I just returned from picking up from LAX airport, a friend and person who came to me for help over two years ago when her husband of almost thirty (30) years died and his children, who had been her frequent guests, and who were well aware of her almost three decades of unstinting service as wife, caretaker, gardener, and if this were a funny story, chief cook and bottle washer, went about the work of evicting her from the only home she had known during those years. I had a difficult time in writing this finding a name other than “client” for this person who came for help.
Because the work I have done for the past six or seven years has been done at no charge, albeit with the receipt of occasional donations from people who were helped, I hesitate in using the word client. The fact that we use a marketing model for everything that is done nowadays is, in my opinion, one of the problems of the larger and smaller society in the United States, and since we export all our music, goods, and attitudes to the larger world, in the planet. All matters between human beings, between the person and the members of his or her family, between the person and the members of his city or town, county authorities, medical practitioners, and ultimately, the government, are seen as contractual in nature, and contractual is no longer an honorable thing, because contracts are driven by profit motives only.
I am not saying that making a profit is necessarily a dishonorable thing, or that the “contract” as such is a problem. Years ago in law school I studied the old-fashioned “gentleman’s agreement.” I am not now going to discuss the use of “gentleman” or the gender or class orientation of such a term; I am suggesting that the idea of such an agreement was that a contract was something set up to exchange a value or goods, for something else, whether by the payment of money or the exchange of services or some other “valuable consideration.” A contract implied an ability between both sides to have an equal or similar bargaining position. Thus, contracts of adhesion, in which a larger and more powerful party dictated the terms by which the “lesser” and powerless party was bound, were frowned upon and thrown out by the courts.
This is no longer true, and may have never have been true. When I went through the study of jurisprudence, with which I fell in love with at the time, as I had fallen in love with topics of philosophy earlier, these high sounding phrases of trust and equality and freedom filled me with great hope as to the many wonderful things that could be achieved by the law. Yet the society at large was using such concepts to misdirect, delude and enslave others; the obscenely powerful and rich were using such concepts to enslave and to misguide the citizenry; the citizen was quickly becoming “the consumer, client, customer,” ultimately, to paraphrase P.T. Barnum, the citizen was just another sucker born to be fleeced and bamboozled.
I have added to my prayer and healing intention list every day those who hoped that the election of a businessman would prove a boon for the country in general, that the swamp would be drained, and that the common people, those who actually work for a living and make or work on things, whether they be houses or clothing or food or agricultural products, would be brought out of the mire of poverty and desperation. Alas, the policies at the national, state, county and municipal level are full of deliberate misdirection, and the corruption of language and of ideals, so well portrayed by Orwell in 1984 with his description of doublethink, which is that power to hold contradictory beliefs in the mind at the same time, and believing them both to be true. In our society, with its emphasis on war, we equate war with peace, and this is an ability of human beings that is exploited, and a very small example of our current societal ills.
More and more I have come to realize (for many years, because of many betrayals of revolutionary ideals and beliefs), how much it has always been about power and money, from times immemorial, from the first feudal stronghold and then empire and war of one people against another, from the first shedding of blood for the sake of “ideals” — the ideals just something to use to excuse horror…
I don’t have the time this morning to go into these issues with the detail I would like, and I am writing and will be publishing on these topics, but I will give you two recent examples of misdirection, simple “commercial examples” that occurred during my trip to Los Angeles to pick up my friend. My daughter made a reservation at what seemed a very nice hotel in the L.A. area for a large room with two beds (they charged $10 extra for the second bed) with a free breakfast included. She paid in full with her credit card; I had already given her cash, and received a confirmation. When I arrived I was asked how I wanted to pay… and after multiple telephone conversations, I paid cash again, and the man at the desk, who had been an example of how NOT to do customer service, refused to give me a receipt until the next day. The couches at the “waiting area” were ripped, the non-outstanding customer service had already left me cold, and this Dynasty Inn must have belonged to a dynasty of worms (and I apologize to worms everywhere for this description).
These are the times when I thank my perennial PTSD for coming to my rescue. My blood was boiling over, and I said if he didn’t give me a receipt immediately for the cash I had given him, I would if need be call the police. He called some number and mumbled something and then issued me a receipt, which I should not have had to ask for, but that is an issue for the review I will write later about where NOT to stay in Los Angeles. And if you want to know why I didn’t just pack up and leave without paying, I will mention that I had struggled through inching traffic from Hayward to LAX, with frequent accidents adding long periods of time to the trip. My friend will be 84 in a couple of weeks, and she had already fallen asleep in the car. I needed a room immediately to sleep in, and had paid for one.
Oh, the man also told me breakfast would be available starting at 6 a.m. When I went down in the morning, of course the “breakfast” area was completely empty, and the man at the desk said, “Breakfast? We serve no breakfast here!!”
An earlier incident had occurred at a Subway restaurant. My friend had been hungry and had wanted to use the restroom. After being served, when I asked about a restroom, the young man at the desk told us that they had no guest restroom, but only employee restrooms. I wondered about public health guidelines but apparently if a store is sufficiently small you do not need to have a public restroom. I then asked, politely and hopefully, in the Spanish in which we had conducted our entire transaction, mentioning both our ages, whether an exception could be made, and I was informed me that this was store policy, and there was a clear period at the end of that particular statement.
I bet you Fred DeLuca, who in 1965 borrowed $1,000 from friend Peter Buck to start “Pete’s Super Submarines” in Connecticut, to achieve DeLuca’s goal to earn enough from the business to pay tuition for medical school, as well as to help Buck obtain a doctorate in physics, might not have agreed with this refusal to let an 84 year-old pee in the employee bathroom, or her 68-year-old driver. But the corporate model of governance these days will excuse all sorts of things for profit, including paying employees, who double as “chief cooks” and bottle washers, frequently making the sandwiches, charging for them, and cleaning tables and the store for a pittance, while the franchise makes incredible profits.
So it is in our world, another day, another callous dollar.