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Harris Blackwood: Why we need the human touch you cant send a tomato by email
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Georgia Power has announced that it is closing its local business offices around the state. I don’t really blame them; I haven’t been in a Georgia Power office in years.

More and more people are paying bills online or have automatic payments deducted from their checking accounts.

But there is a tinge of sadness as another symbol of days gone by is gone.

In Social Circle, we had a one-man Georgia Power Co. office operated by Mr. Frank Lane.

He was the bill taker, service man and appliance deliverer in a one-stop shop. Folks whose electricity was turned off would come by and make a payment to Mr. Lane, who would then put a sign on the door telling others he would be back soon.

He would jump in the red Georgia Power truck and drive out and turn their lights back on.

When he was finished, he would return to the office to greet other customers.

He really didn’t push the appliance business, but when he sold a washer, dryer, range or water heater, I was usually the recipient of the box.

No toymaker ever invented anything that was as good as a brand new appliance box. Mr. Lane would cut it around the bottom, leaving us with a box that would soon be a fort, hut or submarine. A tall water heater box was the greatest submarine. Sometimes, we would take markers and draw torpedoes on the sides.

You could do all kinds of stuff with a box. It was all a matter of using our imagination.

After the box began to disintegrate, We would then turn it inside out and use a trash can lid, a paint bucket and other round objects to make a target. We would go down to Mr. Lester Malcom’s hardware store and buy a package of BBs for our guns and turn the backyard into a shooting gallery.

I’m guess it has been 40 years or more since Georgia Power stopped selling appliances.

I guess the demise of the Georgia Power office is a sign that an era is ending. There are older folks who don’t get out much. The monthly visit to pay the light bill, the water bill and other utilities was as much about socializing as it was convenience.

In little towns, folks often knew one another from church or other activities. They might spend a minute or two talking with a customer service person about their kids, their health or the weather. An early summer visit might mean bring a couple of fresh tomatoes from the garden, just to be nice.

You can give a fresh tomato to someone on the other end of an email or a call center. They don’t have time to talk about your kids or the weather.

Georgia Power still has places you can pay your bill in Wal-Mart, Kroger and a few other stores around the state. It’s not quite the same as the old office and they’ll charge you $1.50 for the convenience.

As I said, I don’t blame them for making a necessary business decision. It becomes another one those things that today’s kids will never understand, like the nickel Coke, a rotary dial phone or a book of matches wedged under your 8-track tape to keep it from dragging.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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