Federal workers in Chicago and Milwaukee can't dial a prayer from the office.
G-men stationed in Indianapolis live without recorded weather data via their U.S. telephones.
Rodney Dangerfield no longer dispenses canned jokes to U.S. aides in New York City.
Perhaps worst of all, government telephones in San Francisco have been doctored so that they can no longer reach out for horoscope information for the what's-your-sign? crowd.
Washington, D.C., may be next!
Government officials who are worried about big phone bills -- and down time while people let their fingers do the walking on unofficial business -- are seeking new ways to keep civil servants from dialing the time because they don't believe the office clock, or seeking recorded confirmation that it is really raining, snowing or daylight outside.
For the past several years, Uncle Sam has been studying whether the savings outweigh the cost of installing expensive screening devices at switching terminals and thereby block calls to dial-a-whatever exchanges.
So far in half a dozen cities, the government has decided that it is cost-effective to make it impossible for U.S. telephones to call certain recorded numbers dispensing everything from religious inspiration to erotic sounds.
Altering government phones in Chicago so they can't dial time, weather or sports information eliminated 50,000 outgoing calls a month (they don't call it the Windy City for nothing), according to the General Services Administration, which manages the government telephone system.
Similar savings have been reported in other cities.
But the big prize is mouthy Washington, D.C.
We have lots of telephones and 350,000 feds who mostly seem to come from somewhere else, and who seem surprised that it snows here in winter and gets hot in the summer.
Folks here try TI 4-2525 more than 125,000 times each day, and dial weather 110,000 times.
When the weather acts up, which is some of the time for all of the people and all of the time for some of the people, weather gets an extra 10,000 daily calls.
Because most calls are made during work hours, and so many work for government, theory is that a lot of the dial-info calls come from government offices.
If the price looks right, GSA hopes to install the electronic blocking devices on some or all government telephones here.
If they decide to do it, and if it saves a lot of money, maybe some of the savings can be put into extra snowplows (in winter the city seems to have one), salt and sand.
Then at least folks who are deprived of minute-by-minute updates of a possible two-inch blizzard possibly heading our way could relax a little, comforted by the fact that the snow will be handled right, like it was back home.