Mack Williams column: Dashboard secretary

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2022

By Mack Williams

When I was growing up on the Old Concord Road, we had a drop-front secretary. Its legs ended in cat’s paw-shape, making me think it may have dated back to the 1920s, when some furniture manufactured at that time hearkened back to items found in the opening of King Tut’s tomb.

When its door was dropped (eased down), the wooden slots and little drawers for the storage of letters, bills, pens, ink, paper, tiny keepsakes, etc. were revealed. Even though it wasn’t a roll-top desk, I’m reminded of that roll-top desk in the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?”.

When I began driving in 1967, I noticed some drivers were evidently in the habit of picking up their rural mail by vehicle, then filing it away on their dashboards.

It seemed this habit of the “dashboard secretary” was mainly carried on by roofers, truck drivers, plumbers, etc. I can’t recall if Joe Green kept business mail on the dashboard of his “Honey Wagon” when he came to clean out our septic tank in the late 1950s. My eyes were drawn downwards into his work, instead of upwards into his truck.

I never got into the habit of using my dashboard for filing paperwork, as its reflection on the windshield would distract my driving. Sometimes, my mail does ride shotgun in the passenger seat or inside the handy little compartment nestled between the front seats. Although I must confess I did file away my KN95 mask on the dashboard in the summertime, hoping the heat would sanitize it. That was probably all for naught.

The mail deliverers often pre-sort their up-and-coming deliveries on their U.S.P.S. trucks’ dashboards; but to me, that smacks of professionalism rather than of slapdash convenience.

I had recently started thinking of the dashboard secretary as a thing of the past, until recently encountering one of those new Amazon Prime delivery trucks. There was a mass of mail on the entire dash, some of it having slid so forward towards the windshield, that if it weren’t for the glass, the paper would have spilled out onto the hood, then fluttered away in the wind!

The really amazing thing about this dashboard secretary encounter was that the driver looked to be in his early 20s, making him Generation Z.

If you feel disheartened with Generation Z’s apparent disregard of the old ways of doing things, then take heart; for even in these modern times, some of them are devoted to the time-honored tradition of the dashboard secretary!

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