Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Joke. Stop.

Even the Drudge Report noted that, after 145 years, Western Union will no longer send telegrams. Click on “Telegrams” in the left-side navigation bar on the Western Union site. This simple message ends a technological triumph with a whimper: “Effective January 27, 2006, Western Union will discontinue all Telegram and Commercial Messaging services. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you for your loyal patronage. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a customer service representative.” I wonder how many ordinary Americans noticed.

With the passing of the Western Union telegram, a great joke passes too. With all the fondness I can muster, here is that joke:

A Western Union delivery man rings the door bell to deliver his next telegram. An elderly woman in a worn housedress answers the door, and the delivery man says, “Telegram for you, ma’am.”

The old woman exclaims, “Oh, how lovely! Is it a singing telegram? I've always wanted to get one of these.” The delivery man replies, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but this isn’t a singing telegram. It’s just a regular telegram.” The woman is visibly disappointed.

She sighs and – with tears in her eyes – says, “Couldn't you sing it to me anyway? I’m 91 years old and this may be my last chance to get a singing telegram!”

The Western Union courier is now obviously uncomfortable and says, “No ma’am, really, it’s not the kind of telegram you sing, and I don't sing very well anyway.”

The woman pleads and pleads with him: “I’m an old woman - please, please sing me the telegram…”

The delivery man finally gives in. Throwing back his head and holding the telegram in front of him with a flourish, he sings, “Da-da-de-dum-dum-DUM, Your sister Rose is dead...”
Stanley Ireland’s telegram to his wife, dated April 16, 1945, is from the South Dakota Photo Archive, with thanks.

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