The Consequences of Being Awake
By TLB Contributor: Ken LaRive
Yesterday I had what might be considered a meltdown. For years I bit my tongue. I stood in line with a basket-full of what can only be described as crap, went along with the game, a game that is fixed for corporate profits, answered all questions designed to gather information, and overpaid. I know these things because I study marketing, and worked in the business for years, when the oilfield hit the fan in ’83.
Wearing the red coat of a manager, I did the exact same thing to the line of people waiting to pay. I knew why there was a line, why there was only one part time cashier, and it was more than not being able to find anyone willing to work… it was to cut costs, to not pay insurance, or retirement, or overtime… to insure a black bottom line.
I looked around for deals and found a rack of dog chews for 30 to 50 percent off. One wrapped in a colorful Christmas design seemed to have the best value, from $19.99 to $9.99, but I also put in my basket a box of fish food for $5.99, and puppy shampoo for $29.99, their regular price… And with my dog in tow, stood in line with all of the other nice people..
“Would you like to donate $3.00 to the animal Rescue?” she said in a monotone voice.
“No, thank you.” I said, but the force of this lady thanking the last customer loudly still rang, and stuck in my craw with guilt, the sign of a true Catholic boy. She had said to her in a loud voice: “Thank you for donating to such a worthy cause!” for all to hear…
Then she said, “What is your phone number, sir.”
‘No ma’me,” I said, “I don’t want to give you that.”
“You don’t belong to our Pet Club?” She said.
“No, I don’t.” I said. The line was now 9 people deep.
“If you get our Pet credit card…”
“No ma’me I don’t want a credit card, I’ll be paying cash.” and handed her a 100 dollar bill. She took it, looked at it in the light, and made a mark on it with some kind of validating pen while saying: “You know you could save if you joined. We would send you coupons on your email…”
“No. Don’t want to join, but thanks.” I said. The line was now twelve deep. She gave me my change and I left with her saying loudly: “Thank you sir, and have a blessed day.”
I walked out like I was dizzy, as my Brittany pulled me into the parking lot hoping for another whiff of the thousands of doggy odors that permeated from everywhere for a thousand feet.
And there, next to a Santa ringing a bell, the same one who I gave to when entering, did not recognize me, and again asked for a donation using the exact words…
“No Santa, I already gave.” But just then we were interrupted, as coming up directly behind him was a young woman looking carefully at my dog, while carrying a three ounce white puff of fur under her arm. She said: “Oh, oh, oh, what a precious beautiful dog!”
She knelt down in front of me, right in front of Santa ringing his bell, and let her little dog lick the mouth of mine from a long thin ribbon of pink slime, and then, to my astonishment, accepted my dog to do the same to her, on her very lips! He looked at me questionably, because he knows that is taboo. I felt weak, overwhelmed, frustrated, disgusted, and as I walked back through the parking lot counting my change, also looking at my receipt, I saw that I had been charged full price for everything.
I put Gunner in the car and debated what to do. How easy it would be to just eat the extra $25.00. “Just eat it!!,” that little voice told me… but I didn’t listen. I just could not, not today. Today I would say no.
I rolled the windows down, locked the doors, and proceeded to go back, kicking myself the entire way… and I found myself in a line of about 12. I remember how surprised I was at the speed it was moving, moving because everyone was giving their phone number, and said yes to everything.
My turn: “You changed me full price for these items. They are supposed to be half price.”
“That’s why I asked you for your phone number. You can’t get sale prices unless you participate in our Pet program, or have a Pet credit card.”
I thought about the consequences of saying no, of not going with the flow, but something clicked: “There is nothing on the sign to indicate that. It says 30 to 50 percent off. If you give me the discount, I’ll be on my way. If not, please just give me my money back.”
I could feel the low rumble of the line behind me, or was it the bile being produced in my stomach… but they would not scan, of course. The code had to be punched in manually, as it was a sale product, and she looked and studied my receipt with great interest. “You bought this today.” …but I said nothing. She did not recognize me.
“Okay!”, she said, as she took out some card to insert in her register. Can I see your driver’s license? But I was on a roll…
“No.” I said “You have no need to look at my driver’s license. And I don’t want a store credit. I paid cash just fifteen minutes ago, and I want cash back.”
“Okay!” she said in a loud voice, “I was going to give you cash.” and she took the card out of the slot. “What is your phone number, sir.”
I could not believe it, and started laughing.
The line was now at least 15 deep, and I said: “No, I’m not going to give you my phone number.”
“We need your phone number to give cash back.” She said with a red face. And then it happened, a real man, standing in line. He stood about five back, towering over the little ladies and their dogs. “Don’t be a baby.” he said. “Just give the lady your phone number, so we can all be on our way.” It was all so commanding.
I said, “This is none of your business sir. You do not know what is happening here. Mind your own business.” So I damaged his masculine ego in front of the ladies, and that was intolerable. I had now overstepped a social boundary, and there was no going back.
And she said: “Sir, DO NOT talk to our customers in that manner. I’m calling the manager.”
And the man said, “What a baby! She is only trying to do her job!”
And I said: “Why don’t you just shut up.”
And the cashier said: “I told you sir! Do not talk to our customers in such a manner!” and the lady behind me backed up from the counter, feeling threatened and confused, I suppose.
A little girl of about 25 came up and said, “What seems to be the problem?”
“This man refused to give his phone number and is very aggressive with our customers. He wants cash, and I have to have his phone number.” She said very animated.
She took a key and unlocked the register, and I realized that the another reason she wanted to see my driver’s license number was to insure that at least one of us was honest, and not stealing, but somehow that gave me no consolation, as I am not a thief.
She gave me my money without counting it out and said, “Here, hope never to see you here again.”
“See!” I said laughing. “You didn’t need my phone number after all. Have a blessed day.” and I could hear the line of people talking about this, like the buzz of angry bees as I walked through the automatic doors. “What a baby!” The man said again, loud enough for me to hear, and getting the last word.
So what happened here. Everyone there thought, more than likely, that I was a trouble-maker, an Alzheimer patient, and old angry man who doesn’t like Christmas, or worse.
But what I was, and this was a revelation to me shaking from my adrenaline rush walking back to car was this: I was awake.
I’m one of the few, said to be just three percent of the population, who can actually see behind the facade, and want to, some of the time, to fight the system that everyone accepts as the norm… I could see the mechanism at work, and I chose not to play the game. And as an old card player, I saw the game to be stacked in their favor? I chose to fold, and few do. And why? What did I see?
First off, nearly everything in the store was manufactured overseas. A package selling for $30 dollars on the shelf probably cost $2.00 to make, and even the shipping is cut-rate to promote the exchange, as provided by NAFTA. I saw the slaves who put it there, from South Vietnam, Japan, India, to South Korea and China, and how they worked without child labor laws, safety regulations, insurance or any form of protective litigation, and were paid virtually pennies to live in collective compounds far from home. I know this, because I have traveled there.
I saw what was done to the animals in those packages, from the dried meat laced with preservatives, to the bleached ears and woven skin of dogs chew, and the main reason so may die from cancer. I saw the slaughter of these animals, and knew the reason those pig ears had a hole in them… and all of those images swirled around in my mind, a mind that was awake.
I knew both how and why they take our information, from what we buy, how we pay, and sell it to companies whose primary purpose is to correlate data. It is big business with a big payoff, and with computers can even speculate what I will buy in the future, and promote that to me in my personal computer’s sidebar.
That is the reason we see what we buy on the side of what we are searching for on the internet, catalogs in the mail, and email boxes full of propositions, even the 15 phone calls every day I try to block without success, stems from that transaction at a register… and for a man who knows that our constitution prohibits the gathering of this information, that civil liberty is not just my security, but my right to privacy, it is up to me to comply or resist. This day, I chose to resist, and had to pay for that privilege…
And since the product is overpriced, they can feign a sale, and still make a 400 percent profit from a line of people conditioned to stand in single file to buy it.
And in retrospect, I think about the man who tried to protect the cashier from what he speculated was abuse. The line of people waiting to pay, holding their little lap-dog breeds that mimic the need of a human child. I saw the hypocrisy in the attempt at embarrassment to promote me to give to their favorite charity, and the cashier, just doing her job, who tried to make sense of the insanity by promoting her own evangelical Christmas wish of salutation, “Have a blessed day,” to promote her Lord and Savoir, Jesus Christ. And all of this is a spectacular promoter of my lost Liberty, and very hard to counter… pure genius, really.
No, I did not handle it correctly. I did not know it would escalate as it did, and was not able, or prepared, to articulate the many subtle dots that conclude this overwhelming convolution. I could not cut and paste. I could not, at the spur of the moment, defend my actions in a way that could be understood by a line of people who want nothing more but to participate in the process, and a quick exit. And I regret this, because perhaps, just maybe, I could have nudged awake just one more.
Merry Christmas to all!
But oh, this is not the end of this tail. I then drove across town to their competitor, and found that same bottle of shampoo on sale for $19.99. Of course, in order to get that price, I had to give them my phone number. Well, I’ll fight another day. My dog has fleas.