I don’t know why I call this a civilized society

By Carolyn Marsh | Jan 22, 2010

Hannaford's is a great place for networking. The other day I ran into my friend Amy, which is always a pleasure. Not only does she have her finger on the political pulse, but she shares my super-sensitivity to selfish, stupid, clueless you-name-'em drivers who, turning left, feel they have to either pull to the right first (and if there was ever a law of physics/torque/wheel tracking that said you had to turn right before you turned left, I don't know it) or stop dead in the middle of the travel lane, leaving all the drivers in the rear waiting for them, a little like a funeral procession, to make the turn. Since Amy reminded me of this, I have seen it everywhere. It's a peculiar kind of driver entitlement, and it is especially annoying when someone is turning left onto Washington Street from Elm Street, where there is plenty of room for three cars, unless you happen to be behind one of those affronts to civilized society known as a Hummer. I don't know why I call this a civilized society. Anyone arriving from another planet and catching our act would want to turn right around and go home, and sometimes I feel as though I would like to hitch a ride.

It's not bad enough that the United States is no longer an industrial power (though the people on Wall Street seem to be very industrious about creating wealth for themselves and anguish for everyone else; I think that if the Obama administration could rein in and reinvent that peculiar culture there would be no question about his reelection, and I wonder every day why Paul Volcker, one of the greatest economists of our or any time and respected by virtually everyone of any political persuasion, takes third or fourth seat to someone like Larry Summers). We can't even succeed as a service provider. I will not name the bank to whose erratic vagaries I have been subjected since I applied for and got one of its credit cards, but I have spent many, many hours over the past week with account managers and so-called customer service representatives trying to find out why I was being charged every month for the past four months for a dial-up Internet service I had never heard of. It looked like fraud to me -- and to the first bank rep I talked to, since she immediately canceled my credit card (just when I had mastered the mnemonic device by which I could remember the number) and left me without any means to charge on the Internet, which for me is a very serious handicap. I was slightly mollified when the fraudulent charges were reversed, but that only made me angrier when they were reinstated two days later and a fifth, from the same Internet service, posted for January. When I called to ask what was going on, Miguel/Rick/Frances/forgot to ask/Heather/Jason told me that since it was a re-occurring charge (and what's the matter with a good honest word like recurring?), it was a billing dispute, not a fraud. And of course billing is open only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays (fraud, always with us, is always open). So I got smart. Someone at the bank (and I won't say who because it could cost him or her a job, I suspect) told me the charge was coming through on the credit card I had before the (no longer) current one. I even got the number of the card, so I was able to call NetZero and have Raine find the account under that number and cancel it and refund my $74.75. Of course since my current card was canceled I don't know where the refund will go. And one of the customer service reps at the bank actually had the gall to ask me if I wanted to sign up for credit protection! You're the one who needs protection, missy, I said, as with people skills like that you're going to make a lot of people a lot mad.

In truth, it worries me a little that a bank will authorize a transaction using a credit card number that's been defunct for 18 months. It doesn't say much for the security system -- but then, nothing in my recent experience does.

There was actually a very bright spot in my life over the past few weeks that has to do with a not-so-bright spot. The Central Maine Power streetlight outside my house has been out for months, and I have been living in blessed darkness, except for the row of winking red lights at the turbine station across the bay, which give me the fond delusion (as does the dashboard of my car) of being in a spaceship. Suddenly there was so much light coming from the pole that it looked as though I'd had all the trees in my yard spotlighted. As I've often said to anyone who will listen, I didn't move all the way to Maine from Manhattan to have the streets outside my house awash in artificial light. So I called the power company and, eschewing my usual combative telephone persona, asked very politely if the wildly incandescent bulb in my local streetlight could be exchanged for something a little less intrusive. I had absolutely no expectation that my request would be passed on, much less acted on, so you can imagine how surprised I was when I noticed that the trees on the lawn had subsided into the shadows and that my guest room was no longer brighter than an operating room. I called to thank someone at CMP, and I hope that message got through as smartly as my complaint did.

I spent some time in Haiti about 40 years ago, and I can't quite grasp the enormity of the devastation there. I keep going back to the feature in the New York Times that lists missing people and those who have been found. Very few of the latter, and none over the past couple of days. I have had foster children in Haiti for many years, and I don't know what has become of them. They, and all the people of Haiti -- such a sad, once-beautiful country -- are very much in my thoughts.

 

 

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.