Anyway, I sold my car for a variety of reasons. The major one, though, was that I was still making exorbitant monthly payments on it, and those are a total bummer. If you've never had car payments, think of it as buying a stock that is guaranteed to always lose value, but will totally bring you to Panera Bread whenever you want, though it will occasionally need a new alternator. Sorry, I'm terrible at analogies.
I loved the car, but it just didn't make sense anymore. Basically, I bought the thing directly out of college, because I assumed that what with my fancy new degree I'd just paid a lot of money for, I was facing a future full of glamorous high paying jobs, and a little car loan wouldn't be an issue at all. Yes, I was a moron. This was back in 2007, when banks were practically throwing credit at anyone who happened to walk by their office windows. So naturally, who better to get an $11,000 car loan than a 23 year old with no credit history, no real job, and a bachelor's degree in film production from the shittiest film program since Robert Rodriguez starting thinking his movies were good enough that he should be offering his "expert advice" on filmmaking? Really Robert? Ten minute film school? Yeah, ten minutes does seem like the proper amount of time for you to offer every bit of knowledge you have on the subject. Nice hat.
|Robert Rodriguez to American public, "You're welcome!"|
Moving on. The bank that gave me the loan was Wells Fargo. What I'm going to share with you now is my recent experience in trying to finally pay these fuckers off. I sold the car with relative ease, thanks to it being an awesome car, and me being an awesome person. Unfortunately, in order to release the title from the bank, the buyer had to give me the money, then I had to give the money to Wells Fargo. No problem! I'll just pay using my online account that they've been withdrawing from for four years! Actually no, Wells Fargo said I couldn't do that, and that I had to send a cashier's check. I obliged, sending the check overnight with an overnight return envelope. I expected the full transaction to take four or five days, tops.
Almost two weeks later, I'm still fighting with Wells Fargo to give me my god damn fucking car. Basically, after a week of waiting, I called, and was informed that I had sent them a personal check, and as such, they had to hold the check for 10 days. I politely informed them that they were mistaken, that the check was most certainly a certified bank check. The lovely young woman I spoke to, Carla, said that according to her records, I was lying. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She obliged (at least I assume she did, for all I know, she patched me through to her cubicle neighbor Pam), and this was our conversation (and I'm not exaggerating):
"We need a copy of the cashier's check to verify it. Do you have a fax machine?"
"No, I don't, because it's not 1996. You must have a copy of the check I sent you in your records."
"No sir, that's a different department. They cash the checks, we just release the liens."
"Okay, well, can you just call that department and have them go through their records?"
"Sir, we need you to fax your copy to us."
"So you're telling me no one at Wells Fargo has any record of my check that I sent you?"
"Sir, we need you to fax your copy to us."
"Why do I have to be the middle man between your two departments? You're the ones being paid."
"Sir we need you to fax your copy-"
"Yeah, I heard you. You know, it's pretty shitty that I've never even been late on a payment, and now you're basically holding my car hostage because of your fuck-up. It seems to me you don't give a flying shit about me as a customer."
"I'm sorry you feel that way, sir."
"I don't think you are."
Anywho... I actually felt pretty good about the conversation. Maybe it was the three beers I had for my St. Patrick's Day Irish breakfast, but I was on fire! I spoke articulately and with the proper rage/sarcasm balance that can only be achieved through years of practice.
Here's the thing, I don't like giving inbound customer service reps shit. Chances are, whatever problem I'm having, it wasn't that person's fault, and they're just the whipping boys for their huge corporate overlords. I have sympathy for these people. After all, I work in customer service. I honestly didn't go into this call with the intention of taking a verbal shit on anyone.
But it was the lady's complete lack of "giving a shit" that really just boiled my ass. She could have at least pretended, at least humored me. That's what those people are for. She knew it was a David and Goliath situation, except for the part where David wins, because it's really hard to throw stones through a cell phone, especially when AT&T keeps dropping my fucking calls! (Seriously, twice! Two times my calls dropped just as I had gotten through the automated system and was on hold to talk to someone. Maybe Wells Fargo and AT&T are in cahoots or something) This woman had the full power of a monstrous, multinational corporation at her back, and she had clearly become drunk on the power (as opposed to just drunk on Smithwick's, as I was.) I honestly would have preferred if she'd just come right out and said,
"Sir, please stop talking. Nobody here gives a flying fuck about you or your laughable pittance. We deal in billions of dollars every day. We only ever cared about you in the fact that you were giving us your money, and now that you've stopped doing that, we could actually have you killed, but you matter so little to us that even that effort would be far, far too much for us to bother."
At least it would have been honest.
So I found a fax machine after I traveled back in time to the Clinton era, and sent Wells Fargo this facsimile:
It won't make a difference, but I felt good about it, nonetheless.
Okay, so that wraps up that part of the post...
WARNING: SERIOUSNESS AHEAD. IF YOU DON'T LIKE SERIOUS THINGS, THEN CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO OF A BABY MAKING FUNNY FACES.
That brings me to the second half of this post, and I'm gonna go a little off my normal vibe of mild humor. Though I'm certainly not the first to say any of the following, I firmly believe it. My latest run-in is just a little afterthought to the general corporate malfeasance in America.
I've come to the incredibly depressing conclusion that we simply don't live in a democracy anymore. Anyone who still believes otherwise needs only to look at last year's supreme court decision to allow all corporations unlimited access to donate to political campaigns with zero oversight. According to the supreme court, a corporation is a person, just like you and me, but with a lot more money to give to supreme court members.
The canned response to anyone bitching about the state of politics today is to say "well, then make sure you vote!" I've been told that, I've even said it, and I've voted in every election. But it feels empty, because ultimately it doesn't matter anymore. I may agree with a particular politician, and that politician may even believe in their causes, but that person is just a travelling sideshow, a distraction. Have you noticed how ridiculous Congress is? The histrionics and nuttiness that wafts out of that place? Have you noticed that the same tired fights are recycled, spruced up with a new look? The culture war of the past decade has been revamped as a "budget battle." It's the same fucking fight! Defund NPR, defund Planned Parenthood, legalize marijuana, get rid of unions. It doesn't matter where you stand on any of the issues, because it's just a lot of noise.
"Democracy" might as well be called "Distraction." The Romans continued to go to gladiator events at the colosseum even as the Barbarians laid siege to Rome, we continue to bicker about whether Fox News or MSNBC are more biased. They're both fucking biased! They're both owned by giant conglomerates! You'll never have unbiased journalism in an environment where your paycheck is cut by an entity with interests in multiple revenue streams! So stop fucking talking about it already!
We're fighting two wars because we have military contractors who need to keep building machines and technology to be profitable. It has nothing to do with righteousness, freedom or ideologies.
We'll never have any movement on a climate or energy bill, because the Chamber of Commerce is the biggest lobbyist in Washington, and they don't want it.
We're losing net neutrality because telecom industries can make a lot more money by offering tiered access (like Comcast, who incidentally now owns MSNBC). The wealthiest companies will have dibs on what content is allowed through, and "people" like Time Warner, AT&T and Comcast will have unlimited ability to charge users whatever they please for the content they approve of. Forget losing Netflix, when net neutrality falls, the final frontier of innovation and independence for artists, small businesspeople, filmmakers, musicians and techies will be gone.
We have a budget deficit, not because teachers get paid too much (seriously, how is that a legitimate fucking argument??) but because the richest people (you know, people like Mr. ExxonMobil, Dr. General Electric, Ms. Bank of America) don't want to pay taxes, so they don't. These corporations use their paid politicians to create a theater of infighting amongst "left" and "right" leaning people who are all in exactly the same situations! I'm an atheist living in the Northeast. You're a Baptist living in the Deep South. We have nothing in common except for our crippling poverty! Any idiot can see that trickle down economics don't work, because they never, ever have! We're fucked because the 90's and 00's gave us the illusion of wealth for everyone, that wealth could just be summoned out of the ether, we just called it "credit." The budget deficit would end tomorrow if we wrapped up both wars and taxed the wealthiest 5% even a fraction more than we currently are. We won't, and it won't. Period.
I'm fascinated that people are afraid of Obama being a socialist! Even if he held a press conference tomorrow where he admitted to being a fascist nazi muslim alien from Mars, it wouldn't make a fucking bit of difference! He's just a dude, and the government has already been lost. So vote or don't. It doesn't matter who's in power, because it's just an illusion.
What can we do? Fucked if I know. It's pretty hard to just boycott all of the corporations. I'm writing this on an Apple, using internet access supplied by Time Warner. Later I'll fill up my tank at the Mobil station. This morning I watched 30 Rock, a product of Comcast (at least I watched it on Hulu, so their profit margin was slightly less...yeah, a pretty empty gesture.)
The best I can say is, give as few conglomerates your money as possible. Take it to a local credit union. When you buy stuff, try not to buy it at Walmart (or Target, not any better), when you buy food, try to get it at a Farmer's Market. Try to fix stuff before you throw it away. Try not to be a consumer whore, I guess?
As far as actually enacting change, I recommend we simply give up on the government. It's hopelessly infected, like those ants with the zombie brain fungus (that's real shit, check that shit out! Crazy, right?). It looks the same, feels the same, but it's not the same. It's just a shell, controlled by whoever has the most money. So let the corporate world have their government. Try to enact change at a local level, where the infection might not be so severe. The less money we give to them, the more we can use to support the independent innovators, inventors, developers and game changers in our own neighborhoods. Go around. Circumvent that shit! Use the internet while we still have it. The technology we have to build the future we want is already more or less invented, there's just no infrastructure to support it. I guess in some ways I'm advocating a sort of peaceful, constructive anarchism.
Now if you'll excuse me, Ima go listen to some Rage Against the Machine.