THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- TEXTING PERILS

by: Wes Ishmael

It's hard to hide if you tell the whole world where you're at.

Though he wouldn't say so, that was a big part of Hooter's reluctance to fully embrace information technology. He wasn't one of those off-the-grid folks who see the black choppers circling where no one else can see them. He just didn't like being bothered by folks he didn't know. And, if he did know them, for the life of him, he couldn't understand why you'd take the time to type and send an electronic missive rather than just pick up the phone.

“It's not about technology, it's about common courtesy,” Hooter seethed when he saw Cousin Charlie thumbing out a text message.

“Gotta' keep up, Cuz. Saves time,” Charlie said, holding up the phone. “If I was to call Vernon here rather than text him, he'd ask me how Suzy and the kids are, whether we got any rain last week, how bad the wheat looks, how high do I think calf prices will go, and all the rest. In the name of your common courtesy, I'd ask him the same. And, all I really want out of him is a load of fertilizer. And all he really wants out of me is an order for a load of fertilizer.”

“But have you considered…” Hooter began before Charlie cut him off, while still pecking away.

“Besides which, Hooter, that blinking light on your new cell phone means you've got your own text message to worry about.”

“Huh?”

Hooter finally had to upgrade after his last phone went swimming in a water trough he was fixing to clean. He'd informed the sales lady at the AT&T store, in no uncertain terms, that all he wanted was a phone, just like the old one, just a phone to make calls with when it was necessary. She informed him that every phone they sold came with at least the added capability of text messaging and e-mail.

“Then, I'll go somewhere else,” Hooter told her.

“You can, sir, but it's not just the phones we sell. That's the way it is with all phones nowadays.” This lady was a pro. She showed Hooter how easy it was to make calls on the basic phone model that he could get for free, with a two-year contract extension. She also pointed out there was no reason for him to use the phone's extra features if he didn't want to.

So it was that Hooter was now fishing the new phone out of his shirt pocket to see the blinking light Charlie had spied.

“Says here I've got a text message, but doesn't say what it is,” Hooter muttered.

“I swear.” Charlie grabbed the phone from his hand. “See this key here; that's for select. See on the screen where it says you have a message, and right below that it says, ‘Select?'”

Charlie hit the select button. “You actually have several messages here. How long has it been blinking?”

“How would I know? I don't go around looking at my shirt pocket.”

Hooter was half irritated and half ashamed to discover that most of the messages were from his long-time fiancée, Claire. “She never said she sent them. Why doesn't she just call?” Hooter said in answer to his cousin's accusing glare.

The last one was from Herbert Highbottom, the latest in a long line of accountants who had grudgingly agreed to prepare Hooter's taxes. The text message was curt: “We need to talk. Call me.”

You say tomato…

Consequently, Hooter's mood was less than cheery when he dialed Herbert Highbottom.

“Mr. McCormick, I was wondering when I'd hear back from you,” came a soft-spoken voice. “I've been trying to get hold of you.”

Hooter wanted to tell the accountant that a solitary text message posed no sense of urgency in his world…that it was a matter of common courtesy…He settled for, “Well, here I am.”

“It's about some of the papers you submitted. I don't understand,” Highbottom said.

Hooter bit his tongue again, thinking of all the possibilities spawned by Highbottom's open invitation. Instead, he asked, “What, in particular, is it that you don't understand?” He heard papers being shuffled on the other end.

“For one thing, I've got some expense invoices here from a Left-eye Land Commission, LP. The expenses from them are all labeled as opportunity cost.”

“Yep. Left-eye is a new enterprise of mine. I'm trying to diversify,” Hooter said with a touch of pride in his voice. “The opportunity cost boils down to what my stocker cattle made as part of my Bent Bow Cattle Co. enterprise, and what I would have made by doing something else with the land as Left Eye.”

“That doesn't make any sense,” Highbottom said.

“Actually, diversification is one of the best hedges against price volatility that there is,” Hooter replied.

“What I mean is you can't claim opportunity cost as an expense…neither enterprise can do that…no enterprise can do that.”

Silence.

“Herb, I'm guessing you have expenses associated with your business. Is that right?”

“Of course.”

“Well, I'm guessing one of those expenses might be incurred if you take a client or a prospect to dinner to discuss business. You deduct the percentage of that business meal allowed by the tax code.”

“Certainly, but…”

“Well, in that example what are you paying for and why is the government willing to let you deduct it?”

Silence.

“I'm paying for an expense necessary to conduct my business, which I'm allowed to deduct. I really don't see…”

“But you could have eaten out or not,” Hooter interrupted. “You could have invited the client or not—which by the way, I don't remember you ever inviting me. You had the choice. You had the opportunity. You took the opportunity, and that opportunity came at a cost, so…”

Silence.

“Look, even if I was to accept your logic, which I don't, that was an opportunity incurred, it was an opportunity that came at a cost, money changed hands. It wasn't an opportunity foregone. I can't deduct the cost of an opportunity I don't take.”

“Of course you can't,” Hooter agreed. “because it didn't cost you anything to not take the opportunity.”

“Huh?”

“Not taking the opportunity didn't cost you anything because you didn't pay to have the opportunity to start with. Now, think about Left-eye Land Commission and Bent Bow Cattle Co. Left-eye is paying a note for the land being used by Bent Bow. For them to provide that opportunity there's already money on the table whether or not anyone utilizes the opportunity…”

“But…”

“As you can plainly see, Left-eye would have made a lot more money leasing that ground to some deep-pocket corporation for hunting and recreation, rather than entering into a profit-sharing arrangement with Bent Bow to stocker cattle. Either way, Left-eye is paying for opportunity through land ownership. The difference between what Left-eye could have made and what it actually made, based on accrued annualized returns, represents an opportunity cost. Call it an opportunity loss if it makes you feel any better.”

“But, Left-eye chose to accept the terms of the stocker contract,” Highbottom shrieked. “You're Left-eye!”

“And, I suppose you've never made a poor business decision.”

“But you're the one—Bent Bow is the one running the cattle,” Highbottom shrieked again.

“And if it wasn't for the generous grazing terms accepted by Left-eye, the bottom line on those cattle would look lots worse,” Hooter said.

“But you're Bent Bow and Left-eye,” Highbottom yelled again. “There is no hunting lease!”

“Now, you getting it, Herb.”

Hooter could have sworn there was a sob before once again hearing the same soft-spoken voice that had begun the conversation. “I am not getting it. Mr. McCormick. It's obvious that we need to talk about this is person. When can you come in?”

Silence.

“I'll text you,” said Hooter.







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