(Linda Branagan of Dallas writes):

The following is a true story. Last week I walked into a local home-style-cookin'-restaurant/watering hole to pick up a take-out order. I spoke briefly to the waitress behind the counter, who told me my order would be done in a few minutes.

So, while I was busy gazing at the farm implements hanging on the walls, I was approached by two... well, let's just call them `natives.' These guys might just be the original Texas rednecks - complete with ten-gallon hats, snakeskin boots and the pervasive odor of cheap beer and whiskey.

"Pardon us, ma'am. Mind if we as you a question?"

I nodded.

"Are you a Satanist?"

"Uh, no, I can't say that I am," I replied.

"Gee ma'am. Are you sure about that?"

I put on my biggest, brightest Dallas-Cowboys-cheerleader smile and said, "No, I'm positive. The closest I've ever come to Satanism is watching Geraldo."

"Hmmm. Interesting. See, we was just wondering why it is you have the Lord of Darkness on your chest there."

I was this close to slapping one of them and causing a scene. But I stopped and remembered which T-shirt I happened to be wearing that day.

Sure enough, it had a picture of a small, devilish-looking creature that for quite some time now has been associated with a certain computer operating system.

In this particular representation, the creature was wearing sneakers.

"See, ma'am," one of them said, "we don't exactly appreciate it when people show off pictures of the Devil. Especially when he's lookin' so friendly."

These idiots sounded terrifyingly serious.

"Oh, well, see, this isn't really the devil," I assured them. "It's just, well, it's sort of a mascot."

"And what kind of football team has the devil as a mascot?"

"Oh, it's not a team," I said. "It's an operating - uh, a kind of computer."

I figured that an ATM machine was about as much technology as these guys could handle, and I knew that if I so much as uttered the word "Unix" I would only make things worse.

"Where does this Satanical computer come from?"

"California. And there's nothing Satanical about it, really."

Somewhere along the line here, the waitress noticed my predicament. But these guys probably outweighed her by 600 pounds, so all she did was look at me sympathetically and run off into the kitchen.

"Ma'am, I think you're lying. And we'd appreciate it if you'd leave the premises now."

Fortunately, the waitress returned that very instant with my order, and the natives agreed that it would be okay for me to actually pay for my food before I left. While I was at the cash register, they amused themselves by talking to each other.

Native #1: "Do you think the police know about these devil computers?"

Native #2: "If they come from California, then the FBI oughta know about 'em."

They escorted me to the door. I tried one last time.

"You're really blowing this all out of proportion. A lot of people use this kind of computer. Universities, researchers, businesses. They're actually very useful."

Big, big, BIG mistake. I should have guessed at what came next.

"Does the government use these devil computers?" one of them asked.


"And does the government pay for 'em? With our tax dollars?"

I decide that it was time to jump ship.

"No. Nope. Not at all. Your tax dollars never enter the picture at all. I promise. No sir, not a penny. Our good Christian congressmen would never let something like that happen. Nope. Never." I added, "Um, bye."

Texas. What a country.