Last week, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed legislation that will alter somewhat how federal law enforcement can monitor our phone calls in the future.
Given that I am a recognized power player in world affairs and that one dangled participle in this column can send shock waves from Ulan Bator to Unadilla, I have to assume that no matter what the changes, I will still have a crack staff of spies listening in on my conversations.
"Anything new on Yarbrough, Irv?"
"Nothing I can put my hands on, chief, but given that this guy can send shock waves from Ulan Bator to Unadilla with one dangled participle, I plan to keep him under close surveillance. Probably Code Red. By the way, chief, what is a dangled participle?"
"Glad you asked, Irv. Participles are small bits of matter in the universe and when dangled, they can send shock waves from Ulan Bator to Unadilla. Sitting at my desk, a scientist told me that."
"Chief! We've got a hit! Yarbrough has gotten a call! Roll the tape!"
"Congratulations, homeowner. You are eligible for an all-expenses-paid, one-way trip to Ashtabula. Please stay on the line and answer a few simple questions and then give us your Social Security number and ..."
"Not sure what that was, chief, but I believe it was some kind of secret message."
"Where is Ashtabula, Irv?"
"I think it is in Ulan Bator. Wait! Yarbrough is getting another call!"
"Mr. Arburger, this is Bandhu calling. Your computer is loaded with viruses and is about to virtually upchuck. Bill Gates has instructed me personally to fix the problem. In order to do so, I will need your Social Security number and the number of your bank account so that Mr. Gates can send you a check in appreciation for . . . ."
"Chief, we may be on to something big. Yarbrough obviously has an operative in India and now Bill Gates may be involved. Should we tell the president?"
"Not yet, Irv. He just got back from upstate New York today."
"What was he doing there?"
"Plunging 165 feet into the river below, he saw Niagara Falls."
"Whoa! He needs to be more careful. Chief, another hit on Yarbrough."
"Is this Richard? Hi, Richard. My name is Wilma and I am calling on behalf of Dropkicking Dread Diseases. Your generous donation will go a long way towards underwriting the costs of setting up this boiler room operation and paying ourselves a few bucks for our troubles. What is left over will go to the fight against toe fungus. All I need is a credit card number and a. . . ."
"Uh-oh, Chief, it looks like we might be talking another pandemic here. I suggest that we alert the news media."
"Don't be silly. Pandemics are no longer newsworthy, Irv. These days, it is all about Bruce Jenner and his friend, Caitlyn. Watching television at my house last night, Lester Holt mentioned that."
"I guess I've got a lot to learn, chief. Hold on, sir. Here comes another call to Yarbrough."
"Mr. Yarbrough, this is the National No Call Registry. Thank you for letting us know about the number of unsolicited phone calls you are receiving despite having registered your number with us. You may be assured that your federal government is hard at work on this matter. Now that the National Security Administration looks like it is going to have some surplus employees, we plan to increase our staffing and be more diligent in preventing unsolicited telephone calls in the future. Again, thank you for contacting us."
"Chief! Did you hear that? Are we really going to lose our jobs and have to quit spying on people?"
"Not us, Irv. We have a guy here blatantly dangling participles from Ulan Bator to Unadilla. He is and will remain a top priority of the NSA. But don't just take my word for it. Eating my lunch, the director confirmed this."
"Thank you, sir. That is really great news. Running this operation, the American public must feel very safe."
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.