them, I started getting e-mails (from Walmart) wanting to know how they did. What the heck is that all about? They're damn tee-shirts. It's not like things are going to change no matter what I tell them. I don't get it. I've heard about on-line security but on-line insecurity?! “Paging Dr. Freud.”

A different thing: what's more annoying than getting a “Forgot your password?” message after getting rejected from trying to log into some on-line bull-crap site you've used before? Just as bad is having to carry those little plastic cards on your key-chain for every frigging store on the planet just so that the cashier can scan it, enabling you to pay seven cents less, for God-only-knows-why, than the poor sap who won't kowtow (bless his soul) to the birdbrains who came up with the stupid idea in the first place.

And speaking of passwords, what's up with them? (Tongue-in-cheek dead ahead.) Such a paranoid society we live in these days. Good Lord, would all hell really break loose if someone noticed I bought dog food on-line? I have so many of those very secretive, hush-hush, magic, open-Sesame, identification-key passwords that I finally organized the lot and put them in a computer file. Now I can't remember the password to get to them. That, too, is locked in the file. But at least, they're safe from prying eyes. What a joke. (Right, Dr. Foley?)

Switching gears: My late father's birthday is August 6th. He would have been 104. A great guy who stood only 5 foot 6, yet everyone who knew him, looked up to him. His honesty and gentle soul is still missed. Love you, Dad, and happy birthday. (And while I'm on the subject it would be Mom and Dad's wedding anniversary on the 11th.)

Here's a true story about my father. When my brothers and I were youngsters, we'd spend time at a camp on the St. Lawrence River near our hometown, Ogdensburg, N.Y. Our cottage was about half a football field away from the river. Off to the side and sitting right along the river was childhood friends Robbie and Cynthia Moore's (parents') place. In between, was a set of railroad tracks.

We'd regularly run down to their camp with our dog Sandy to go swimming. One day we heard the train coming and ran to watch it go by. (Another daily ritual in our young lives.) Unfortunately, Sandy thought we were running to the river and was on the tracks just as the oncoming train arrived and was hit right before our eyes. Traumatic? Oh yeah. Our family pet was there one second and whoosh, completely gone the next.

Dad, being the good parent he was, tried to answer our questions about what happened. Questions like “Where did Sandy go?” He told us that Sandy had gone to heaven and not to worry. He'd be fine. I can honestly say I still remember his consoling, comforting words during our time of youthful grief.

Later that September when we returned to parochial school, our new teacher, Sister Ruth Les, welcomed us. And in an effort to restore order to the rambunctious class, she intimidatingly asked, “Boys and girls, do you know how to get to heaven?”

Naturally, I raised my hand and said “I do, Sister.”

“Then please, tell everyone how it's done,” she encouraged.

I stood up and proudly announced, “You take the train. That's what our dog did!”

It had to be true, Dad told me so.

And that's the way it looks from the Valley.

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The author Tom Valley with his mom and dad

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