It’s been a while since I purchased real estate or a new car from a dealership. Still, I remember the stacks of forms during the process.
I typically annoy busy customer service reps, especially during health care transactions. I have always actually read everything before I sign – and I ask not only what a passage means, but how that’s different from Page x, y and z. Even twenty years ago the paperwork required for major expenditures concerned me. At the time I felt like signing my name somehow compromised my integrity.
In 1983 I drove my brand new Chevy off the dealership lot with only a handshake, my word to sign the loan documents “soon” and a phone call to my insurance broker.
Today it’s hard to remember simpler times when I kept a running tab at my town’s food and liquor store, mostly to spare me time waiting in the checkout line. I also ran a tab at the bar and grill. That was in Los Angeles County – not an obscure hamlet.
As recently as 1999, I presented my driver’s license to rent a moving van and learned it had expired years before. Mainly because the manager was on sight, my oversight cost me a couple of hours at the Motor Vehicle Department on moving day. Needless to say I detested my ID photo for the next few years.
Though we had credit cards even then, consumers commonly wrote paper checks to purchase goods, sometimes we swiped an ATM card, so I hadn’t shown my identification in years. People in the community knew me. But the fact that I never lived anywhere more than three years in my adult life makes that mind boggling.
And don’t get me started about how my hackles rise when doctor’s offices ask about my insurance carrier before they ask my name.
I long for the world where yes meant yes and no meant no; “Will you pay this when you get your check?” “Of course I will.” Once I accidentally bounced a check. The payee first assumed it was an accident and I confirmed it when I resolved the matter with a couple of personal phone calls. Once a victim of a forged check, I entirely recovered, cleaned up and forgot the whole incident in a couple of weeks – without involving a collection agency. Now I grieve for victims of identity theft.
So, now that we have advanced into the digital age, complete with cyber crime, global cyber espionage, social media stalking and identity theft, we are rarely certain about anyone. What have we gained when we have sacrificed character for the sake of convenience? It’s as if we no longer value character at all – it’s all about credit scores.