Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Word of Mouth

How’s This for Word of Mouth?
© 2007 - Ross Williams

We ran out of stamps last weekend, and on the way home from the farm store I stopped at the post office for a roll of the conveniently-priced first class stamp. I used my debit card, which I had signed on the back like a good little do-bee. The postal clerk took my card, looked at the back of it, and asked me for identification.

This annoys me. This, in fact, insults me.

I glared at the postal clerk. Somewhat taken aback, he offered this rationalization: “It looks like someone had tried signing this, but it’s worn off…”

No, I have a large, sprawling signature that does not fit in the quarter-inch tall strip available to hold it.

The reason I had gone to the farm store was because the chickens were desperately low on chicken feed. While there I found a bag of beet pulp feed, and I decided to try that for the sheep. They love it. Finally, a use for beets that doesn’t include turning the mashed potatoes red.

This was the major piece of the Saturday morning errand-running before we took to the pasture and tended to the new lambs. Spring ritual. We’ve had two sets of twins so far this year which, with the typical mortality, has yielded three lambs. Two boys and a girl[1]. There are two other ewes in the flock, both in what should be their first breeding. I’m expecting a couple singles here before too long.

In any event, the boys we’ve already got need to be castrated, all of them need their tails docked, their color-coded earring, and a tetanus shot. Busy busy.

This year, the older kids were going to round up the lambs and take turns holding them while I tagged and injected, and they’d get a chance to work the castrating bander. So after being insulted at the post office, we came home and started getting the livestock accoutrement ready for the afternoon.

When I went to the cupboard in the barn, though, the castrating bander was broken. The critical piece of equipment for docking tails was severely cracked. Well, double-damn. If I’d known that sooner I could have picked up another one at the farm store – twenty-seven miles up the road in Litchfield. I’m not going back there now, I thought to myself. We’ll tag and inject today, and see if we can make the broken bander work. If not, I’ll pick up another one on the way home from work at the other farm store in the area, and do the rest of it next weekend.

Well, we couldn’t make the bander work. As soon as I put a band on it and flexed it, the one arm broke clean off, leaving two of the four prongs on the ground at my feet. Can’t dock tails like that, let alone neuter the boys.


Ah, well, it was a cheap bander in the first place. Plastic. Under ten bucks. The all metal, heavy-duty bander costs around twenty-five. Two years ago I figured that with a small flock and only anticipating a handful of uses one time a year, the plastic one would suffice. Guess I was wrong.

So yesterday I went to the smaller farm store kinda sorta between the office and home. I found the castrating bander, the heavy duty metal one, and picked up a package of hypodermic needles to go along with it, and took them up front to check out.

Out came my debit card.

The one I signed on the back.

…in my large, sprawling way.

The check-out lady looked at my debit card, and looked at it again, and asked to see some identification.

I glared at her as well. I cannot overemphasize this: I really, really, really, really, really, really hate being insulted.

You insult me, chances are real good that I’m going to end up insulting you in fairly short order, and how you conduct yourself is critical at this juncture. I believe in payback-in-kind, in kindness and incivility both. And if you don’t like being insulted ...? don’t insult me in the first place. Couldn’t be simpler.

The reason I’m insulted when I have identification demanded of me is because I find it offensive to be told, essentially, that I must justify myself. In so many words: “We don’t trust you.” It smacks of a quasi-nazi police state tactic: “Papers, mein herr?!?”

First of all, we are supposed to be free citizens in a free country; freedom means not having to justify yourself to anyone. Second, if you want my business, the best way to get it is to not insult me and make me jump through your hoops. I’m not a trained poodle.

The check-out lady I glared at … she didn’t bother rationalizing her insulting behavior. She simply refused to make eye contact. That’s the best way to go, frankly. Simply accept that you just insulted me, and act contrite.

And don’t let it happen again.

Unfortunately, I know better than that; it will happen again. And again. And again. And again and again and again.

It’s happened so often that I know the insipid explanation that would be used against me: it’s for my protection.

If there’s one thing I hate more than being insulted it’s being lied to. Lies carry with them the implicit insult: “You are so stupid that you will believe this cockamamie excuse.” While that may be the case for the majority of those being lied to, it’s not the case for me and you do not have the option of telling me that indulging your financial paranoias protects me from anything. I have made, and will make again, major scenes in public involving raised voices and much profanity when idiot clerks tell me that I’m being given a neo-nazi grilling “for my protection”.

I don’t care who or where. You do not have the option of lying to me.

When a person makes a purchase with a credit card, he’s either authorized to use that card – i.e., he’s the guy who owns the card[2] – or he isn’t. The ratio is roughly 10,000 to 1. The vast, vast, vast majority of credit card purchases are authorized. The problem is in the rarest of rare cases where a credit card has been lost or stolen and someone else is using it.

Experts on credit fraud are fully aware that the items most commonly purchased using someone else’s credit card are not consumable items like groceries or gas, nor are they the large-ticket consumer items like big-screen televisions. Most credit fraud is seen, naturally, in the purchases of postage stamps and sheep castration equipment. It was only natural that I’d be pulled to the side twice in two days to have latter-day Waffen demand that I justify myself.

But here’s the way it works: when I get my credit card statement[3] and I see purchases I didn’t make, I call up the credit card company and tell them, “I didn’t make charge number umpti-ump” and they won’t pay it. I keep my money, and either the bank or the store doesn’t. I’m protected. Who isn’t protected is the bank or the store. The store is out the merchandise that was improperly purchased, and they might also be out the money for it.

So when the clerk demands that I justify myself by providing identification to prove that I’m the owner of the credit card, he’s not protecting me, he can only be protecting the store – by annoying and insulting me: the customer. My initial response is to glare.

Which means that if he tells me he’s protecting me while he’s protecting the store instead, he’s lying to me: the customer. At that point, I do much more than glare.

Clerks tend to do one of a few things when I glare at them in these situations. First is to acknowledge their insult; they look away and remain silent. Good clerk! The second is to make an excuse along the lines of “the signature’s worn off…”. This is an exercise which is not so entertaining as a full-fledged fan dance, but which serves the same purpose: cover your ass. But the last option, alas …

If the clerk decides to respond to my glare with “…but it’s for your protection…”, he will be doubling the insult by calling me stupid on top of it, and I will dive into full-on righteous indignation[4]. And no one wants that, not even me.

So the way it will go is this: if you own or run a store and you want to have customers, then you’ll probably need to accept credit cards. Many people don’t carry any more cash with them today than is needed for incidental purchases. If you’re going to accept credit cards, then implicit in that is accepting the risk of credit fraud.[5] To catch one case of credit fraud, the clerk would have to nazily interrogate 10,000 customers with credit cards in their hands. Maybe it’s just me, but the risk/reward/effort-to-achieve-reward equation doesn’t balance out.

If the merchant doesn’t want to accept the risk of one credit fraud and instead force 10,000 customers to indulge the proprietor’s paranoias, the cost of that is, first, sermons like these from me; second, many people would rather shop elsewhere than to explain why they don’t want to come back to the store that just insulted them, and the store will lose some number of customers; and third, if the stores where I am insulted do not apologize for insulting me after I tell them about it, they will also lose me as a customer.

But I won’t go away silently.

I’m expecting apologies forthwith from the Postmaster at the Edwardsville IL post office and from the Big R Rural King in Highland IL. You’re on the clock, folks.

[1] The boys are named Stew and Basil, the girl is Curry.
[2] which is to say: he pays the credit card bill
[3] or, with the debit card, my bank statement
[4] hissy fit, whatever
[5] even by accepting cash, the proprietor accepts the risk of counterfeiting, so financial fraud is already part of their landscape. To pretend otherwise, for merchants to suddenly balk at a different form of financial fraud and thrust the customer into the spotlight of the merchant’s paranoia, is disingenuous at best and self-serving bullshit at worst. Grow up, folks.


Anonymous Joe T. said...

Very sorry for this off-topic post, but just wanted to compliment you. While researching the Duke lacrosse case, I was reading over the messages on Guerilla Womens blog from back in March, April of '06. You were one of the few that said the guys deserved presumption of innocence, and that the accusations sounded fishy. Everyone else was screaming to lynch them. You're vindicated now. Thanks. -Joe

June 17, 2007 12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello sweetheart! Just wanted to make sure you were OK; you seem to have disappeared....oh, I wanted to thank you for condolences for the loss of my child,(oh and throw my divorce in there) and I appreciate your kindness. You have been gifted (doubt you believe in God) with an extraodinary mind; very intelligent, and yet you use it in a pedestrian, unintelligent manner (also cruel, nasty, and so very unneccesary to resort to tactics used by the majority of people not as gifted as you???) To you I am a martyr....fine....I merely wanted to see old friends while (God forbid I admit this to you....I am going through a difficult time but I do not feel sorry for myself!..and for a few days I had a diversion that I allowed you to take away....stupid me!) I imagine emotions are not acknowledged by you and considered stupid, and you are incapable of sympathy or compassion...after all they are ridiculous emotions. Your wife must be a saint, and i sincerely hope you are not as cruel to her (or your children) as you are to we "simpletons". If your main goal in posting on blogs is to chastize, insult, and hurt people..you have succeeded. I just don't understand how someone of your status and ability to analyze (after all, it is your living) cannot read people. One never knows what transpires in another's life; don't be presumptuous enough to not believe that insults cannot push someone over the edge, under extenuating circumstances. Live with it! (as if you give a damn)....and 'think' before you use that incredible brain of yours....the tongue is mightier than the sword (true but coming from a stupid person, more than likely you are laughing at how pathetic I am). You are responsible for your behavior, and I would believe you would prefer to be an extraordinarily intelligent, articulate, gentleman. I do know you could care less what effect you have on people, in fact you must enjoy it. Happy Holidays to you and your family, and wishes for you to please wake up and realize you are so much more that you portray and present yourself. Take care.....I am sure I gave you a good laugh at my babbling....Goodbye sweetie!

December 01, 2007 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Holidays to you and your family...and wishes for a happy and healthy New Year! Your favorite simpleton....aka PrincessD; stupid name, I know....

December 18, 2007 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good morning sunshine! you are very entertaining, especially the name calling....HAHAHAHHHAAHAHA! and i thought i was a wacko???? i guess it takes one to know one....and yes this is a sad scenario, and as I stated I was inappropriately silly, however, I will only admit to having half a brain... bit ditzy, as if you haven't figured it out. why don't you have a NH category on your website/blog??? you could really have a great time with we simpletons....the irony is, you are so very intelligent, yet you resort to name calling, etc.? waiting to get ripped by you again...BUT this time I will not be so thin skinned...so let me have it....your favorite "toots"!

December 19, 2007 8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey sweetie...have you had me blocked by typekey? you would never do that would you????? I am "spam"....thought i would make your night...

If I have falsely accused you...sincere apologies....if you did do it....GREAT MOVE!!!!!!
Your favorite toots....

December 19, 2007 6:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahahhahahha! it was you...what a great prick! (compliment!)....great move....have to say it again! your favorite toots! not such a bad guy after all! thanks for the laugh!!! I needed it! Happy Holidays sweetie!

December 19, 2007 6:49 PM  
Blogger rwilymz said...

My, my. I seem to have collected quite the peanut gallery!

For anyone interested, they are responding here to comments I've made about the Natalee Holloway non-case on a different forum. My comments on that other forum indicate that they are simple-minded and presumptuous conclusion-jumpers who would wish to lynch three stupid Aruban boys for murder despite there being bupkus evidence of murder in the disappearance of the young [and similarly stupid] Natalee Holloway.

And they are responding to a Natalee Holloway theme in a "simple-minded low-wage clerk" essay because they appear not to be aware, or to have gone to the effort to make themselves aware, of an appropriate place to discuss Natalee Holloway in this area: http://dblyelloline.blogspot.com/2005/11/tropical-punch.html

They are welcome in advance of their forthcoming gratitude. They have demonstrated themselves gracious at every turn...

They have also demonstrated that they are incapable of separating reality from their emotional impulses to define a tangible cause to a tragic event ... despite the reality that many, many, many tragic events occur on a more or less daily basis and which have no tangible cause that can be found for them. While sad, it is reality. And while frustrating for those who are directly involved in the Natalee Holloway non-case [such as her family and friends] and those who, by proxy, have emotionally attached themselves [as these two], it does not obviate, in any way, that there is no known evidence which points at murder.

...which means that these two, based on their emotional impulses, are indifferentiable from any lynch mob at any point in history carrying the pitchforks and bigotries available to them. Not to mention the paranoias and conspiratorial nonsenses.

I have mentioned this to them. They seem to resent it.

The one, who calls herself elsewhere a "princess", is of the [apparent] opinion that since she has [apparently] undergone a series of recent tragedies and traumas in her life I should therefore indulge her lynch mobbery and allow her to get away with calling it an appropriate, indeed objective and intellectual, response to there being no evidence for murder.

The other, who calls herself a "texas belle" and whom I refer to as "toots", has been indulging her own paranoias in, now, a second arena by suggesting that this other forum where our previous discussions have been taking place is a forum I control and can prevent her from responding to me.

For the record, toots, I've contacted Dan and 'typepad.com', both, about my own comments being denied as "spam", and Dan says it's been happening to himself as well and to just keep trying. As was suggested to me: try clearing your cache...

Once again ladies: you are not interested in anyone finding the right answer to what happened to Natalee Holloway in Aruba, you're only interested in finding your answer. Anything which gets in the way of that, me, Aruban authorities, whathaveyou, becomes immediately immoral and condemnable. You need there to have been a murder so you can feel good about yourselves and your bigotries.

This is what I find appalling. I'd suggest you should be ashamed of yourselves, but I know better.

December 20, 2007 11:14 AM  
Anonymous You know who said...

You could God forbid, show empathy or a tiny bit of compassion to "Princess"...I find your inability to do express that appalling, and you should be ashamed of yourself, but I know better! More appalling than that is your new approach of playing the "race card"...Member of the "Dream Team"? Rings a bell, hmmmmmmm....ohhhhh the OJ Simpson case; great strategy to resort to when one does not have the evidence to exonerate their client. So you play the race card, and we attack the investigation/LE; another tact attorneys resort to when there is not enough evidence. So, we simpletons who don't care to find your "proper" area of posting about NH, are ignorant, not as intelligent as you, I could go on and on with your insults, but I would much rather be a Lady than a person who one could never characterize as a "gentleman", although a brilliant man.

One question, why is it necessary to personally attack one who you may disagree with, as opposed to using that brilliant well informed mind in a more respectable manner? I truly am curious? Does one need denegrate NOT THE OPPOSING VIEWPOINT, BUT RATHER IN YOUR CASE, DENEGRATE THE PERSON? Your opinion of me is very clear, but why do you feel compelled to unecessarily be aggressive, and a bit nasty, when what you have to say would be much more credible without the analysis? JMO. This does not "help make your case", in fact it is a hinderance to what valuable informtion you have to share? C'est la vie...but cruelness is not equated with intelligence.

December 20, 2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger rwilymz said...

Good god, girls, your cross is sure getting a workout over this! Up, down, up, down ... make up your minds. You poor, poor martyrs!

The only thing god forbids me to do is to pollute an inherently intellectual discussion with emotionalism ... which is what you wish me to do by implicitly accepting irrational positions on the basis of "compassion" or "empathy". 2+2=/=5 because your dog died or your sewer backed up. Anyone's personal travails are completely irrelevant to any discussion of an issue not directly concerning those travails. Unless one of you is Natalee Holloway, one of her relatives or one of their close friends, you probably don't qualify.

Futhermore, if you were to wish to elicit my sympathies transcending any discussion of "The Aruba Incident", then I'd strongly suggest that your ganging up on me, calling me names and lying in your characterizations of my positions, and then compounding it all by accusing me of calling you names first was exactly the wrong way to go about gaining that sympathy.

For all of your precious, precious sanctimoniousness regarding my insults and arrogance towards you, the people who started it was none other than you -- because I dared to contravene your simple-minded worldview: something bad happened to a good person, therefore it had to be bad people who did it -- that which you complain about me is pretty much the way you have been acting yourselves.

I shouldn't have to do this, but the irony is just so delicious I could make a meal of it: your dishonest characterizations of my positions continue apace. "Race card"? When/where? Please don't assume that because I used the word 'bigot' to describe your, um, bigotry that it necessarily presumes a racial component.

Bigotry is forming a superficial conclusion based on little or no evidence because it satisfies you, and which cannot be dislodged by fact or reason. Upon any subject. Sports team affiliation, political sentiments, or favorite television shows. Yes, presuming three stupid boys guilty of murder simply because they're handy is bigotry.

If, though, you meant something else by "race card" rest assured it is so arcane and disjointed that it simply defies relevance. Like one's personal travails.

In response to your second paragraph, I'd suggest you read the essay in which you are off-topic responding, and take it to heart. Ironically, many parts of it applies, particularly those which describe how I respond to others.

I've indulged you enough, I believe, and remained civil in response to being called names on my own turf, as indeed I have [relatively] in other fora. You are welcome to stay here and read; you are welcome to respond to what you read -- even critically -- but only if it applies to the subject you read about.

I delete comments which are clearly spam, as you may have noticed ... the one advertising a porn site is now gone. But this discussion is off-topic and further commentary on "The Aruba Incident" here will be deleted. You may respond in the appropriate topic already identified; I will take you on there.

My blog, my rules. I wouldn't go to your home and pee in the bushes; I expect similar courtesies. Thanks in advance.

December 20, 2007 5:54 PM  
Anonymous danie said...

Mr. Williams- have posted at RWV and your appropriate forum that you provided for NH topic; Happy Holidays to you and yours!

danie aka anonymous...

December 23, 2007 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Danie said...

rwilymz....Interested to hear your opinion on Bhutto assasination/Pakistan, and do you believe order or peace can EVER be achieved in the Mid East?

I checked your blog and cannot locate the proper place to post this question?

December 30, 2007 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Ditzy Danie said...

Thank you for your opinions, knowledge, and articulate post regarding Pakistan (it will only take me a few days to understand what you posted...HA!...Happy & Healthy New Year to you and your family!!!

December 31, 2007 5:39 PM  
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