Monday, August 4, 2014

Thank You, Supreme Court

Dear George,
I’ve been happier ever since the Supreme Court explained to us that corporations are people.  I used to think of corporations as huge monoliths that were only concerned with maximizing profits and didn’t care a whit about people (except their stockholders).  Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, I realize that corporations can have the same feelings, desires, and mood states as the rest of us.  This is important because, if you think about it, practically everything in our lives involves interacting with corporations and their representatives, e.g., buying gas, going to the movies, eating lunch, working out at the fitness center, even camping at the state park. 

Many keys on my ignition switch

One good example of corporations being people is the giant auto-maker that manufactured our SUV.  They are in the news practically every day because of people dying from their faulty ignition switches.  As far as I can tell, this mostly affects small cars, so I don’t know if our SUV is a deathtrap or not.  I was interested when I saw a full-page ad from the  company in the Sunday New York Times last week.  They seemed to be practically in tears about their ignition problems and wanted to do whatever they could to help.  In particular, they advised drivers to keep just one single key on their keyring to minimize strain on the ignition switch.  They gave a website and an 800 phone number to call if owners had any questions.   I called the 800 number immediately to ask about our SUV.  I was put on hold for a few minutes, but then a woman with a pleasant voice answered.  Before I even said anything, she said I should consult their website or call the service department of my local dealer if I had any questions.  I said I just had a quick question about ignition switches.  I explained that I owned one of their SUVs and that their New York Times ad recommended that drivers use just one key on their keyring.  I said I have four keys on my key ring plus two keychain fobs so it’s pretty heavy.  I wondered if I should switch to just one key on my keyring.  The woman paused, then said she wouldn’t know anything about that.  She said I should call my dealer.  Thinking she hadn’t fully grasped my question, I said that their newpaper ad recommended using a single key for their small cars, and I wondered if that applied to their big cars too.  She asked if there had been a recall for my SUV.  I said I didn’t think so.  She said she only knew about recalls and, if I wanted more information, I should call my dealer.  She sounded sort of irritated at my persistence.  I thanked her for her help.  My private opinion was that if the auto company truly cares about their customers they might want to hire a more knowledgeable representative to answer a phone number that they list in a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Protecting the animal hospital lawn

One corporation that has been very compassionate to us over the years has been our local animal hospital.  Recently they were taken over by a large national chain.  Since corporations are people, I would think that the larger the corporation, the more humanely they will behave, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  I began wondering about this when one of their technicians recommended to us an exhaustive battery of tests that would check for every known malady that could possibly inflict older dogs.  The full set of tests would cost $1800 for Mike and Duffy.  Katja was tempted, but, since our dogs have no symptoms other than arthritis, I talked her out of it.  Privately I thought to myself that our revamped corporate friend might actually be trying to gouge us.  I got even more dismayed on our next visit when there were identical signs at opposite ends of the animal hospital lawn that read, “People and Animals Please Keep Off Grass.”  I understand asking people to keep off the grass, but where exactly are dogs supposed to go if not on the grass?  These are the sort of signs that people who hate dogs put in their yards.  Is that how our corporate animal hospital feels?

Confusing objects on our sink

Another problem with corporations is that they put out zillions of similar products, and it’s easy to get confused.  Lately I’ve been using cortizone to relieve an itchy skin problem. Last Thursday night I went to brush my teeth and picked up the cortizone tube by mistake.  I would say it looks virtually identical to a toothpaste tube which the cortizone people ought to know better not to do.  In any case, I could tell as soon as I put the toothbrush in my mouth that something wasn’t right.  I looked at the tube. It said “Cortizone” rather than “Crest”.  Yuck – I spit it right out in the sink and rinsed my mouth two or three times.  Then I wondered if the strange sensations in my throat meant that the cortizone was slithering down into my lungs.  I read the fine print on the tube.  It said in bold print, “For external use only.”  Then it added, “If  swallowed, contact a Poison Control Center right away.”  My heart started pounding.  I didn’t want to call the Poison Control Center and have to tell some live stranger that I’d brushed my teeth with cortizone.  Instead I went to Google and searched “swallowed cortizone.”  The first response I got was a posting from a mother whose 18-month-old baby had swallowed half of a two-ounce tube of cortizone.  Fortunately for me, she had immediately called her local Poison Control Center.  The Poison Control Center told her that if the baby had only swallowed half a tube of cortizone, there was nothing to worry about.  He might have some excess gas or even vomit, but just one ounce of cortizone wouldn’t hurt him.  I knew I hadn’t put even close to an ounce on my toothbrush, so I felt much better.  I took the cortizone tube off the sink and put it on the windowsill so I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.  I said to Katja that this problem of brushing your teeth with cortizone must happen to hundreds of people every day.  She shook her head and said, “I don’t think so.”

I still believe what the Supreme Court told us about corporations being people, but I’m less excited about the idea.  I was being naïve about it.  People aren’t always that great.  They can be rude or indifferent; they make mistakes all the time; they can take advantage of us, etc.  Corporations are just like everybody else.   Some corporations can be faithful friends or even sweethearts.  Other corporations can be bullies or be really selfish or stupid, etc.  You just have to be careful and pick and choose.  Maybe the Supreme Court will look into this matter further. 

G-mail Comments
-Phyllis S-S (8-4)  Brilliant, Dave.

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