Outside The Bubble

“We don’t care, we don’t have to”

I honestly thought that the total was in pesos.

I opened my gas bill and was astonished to see that the
cost for a month of natural gas had doubled. Now, I realize that it was awfully
chilly in the last month for the Eastern Shore. Heck, it even snowed a little
bit, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that in the winter,
the gas bill is going be higher. This I get. However, the amount of gas that my
household had used was just slightly higher than the month before. It’s not
like we filled my living room with sand, booked DJ Batman, and had our own
private Lunasea party.

I, like most reasonably organized people, know
approximately what the bills are going to be per month, but after opening my
most recent bill, I spit my coffee all over the kitchen counter like I had just
heard one of Dubya’s most recent destructions of the English language, or had
been hit on the back with a hockey stick.

So, I called the company, and was informed that there was
a 9-percent price hike on the product that they provide, and that hike, coupled
with the chilly temperatures below the Mason Dixon line brought my bill to it’s
astronomical price point.

Now, I don’t expect much from the utilities companies, or
the people that answer the phones. I’m sure that handling the phones at any
utility company is about as appealing as spreading manure for a living or
mopping up vomit from a boardwalk bathroom. Honestly, have you ever met any kid
that aspires to work at a utility company?

The point is this: the woman on the other line, briefly
described the situation and verbally wiped her hands clean as if to say, “sucks
to be you, the consumer, but you need the gas, so pay your fare.”

I hung up the phone, wiped up my coffee, and recalled an
old SNL skit with Lily Tomlin as a rather snide phone company worker. Her
tagline was, “We don’t care, we don’t have to, we’re the phone company.”

It made me realize that there are certain products that
companies (usually large corporations) provide that are essential to our
American lifestyle. They’ve got us by the proverbial short hairs and we can’t
do anything other than write the check. Because we need what they have, and
there is nothing we can do about it.

Obviously, the phone, gas, electric and water providers
are in this category. Usually, in an area this size, there are no more than two
providers. In most cases, however, it is one company depending on your

With the explosion of cell phone usage, the phone company
isn’t as much to blame on the surface, but they still contribute in subtle
ways. For example, you sign a two-year agreement for a phone that dies in a
year. Then when you try to replace the phone, the model is no longer available.
Tell me that is a coincidence and I’ll call you a buffoon.

Vehicles stick it to you in similar ways. You pay for a
warranty, and of course, a few thousand miles after said warranty runs out,
things start to break. It makes you wonder if a study has been done to see how
long things will last, and warranties are set accordingly.

Then there are the body shops.

Body shops are not the most ethical of businesses,
especially in an area populated by tourists a large majority of the year. I’ve
heard many of horror stories about people that had car troubles while on
vacation and paid through the nose just to get home. It is a service that is
essential, and you must pay accordingly, but in the off-season, the practice
gets stuck to the locals often times on the basis of “company policy.”

Here’s the problem with “company policy”: With the
franchising of large corporations that have replaced the mom and pop shops of
old, comes an almost chilling indifference to the customer when customer
relations is really needed. Wal-mart is the greatest example of this. If
Wal-mart isn’t next to the definition of the word “monopoly” in the dictionary
I don’t know what is.

Call a corporation sometime and clock how long it takes
you to actually talk to a person.

The information that we get is fed to us by media
conglomerates backed by huge corporations (All of the big three networks) or
channels used as propaganda vehicles for particular political parties (um…Fox

If America is so full of free choice, why are some of the
most essential needs that we need as humans provided to us at a “take it or
leave it” way of doing business?

I recently watched a movie with an interesting monologue
from an actor about small town America. He asked his sister who still lived in
their small town if she liked living there. She said, “yeah, there’s more to do
now than when we were kids.”

He replied “sure, there’s four chain restaurants and two
new strip malls, if eating and shopping is the only thrill that you seek.”

When I hear the recent scandals of the administration,
watch small businesses shut down to make room for an Applebees, and write the
check out to my local gas company, I realize that though we have more choices
and freedoms than most countries, some of the ones that we have are often times
chosen for us.

I guess that’s why the phrase “stick it to the man when
you can” has stayed popular over the years.

“The man” always seems to get all your hard earned pesos.

It just sucks when you know he’s getting more than he

me at domspino@yahoo.com