the triumph of borders

March 25, 2010

I can’t say I blame the guy who flew his plane into the IRS building. You don’t have to live long to realize that government will make you crazy.

If you let it.

And right now, I’m letting it.

I am currently fighting similar destructive sentiments regarding the Bolivian government.

Have you ever tried applying for a Visa? You might as well try to pass a health care bill. Obama’s takin a cake walk compared to the hoops I’m jumpin.

Traveling used to be an adventure. An enviable event the family would anticipate months leading up to its arrival.

Nowadays, if you want to fly cheap, you pack two outfits and a toothbrush. No checked bag for you. And forget shoelaces on those tennis shoes. Velcro all the way for quickness and agility. Perfect for maneuvering through slow-moving security lines.

Nowadays, international travel requires more than a backpack and cash. It requires documents and confidential personal records readily accessible for intense scrutiny at any moment. It requires working knowledge of the every-changing governmental entry requirements into this country or that one.

You want to travel the world? Sure, no problem. We’ll just need a copy of your birth certificate, add to that a swab of saliva, fingerprints, a lock of hair, proof of citizenship, record of every residency you’ve ever held, your dog’s paw print, $1000 cash only, high school GPA, a fingernail clipping, your credit score, favorite perfume fragrance. And lastly, your hereditary line starting with Adam.

Once you have these, you may enter our country.
Thank you. Come again.

I think this is the proper place to take a moment and honor all of those special people responsible for the incredibly high level of security precautions in our world today: the terrorists and various hate groups who can’t see beyond their own selfish desire to be placed above everyone else. In effect, creating the over-protective, jump-through-hoops, security-ridden, paranoid world that we see today.

And what a delight it is to live here.

Thank you. It wouldn’t be the same without you.

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The Dollar Rules

March 12, 2010

Up-selling is a fact of life.

The world revolves around the dollar, and all retailers want more of it. They are always in search of a new way to increase sales.

Again, a fact of life. The sooner we all accept it, the happier we will be.

So I can’t say that I’m that surprised when Target, various department stores, Starbucks, and credit card companies are all trying to entice me to “add on” to my order. Be it through a new credit card, an extra shot of espresso or identity theft coverage, respectively.

But what does surprise me is when they act as if I did not just say no.

Now, I have a strict no rudeness policy when I interact with service industry workers. I get it. I know how difficult customers can be. I sympathize. Therefore, I try to never stop smiling at them. And I always wear an apologetic look if I feel as if I’m bothering them or if the people with me are being a little hard to deal with. But if I have to say no four times to the same question, that smile begins to become a little ingenuine.

In addition, what has surprised me even more is the amount of sales pitches I’ve received from my new bank–which will remain nameless.

They’re a very nice bank. Nothing out of the ordinary regarding perks and such, but the tellers are very friendly. And considering that I appreciate friendliness (and they were offering a nice incentive), I opened an account.

However, I failed to realize that what came along with the friendliness was basically an on-going sales pitch. Everytime I go there I’m hearing about a new credit card, the new incentive program for referring a friend, the benefits of signing up for online bill pay. Things I never even thought that banks cared about, I’m being asked to do.

And so, because of that, I have become a close companion with online banking. No perky tellers who initiate pleasant conversations only to turn them into guilt-laced sales pitches.

Isn’t that horrible that we are now seeking out ways to avoid human interaction? Because no longer is it about being concerned with the daily well-being of another human but instead, it is about how to squander that person out of an extra dollar or an extra minute of their day.

I needed to find a thank you card.

I used to love looking for cards; I still do to a large extent.

But I’ll tell you what I don’t like: passing by aisles and aisles of birthday cards until I finally spot the small location at the back of the store where they’ve placed the five cards of various other subjects: thinking of you, thank you, friendship, sympathy, blank.

I’m all about celebrating people–granted, not through birthdays, but through various other card subjects. Dropping someone a line to say “I miss you” or “Thanks for being a good friend.” Everyone loves getting cards. And most love giving them.

But could we work on the originality please? Hallmark recently unveiled a new line of cards to encourage young ones. That’s original. And admittedly, something that our youngsters could use more of.

I remember the days of finding a colorful, poetic card when I was searching for something to do the talking for me. Or sometimes it was the card that worded it just right, but still leaving me ample space to add my thoughts. Or some days I wanted to laugh and pass it on to my friend. Before long, I would have six cards in my hands, conflicted as to which one I would choose.

I miss those days.

Looking back, they somehow felt simpler.

And yet, as everything does, it goes back to our day and age. While we all still love cards, we are too busy to take the time to find one for someone–unless we’re forced, such as in birthdays or anniversaries. We are even too busy to think of the idea. And by the time everyone realizes it, thanks to technology, written communication will be almost lost and our postal system will be a fragment from the past.