Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Resisting technocratic interpellation

I resisted the Credit Card for a long time, until a few months ago, in fact. I used to get friends to book flights for me online but Ryanair put an end to my fiscal simplicity. Ryanair are masters of the art of stealth charges. You are even charged at the airport for the privilege of having booked your flight online! After I had checked in for my Paris-Dublin flight a few months ago I had to queue up again in order to pay my credit card fee of 5 euro.
Having queued up for more than 30 minutes, I finally reached the counter. “bonjour Monsieur” said the pretty lady behind the counter.

“ Bonjour Madame” said I. I reluctantly handed her my five Euro note.

“ sorry, we don’t accept notes, you’ll have to pay with your credit card” she said.

“ I’m sorry madam, I do not have a credit card but I am prepared to pay you with this real money” I retorted, politely keeping my growing frustration in check. Then, predictably, cracks soon appeared in the diplomatic equanimity as negotiation rapidly descended into all out confrontation.
“ I’m sorry but you will have to call a friend and ask them to pay for you as we cannot accept real money” she continued. “ What? This is crazy, you do not accept real money!! What is this, a scene from a Kafka novel? You want me to pay you again for the privilege of paying you invisible money, now I give you real money and you say I cannot board my flight to Dublin unless I pay you more invisible money!”
By this stage I realised I had declared war but I was not prepared to surrender. Meanwhile airport security were beginning to take an interest in the lone protester

“ I’m sorry monsieur", she said coldly, “but I cannot change the system” I was caught in an absurd ideological pincer-grip with airport security slowly advancing. As soon as she mentioned the word system I launched my surface to air missles . I knew I had no chance of winning but I decided to lose all guns blazing. “ change the system you say? Fuck the system” the four letter word is the last resort of the broken man “ and fuck Ryanair and it effing capitalist thuggery, its digital fascism. I’m sick and tired of being treated like cog in the machine, a number in the calculus, a superfluous letter in badly written book. Fuck the whole lot of you, you despicable scum!”

I should point you to you dear reader that I said this in French, so it may have sounded less offensive! By this stage other French customers in the queue behind me began to join in and for a moment I thought “ this could be the storming of the Bastille or a Rosa Parks moment”. Not quite I’m afraid. But they kindly paid the miserable five Euro for me and I boarded my flight.
A few months later, I came back to the same Ryanair counter and met the same lady. This time I decided to take a leaf from President Roosevelt’s book when he said that in negotiation you should speak softly but carry a big stick. My big stick was the threat of another vituperative onslaught. From our initial eye contact I could tell she recognised me. The cashier could probably detect the verbal arsenal behind the clenched teeth of my fake smile. I spoke softly, looked her straight in the eye and whispered “ Madam I do not have a credit card”. Then, as if for the sake of world peace, she took out her own card and paid for my flight herself. I gave her my five euro, thanked her profusely and quietly departed. You might think I was a bit extreme calling Ryanair fascists but aren’t they the airline that taxes fat people and wants to make us pay to use the toilet? Kafka once said ‘in the fight between you and the world, back the world”. I surrendered and now back the banking world by paying them for the privilege of my invisible money!

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