I think I need to go back to school for retraining, because I find myself unequipped for the technical and methodological demands of modern life.
Specifically, I can’t understand my phone bill.
It is six pages long, which as phone bills go is relatively short, but consider that I purchase six uncomplicated services:
- A basic landline.
- Unlimited long distance.
- Caller ID.
- Call Waiting (I hate this one, but I’m told I need to “bundle” three extras together to get great savings; I am repeatedly assured that these savings are clearly delineated in the monthly pamphlet that I receive).
- In-home wire protection, which means that, if a squirrel eats the phone lines in the crawl space under the kitchen, a service technician will be out within two weeks to inform me that the problem isn’t anything to do with the inside of my house and certainly nothing to do with the outside lines for which the phone company is responsible, because there actually isn’t a problem at all.
But if there is, it is somehow my fault.
The front page, which announces that the bill is new, improved, and easier to understand (so they do acknowledge that there are “issues,” after all) congratulates me for saving $18 dollars this month! Every month, I enjoy this $18 savings, which I earn by doing nothing more than breathing.
Theoretically, because I purchase six items and there are six pages in each month’s bill, then one page is devoted to each service, but it’s never that simple. This is what would make sense to me:
Basic Landline — $20
Unlimited Long Distance — $20
Caller ID — $5
You’ll notice that I’ve dispensed with half my purchases and have used a tenth of one page, significantly reducing paper waste, but that’s not what real life looks like. No, it’s more along the lines of:
Basic Landline — $47.99 – $34.50 residential home credit + $5.79 international access fee (that’s another way to spell “tax,” by the way) with an additional addendum of $4.82 in assorted federal, state, municipal, county, and provincial surcharges (T-A-X) which, on my calculator adds and subtracts to $24.10, but there’s no number like that on any of the six pages.
One time I asked a customer service representative why, if the $15 per month promotional offer for unlimited long distance ended and was replaced by the “new” promotional offer of $17.99, my bill was $5.38 more, even taking into account the ubiquitous – and iniquitous – surcharges.
“It’s only $5.38 more this month because we pro-rate the difference. Next month it will be the full increase of $12.63,” she informed me helpfully.
I wish my bank account did stuff like that with numbers.
The Norwegian Artist always says that the more complicated people make something – the more aggressive the sheer obfuscation of particulars that should be unassumingly elucidated – the more likely that somebody is trying to hide something.
So I think of all the things that I am repeatedly told are far too complicated for me, or anyone who looks like me (two eyes, one nose, mouth underneath the nose) to understand:
Anything to do with economics.
Anything to do with education.
Anything to do with domestic security.
Anything to do with defense.
Anything to do with science, applied or theoretical.
Obviously, these are complicated issues, but they are made more so by a generous dollop of obfuscation, along the lines of what I see in my monthly phone bill.
I guess I’d better get started on that retraining.
Now in easy e-book form: 30 Middle Age Plague essays and corresponding images by the Norwegian Artist have been published as Life Is a Gift (Ordinary Life Is Beautiful), first in a series of short, upbeat essays to read as you’re lounging by the pool. Upcoming soon is volume 2, The Jane Austen Driving School. Kindle friendly; also readable on IPod, IPad, and Droid phones, as well as directly on your computer with a free downloadable app from Amazon. At $2.99 it costs less than the latte you’re drinking as you read it.