Wow. This is going to be kind of depressing, now that I think about it… That wasn’t my intention, and it might not be such a downer for the rest of you. So we’ll just continue with it. What the hell.
Before we get started though, I have to tell you what happened today. It’ll contrast nicely with 20 years ago, I think.
Last night I set two alarms, because one doesn’t do it anymore. The sound of it is so familiar, it doesn’t gain any traction in my brain. So, there’s another alarm way across the room. They’re set to go off 15 minutes apart, and the second one requires me to get out of bed to stop its chirping.
This method has worked in the past, but I think I’ve now emotionally accepted the act of getting out bed, and hitting the button on the second alarm. It’s not jarring anymore, it’s just part of my daily routine. I’m never really awake while doing it, then climb back atop the platform and continue clear-cutting old growth forest.
Today I finally got up at 11:00, an hour and a half after the alarms started going off. This pissed me off, and I was grumbling as I made the coffee. I don’t really mind the hours I work – I’m wired for night – but resent it when it eats up half the following day. Ya know? I gots shit to do.
So, I guzzled some coffee, and began puttering around in the bunker. It’s a mess again and I unearthed a notice from the post office, saying my PO Box fee was due on the last day of August. Shit! This is like… September or something. I logged onto the USPS website, to pay the fee, but it wouldn’t work. Every time I attempted to start the process, it would flash and go back to the first screen. Grrr…
So, I took a shower, drank some more coffee, and drove over there. The box was still open, which was a good sign. The key still worked, and there was mail inside.
I went to the counter and told the woman I wanted to pay for six months, and she told me it would be $50. Huh? Why fifty, instead of the regular thirty? She said there was a handling fee, because I was late. A $20 handling fee.
“What are you handling?” I asked. “What extra work am I creating, by paying this on the 19th instead of the 10th?”
“Sir, those are the rules,” she said, for the first of about ten times. She couldn’t have given a tiny seahorse-shaped shitlet about me, or my opinions.
“No, I’m not going to pay it,” I said. “I’ve done thousands of dollars worth of business here, and now you’re going to play hardball with me? I don’t think so. I’m not going to pay the fee.”
“OK. Can I have your key back?” she said.
I was fuming when I left there, and began thinking about all the hassles this would cause. My whole life is tied to that PO Box, and now I’ll have to change the address on every goddamn thing I’ve ever touched. I decided to call the postmaster, and give it one more shot. Maybe she would be a little more human?
Ha! She was worse: another bloodless automaton, married to the rules. I started out nice, but it went downhill fast. She was condescending, and kept saying, “Sir, this is a business, like anywhere else.”
“Not a very good one!” I shouted. “You’re going to lose me as a customer, because you’re too stubborn to waive a $20 fee. I think my loyalty, and the amount of business I’ve run through there earns me that privilege.”
But she wouldn’t budge, and I had to tap some inner-strength not to go all scorched-Earth on her.
I know some of you will say it’s my fault, and I should just quit my bitching. And it is my fault. However, I’m a longtime customer who periodically spends a significant amount of money in that place. Meeting someone like me halfway, as a courtesy, is the smart thing to do. Now I’ll never set foot in there again. Oh, I can hold a grudge.
So, what are they gaining by being slaves to the rule book? They could’ve retained me, by giving me a one-time break. But, they chose to side with their precious rules and regulations, and lost me forever. Good job! Fantastic strategizing. Warren Buffet would be proud.
People who go strictly by the book believe they’re being tough, but it’s exactly the opposite. They absolve themselves of making any real decisions, by referring to the rules, again and again. It’s a cowardly course. There is a lot of wiggle-room with the rules. Any good manager knows this, and uses it to his advantage. But wiggle-room makes pusslings feel uneasy.
And twenty years ago today? I was skinny, thirty years old, and recently married. We’d just returned from a week in San Francisco: one of the best weeks of my life. We lived in a great house in the suburbs of Atlanta, and both of us worked for the biggest record company in the world, with massive amounts of impossibly cool fringe benefits. The sky was the limit, baby! Tonight we probably went to Everybody’s Pizza for dinner, and laughed a lot.
Twenty years later? I’m doing battle with postal clerks in Long Balls, Pennsylvania, and whining about alarm clocks. I’m fat, have gray hair, and work inside a hamster wheel forty miles from home. I’ll probably have grilled cheese for dinner, and do a lot of frowning and yelling at that old Swiffer couple on TV.
What about you? What do you think you were doing twenty years ago today? Any idea? Was it a better situation back then, or are you happier with the present-day? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.
And I’ll see you again soon.
Have a great day, my friends!