KXD5196 and Civility

Civility maintained a foothold in the late 1970’s despite a toxic political environment.

Jimmy Carter reigned over 12% inflation and interest rates of 21% with banks piling on additional costs almost double the prime rate. There was the hostage crisis and gas prices breaking the dollar barrier for the first time…if you could find it.

Gas saving tactics from the government mandated odd and even days at gas stations and a widely ignored 55mph national speed limit.

Truckers weren’t about to lose money nor time. Their road culture gave us C.W. McCall’s song Convoy…and woke the public to the benefits of the CB Radio. The fad quickly caught Hollyweird’s (sic) notice and Burt Reynolds starred in Smokey and The Bandit and Kris Kristofferson’s movie Convoy.

A typical CB broadcast among truckers went something like this:

“Breaker one-9, this is Cannonball Slim out on route I-10 headed Northbound to H-town. Just Stopped at this Choke-and-puke for some hundred-mile coffee and spotted two full-grown bears. Two Evel Knievels. Y’all Bear baits keep a look out passing mile maker 144. I’ll be 10-10 on the side.”

Translated to:

“Hi this is Greg, I’m on my way to Houston traveling north. I stopped at this truck stop for some strong coffee and saw two state troopers. Two state trooper motorcycle cops. All you speeders watch out if you’re near mile 144!”

(thanks to Jesus Garcia for the translation at jesusbehindthewheel.com)

The original CB (citizens band) Radio offered 23 channels and expanded to 40 channels as the popularity flourished. The government noticed and, of course, figured they should control it with CB Permits from the FCC if you wanted to install one in your car. When the permit requests hit over one million per month…they finally gave up trying to keep up.

The dictionary defines civility as consideration and politeness. My FCC CB Radio permit was KXD5196. My handle was hilltopper and my closest buddy was crows nest. An hour commute included bear warnings and road reports while exchanging greetings with others in the 7-10 mile radius neighborhood of the early radios. It was a community with codes for “please” and “thank you”.

In the example above ”breaker one 9” is asking permission to talk on channel 19. “Thanks good buddy” was always heard at sign off. The Bandit’s sense of humor was always an integral part of the conversations.

What the hell happened?

Instead of a small radius of reach, we can now connect with people at every corner of the earth using a gadget we carry in our pocket. Please and thank you have become pejoratives. Smile at someone on the street and they’ll call 911. Texting replaces talking. Dumb people have smartphones. Celebrities I never heard of give political advice while politicians give religious advice. Reporters offer opinions without facts and facts are ignored in favor of gossip. Next thing you know they’ll be mailing poison and bombs.

“Breaker one 9…hey crows nest…you still out there good buddy?”