As we hit the midpoint of the last unofficial week of summer, we look back at things which once roamed the earth- and realize that some of them extinct more than others. This week brought a virtual tie between Tradition and Technology. We'll start with the latter, since the subject matter is closer to the bottom (_ _).
Both of us have been out of the house more than usual. Eleanor's been ramping up her hours between now and early October when she goes out for foot surgery, and I've had multiple out-of-town gigs each of the past few weeks, plus another run of bankruptcies all coming at once including three emergency filings this month alone. The dog has reacted to this inattention by turning her
attention to anything fabric she can get her jaws on. Sometime in the middle of last week, both of us came home to find a pair of underwear apiece in tatters. I checked my inventory and realized, with the greatest of dread, that it was time to set foot in a clothing store.
For me, for this particular need, that means only one place:
I've been getting the same briefs there since I was probably ten. Stafford's the brand, cotton/polyester's the blend; the size, well, has varied before coming down in recent years. I have my drill at the store nearest my old office and current gym: park on the Transit side, march right into the menswear department, get it and get out. Usually, there's a coupon in hand, but even though I waited for the Sunday paper, they apparently cut back on those. In-store, the offers only involved buying more stuff or signing up for a credit card. No thanks and no thanks, but I did catch a deal on a pack of seven for the price of six. Perfect
, I thought; that'll fit right in with my traditional MONDAY-TUESDAY-WEDNESDAY labeling system;)
I grabbed one other discretionary item (a new dress shirt as crisp as Johnny's, minus Rex's cigarette pack), brought them home, and discovered that the store had hit the Trifecta of Fail: wrong quantity (just the six), wrong material (all cotton), and wrong size (a reachable goal but not this week).
So I tossed them back in the car and made another stop over there after coming back from Rochester on Monday. (My Last Closing Ever, Promise, closed. Sort of. Took over a day for the papers to be recorded and there were other nuisances.) Brick and mortar stores no longer have dedicated registers in departments and for returns; you enter the corral with all the other shoppers, waiting for the one cashier dedicated to a full third or more of the still-humongous store. She shrugged when I presented the evidence; go get another one.
I tried, pawing over a Jeopardy board-sized matrix of boxes with random sizes, styles and quantities. Not a one had what my package said I'd already scored. I was late getting home at that point, so I just bailed and figured I'd try the somewhat larger Penney's in a somewhat upperscaler mall the next day.
No luck there, either. Bigger game board, but still not a single one of what I was looking for. Now disgusted, I just turned them in for a refund (which at last check has yet to hit my account). This is when I joined the early 21st century and checked online at jcpenney.com. They had them. They also had another item I might've also purchased on Trip The Second (a new bathrobe to replace the one which the dog air-conditioned a few months ago). Together, they qualified for an online-only $25 off coupon and free shipping, which means I'm getting the ill-fated, ill-fitted underwear for a net price of three bucks.
I could also have picked up the briefs in-store. At the first one. Only with them
doing the picking and pawing over. I give them five years, tops, until they've been completely Amazonned out of existence.
Banks, on the other hand, have one advantage in getting you into their brick and mortar venues: money. Sometimes you need it, sometimes you need to deposit it. That was my need yesterday, as the checks from MLCE,P finally became clear to deposit at about 3 in the afternoon, giving me an hour to get them into my trust account so I could disburse to everyone today.
I also needed customer service, which banks still generally do have at separate counters. I'd frozen a debtor's bank account- one of my lawyer superpowers which is very effective at getting people to want to pay you all of a sudden. The one who paid needed its account unfrozen, which I am very amenable to do once the check is good. Except its bank- which happens to be my bank- changed the fax number to send these to.
Getting direct phone numbers of banking offices, from branches to back office, generally involves skills needed to hack into NSA computers. Back then there were phone books, and continuing today with online searching, you invariably get shunted into one-number-for-everything customer service lines, which put you into phone trees of prompts if you even get that far because of being asked to please enter your account number.
It's not MY account number, ma'am. (I now HATE the M&T lady voice. I hear it in my sleep now, I heard it so many times.) Voice Mail Jail tricks like pressing zero no longer work. It was at a point where hand delivering the unfaxable fax to their legal processing department, four miles away, seemed like a good choice. But since I was in a branch anyway, I asked their customer service person if she
knew what the number was- or even just a voice number.
A few clicks, a few clacks, no better luck than I was having. But then Brenda reached below her desk and solved the problem by pulling out a tool from a long gone time:
Recognize it? (Most will.) Ah, but when did you last USE one, or even better fill out a card in one? These gizmos have been lamented by Gizmodo
for being supplanted by technology. The author tells of its progeny ("the brainchild of Arnold Neustadter, a somewhat anal twentieth century inventor from Brooklyn"), its necessity ("Between 1948 and 1970, an estimated 20 percent of all Americans moved each year. How was anyone supposed to keep track of all those new street names without having to rewrite their whole address book every few months?"), and its success where Arnold's other inventions had failed (the Swivodex, the Clipodex, and the utterly unrhyming thing that was the Punched). But the Rolodex stuck, and stuck around as a staple (heh) of office culture all through my first two decades of law practice. I've never had one in the decade-plus I've been out on my own, but don't tell Arnold's kid that:Mr. Neustadter, who died in 1996, never saw the way in which digital storage would affect his iconic invention. But his daughter insists he would've argued that his Rolo-baby was as relevant as ever. When I called to tell her that I was going to include the Rolodex in OBSOLETE, my book about objects that are fading from our lives, she got huffy. She spoke in a tone that requires exclamation points. "They still work! You just can't carry them around! Places still sell them," she said. I told her she was right—the book is about things that still exist, but just barely. She continued. "They aren't obsolete! Give your book another title! You know, look at it this way: computers get viruses! But the Rolodex, it's never taken a sick day in it's life."
Also, thank gods, you also ain't telling Brenda that. For from the depths of Rololand, she spun the magic wheel and came up with a card with the elusive fax number, erm, the same one I'd been using. But. It also had a voice number on it, and that still worked, leading to the new, toll-free version now embedded in my computer's contact list. I suppose I should write it down, too. Maybe make a list of especially useful, NO!, a chart, NO!, a spinning wheel to contain them all!
Or maybe I should just write it in Sharpie on my eighth pair of underwear, right after the SUNDAY pair;)