Economic malaise is gnawing a hole in my wallet. Wait a minute, isn’t that what austerity is supposed to do, isn’t the economy meant to take its toll on the average wage slave? Let me throw a little energy saving, mercury-filled-light bulb-illumination on my situation and clarify exactly what I am ranting about. We’ve all experienced the so-called invisible effects of the economic downturn, the escalating price of gas, the deflation of house prices, and the plethora of for-sale signs that have sprung up overnight like fiscal-fungi in our thinning neighborhoods. Talking heads on BBCNNBCBS allude to political tensions in the middle-east, that it’s the attenuated Straits of Hormuz that are squeezing the financials, not an aggressive western embargo on Iranian oil causing economic shrinkage at the not-so-super market.
My dollar is still the same size, yet the amount of product it buys has significantly decreased. The peanut butter jar, not just my optimistic outlook, is now only half full. The container, that used to hold lashings of the brown sticky stuff, has been down sized to hold a mere modicum of product deemed worthy for the same price. My bill’s metaphysical dimensions remain constant yet the amount of earthly return i.e the measure of spreadable deliciousness from the jar-of-plenty has clearly shrunk. Should I close my eyes, click my heels, cross my fingers, and hope for Aunt Em to make things better? Perhaps I’m imagining things, but then again no. Consumer theft is in progress on every aisle. If it isn’t the pb-and-J then it’s the soap containers and shampoo bottles. Shades of a twentyfirst century Gulliver as I walk through an ever shrinking world; my shopping cart Swift-boated in the current of corporate greed. From the perspective of an Ancient Mariner the boards are shrinking without environmental embellishment, instead some pseudo entity in New York, with capital interests, is hedging and bonding my vessel of free enterprise with Titanic effect.
So where am I going with this?
I recently joined a credit union because I’m sick of banks – mortgaged to the hilt and foreclosed upon at the point of a paper sword. Enough already, Wells Fargo can go and fuck themselves at wherever stage they consider appropriate. So far so good – no problems, and they accept my remunerations as though I were a customer and not a virgin bride on prima nocta. Until today, hence my literary vitriol. The only downside to the upturn of my recent financial affiliation is the quality of their plastic. You know, that residual product derived from oil, hailed as the shape-shifter of modern society, the universal material of our current epoch – a manmade replacement for organic perfection?
“How would you like groceries sir, paper or plastic?” A common enough question at environmentally conscious grocers across America except, at my credit union, the only material they offer their psychedelic A.T.M. cards is in plastic. Personally I’d prefer wood. A nice mahogany or ebony, something that would enhance my own personal opinion of myself; alas! It would seem shaving pennies and gouging customers is the order of the day at the Desert Schools Credit Union in Phoenix Arizona where I am offered a lesser, a faux if you will, plastic. I didn’t know it was possible, but there again I’m not a rocket scientist nor a plastic-ologist. I’ve been with the bank since February and am now the proud owner of bank card number five. Am I frivolous with my processions? Do I wantonly sling them hither-and-thither? No of course not, it’s a bank card; I keep it in my wallet, along with all my other cards!
Due to the chemical combination that forms my blue and white garish access device to all that I hold financially sacred, the card has a tendency to split along its magnetic seam. Not such a big deal and a quick visit to the union, one would think, would resolve my pliable predicament. Several times this year I’ve walked into the building, proffered my spoiled cards, and within ten minutes been reimbursed with a brand new card allowing me to access my own impecuniosity. Today however, I had the questionable pleasure of meeting the delightful Tammy, a fully paid up, card carrying member of the fascist-bastard corporation, that does its best to cloak itself in the affability of a credit union. An endearing folksy title, a euphemism for community and neighborhood that offers the hard working, impoverished-employed a sanctuary, a safe harbor, for their monthly pittance. Unfortunately, turns out that the new boss is the same as the old boss.
It’s football Friday; Tammy has a football shirt on, so does every other employee. A cheap attempt at showing unity with their public, that they have our interests at heart, that deep down they’re on our side, not that of the Rothschild’s and the Bilderberg’s. She doesn’t remember me even though we’ve spoken on several occasions with regard to accounts, business contracts etc. But that’s okay, Tammy probably sees a couple of hundred clients a day.
I fill in the necessary paperwork. All is well with the universe, any second now I am going to receive my sliver of plastic, the world will continue to turn, and I’ll go about my business. Except it doesn’t.
Tammy looks at me from behind her football blackened eyes and asks me in if I would like to pay the five dollar renewal fee from my checking or my savings and then to add insult to injury, smiles.
Piss boils and a vein pulses on my forehead. My demeanor has obviously changed and before I split my shirt and turn green Tammy, in a moment of life preserving lucidity, pushes back her ergonomic chair on carcinogenic carpeting and asks tentatively if I’m angry? Angry – fuck yes I am angry – I would even go as far to say that I’m slightly perturbed; to say the least Tammy,I take exception. If that constitutes displeasure then I guess you have your answer.
I do my best to explain to her that this is the third card in so many months that has broken and that obviously the quality of their product is inferior and therefore why should I be expected to pay? Tammy feigning surprise asks me if I keep it in my wallet along with the other plastic fantastic that has never broken, despite the fact that they’re stored in exactly the same place, in exactly the same arse- controlled climatic environment. Naturally, and in a manner that would exemplify a father chastising a small child rather than an invading Norseman bludgeoning a pleading Christian, I try to clarify the reason for my disdain.
Free checking with enhanced costs! I’m loving it, but beginning to question my own sanity and reasoning of why I moved from one corporate entity to another? Surely my savings would be better off stuffed in a sock under the mattress? No late fees, no additional checking or early withdrawal charges, and no Tammy. Refusing to pay and carefully enunciating my four lettered explanation, I’m eventually offered a complimentary card so that I can continue to deposit my hard earned wages into the yawning coffers of the Desert Schools Credit Union.
I leave the building victorious; my bright shiny card nestled in my obviously inept wallet. Tammy has had the most exciting day of her banking career, now she to has a story to tell around the water cooler with her other football-shirted colleagues. “Do you remember the day when…?” A story that’ll be related from colleague to colleague; a saga of epic proportion that will be embellished and invigorated, with scar displayed enthusiasm with its retelling. Oh, the excitement! A day in the life of a corporate hireling or, as her brass anointed name plaque announces her, personal financial assistant.
Corporate greed is insidious; free checking accounts have turned into monthly stipends. It may be a small victory, hardly worthy of mention, but they’re my laurels, my lap of honor, my flag-flapping-gold-draped-medal-moment.
Mumbled platitudes of, “I’m just doing my job,” allusions of, “Ja mein Fuhrer. Heil Hitler! Please mind your step on the way to the showering facility.”