Are you a Subversive? Join Me!

There is something I must confess to all of my readers. (Both of them) Something that is dark and sinister, something I have kept secret for some time. But, I’ve decided to share it with you. Are you prepared to assimilate this knowledge? Good, I thought you would be.

I am a member of an organization that is subversive and illegal. We meet late at night, behind closed doors. We don’t have any code words, or even a “secret handshake” yet, but we’re working on it. We don’t even have an official name. I suppose you might say that we are “the nameless ones.” We have our enemies, and they are very powerful. They seek to conquer us, to bend us to their will. Even Microsoft, with all their wealth and power, pale in comparison to the power of our enemies. So, what activities are myself and my fellow subversives involved in? What is it that makes us so dangerous? Cellular telephones: We don’t use them.

Yes that’s right dear reader. (I’m borrowing an expression from Italian novelist Italo Calvino.) “The others” and myself don’t use this insidious thing, which has apparently stolen the souls of many, just like those pod things from “Invasion of The Body Snatchers”. It’s not that cell phones themselves are evil; it’s the way they are being so overused that has lead us underground. But, the nonuse of cell phones is not the only thing that makes us subversive. No dear reader, there is much, much more.

Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and ATM machines: If we use credit cards at all, it is only to maintain a credit rating, without which a person does not exist, or, when it is simply not possible to get out of using one. (Ever try to rent a hotel room or car without one?) As for Debit cards, and ATM machines, we don’t use them at all. No, we just prefer to use cold, hard cash. Yes indeed, we pay cash for groceries and gasoline. And for this, my fellow subversives and myself get “the hairy eye” from the employees of those respective establishments. No joke there dear reader, there have been times when I have felt like Roddy Pipers’ character, in that sort-of-good/sort-of-bad science fiction movie, “They Live”. (Any good fan of science fiction movies will understand that reference. The movie started out with a great idea, but something went horribly awry about halfway through it. )

“The others” and myself have learned to be careful. Any time I enter a retail store, and a store employee is standing near the entrance, with a cheerful, robotic smile, trying to entice me to “apply for one of our charge cards today!” I simply mumble a “no thanks”, and scurry away. Eye contact must be avoided, lest they see that I have not been robbed of my soul. If they see this, I imagine they somehow alert a central control point, and some sort of mysterious secret police team is dispatched, to catch “the one who has knowledge”. But I have learned to use stealth. I get in and out quickly, and pay cash, leaving no trace. My fellow subversives do likewise. And there is more, dear reader.

No doubt that as an American consumer, you have been strongly encouraged to obtain those “discount cards”, issued by grocery stores, drug stores, and other retailers. It’s really a stroke of genius, the way they pulled this one off. You fill out a small form, including personal information you have entered on at least a hundred forms in the last ten years, and for this simple chore, you are given not one, but two (Gasp!) cards: A wallet sized card, and small tag-card, complete with a hole in it so it may be “attached to a key ring, for your shopping convenience”. Both cards have the same laser bar code on them. Then, when you make your purchases at a given store, the tag is passed over the laser bar-code reader, and “poof” a discount, just for being you! Pretty clever, but not clever enough. No, they are making every cent of that discount back. I have not quite figured out the “mechanics” of how they are doing it, but I would guess they systematically raise the price on certain “minor” items, by as little as one or two cents. (This, plus the money they make for selling that personal information which you provided.) Such a minor amount, that the hassled soccer moms, with junior screaming in her ear to “buy me this!” never notices. Nope, soccer mom is just happy to get her discount. Heh-Heh-Heh. They got a lot of people with this one, but they didn’t get us subversives. No, we see through it, dear reader.

Video store memberships? Not a chance. I don’t even want to speculate on what they do with that information. I heard of one chain that actually asks customers for their social security numbers, before they will issue a membership. Dear reader, that should make an alarm go off loudly and clearly, like the klaxon on a submarine. (I think it may also be illegal for them for them to so. If anyone knows for sure, drop me a line. I must confess that at one point, I did indeed do business with “Blockbuster”. I stopped that, five years ago, for a variety of reasons, among them, the simple fact that a lot of their VHS tapes were in horrid condition, and felt and smelled as though they had been bathed in Orange Crush. Now, I understand Blockbuster has gone to an “all DVD” policy. I cannot imagine that their DVD’s would be in any better condition. DVD is wonderful technology, but it is dependent on the precision of electro-optics. Could you imagine a DVD disk being playable after being bathed in Orange Crush? Oh, the horror…

Credit cards, Debit cards, ATM machines, Cellular phones. What the heck is going on here? I am tempted to ask, dear reader, if the machines serve us, or we serve them. (When I see a line of people, all lined up at an ATM machine, my own personal klaxon goes off.) No, the machines are only the instruments. There are people with an agenda behind the machines, pushing the buttons. And they are the ones we are trying to subvert. They have seduced a lot of intelligent, normal thinking people, but they have not seduced us, and it’s driving them crazy. We are a threat to them, far more so than Linux has ever threatened anything from Microsoft. So, we operate under a shroud of stealth, and when necessary, darkness.

I must pose a question: Gentlemen, I’m not married, so maybe I am missing something, but how hard could it possibly be to pick out a can of stewed tomatoes or a bottle of two percent milk without being on a cell phone with you significant other? Is it really necessary? I think not. And what is wrong with paying cash? Try it; you might be amazed at how much you save. (Don’t believe it? Check those ATM and Debit card fees. Then think it over again. )

So, dear reader, we are the subversives, the rebels, and the ones who see through the evil plots. Do you have what it takes? Have you ever felt that you were being “Nickel and Dimed to death”? Then join us! Come, let me introduce you to the others.

Resistance is NOT futile.

Bruce Black

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