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Be not the first by whom the new are tried,

Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.- Alexander Pope

Art Buchwald is spreading rumors that I still use carbon paper. He assumes this only because I do not have an answering machine, a car phone, a word processor or my own phone credit card. For the past two years he has ragged me about a fax machine and how it could enrich my life.

I surprised him last week by buying a fax. With the help of my secretary, Norma, I sent my first message to him: "Mr. Buchwald. Come here. I need you. Alexander Graham Bombeck."

The phone rang the next morning. It was Jeannie, Art's secretary, who said, "Turn on your fax machine. I want to send a response to your message."

When I didn't hear from her, I called Jeannie back and said, "There's nothing coming." She said, "Hang up and I'll try again." She called back in a few minutes and asked if we had received it. I said, "No, try again."

When nothing happened, I called her and she said, "Check the machine." I dialed her in minutes and told her the paper was jammed and to give it another shot.

She asked, "How will I know if you receive it?" I told her I'd call her back.

In minutes, Art called and said, "I don't think you have the hang of it." I said, "I do too. Try again."

When nothing was received by the next day, I called Jeannie and said, "Norma, my secretary, will be in Monday and she'll straighten things out."

On Monday, Jeannie called Norma four times to try and figure out what was wrong with our reception. It had something to do with manual and automatic. They finally gave up.

On Tuesday, Norma faxed Jeannie a message instructing her to send her message and she would let the fax ring nine rings instead of six. On the 11th ring, a message came through the fax from Art reading, "If you receive this fax, I will be amazed. Art."

Art called Thursday to see if we had received his fax. I begged him to send messages only on the three days my secretary works.

By express mail on Friday, I received a letter from Art. He said I was not fax material and that it was nothing to be ashamed of. Shakespeare never had a fax machine. He had already spent $930 trying to send a message.

Frankly, I think the machine is overrated. A week to send a message! Twelve phone calls and one express mail! Besides, it doesn't even have a clock!