Editorial by QED: Requiem for an Air Miles Junkie
Above: Lend me your ears, and your Air Miles
For years, I vowed that it would never happen. No matter how many times I was asked by the cashier at my local convenience store. No matter how intense the pressure exerted upon me by my family, friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances. No matter how great the weight of societyís expectations, I would not break down and sign up for an Air Miles card.
At first, I was extremely confident that I would be up to the challenge. Those who know me well know that Iíve never been very susceptible to peer pressure. Fashion trends will come and go without inspiring me to acquire a single new article of clothing. In an era where popular music is commercially distributed in only two formats, CDs and MP3s, I have stubbornly continued to favour my tape deck, despite the vastly inferior audio quality, the slow and imprecise means of changing tracks, and the fact that itís now virtually impossible to purchase an audio cassette for anything recorded within the last five years.
Above: Iíve never been very fashion-conscious, but I do seem to have a bit of a prosthetic ear fetish
By the turn of the millennium, mobile phones had become so prevalent that a 12-year-old was more likely than not to have one of their own, yet I still wasnít sold on the cell. Even as I drove around in a 15-year-old bucket of bolts on thousand kilometre road trips, late at night and in the middle of the winter, I nevertheless refused to go wireless.
All of which is to say, Iíve never been one to simply go with the flow, no matter how many others might happen to be headed in that direction.
Why did I have such an aversion to Air Miles? Several reasons, I suppose. One is the somewhat paranoid but probably well-founded fear I had that the card would be used to track and later exploit all of my spending patterns and product preferences. I could easily imagine a group of savvy telemarketers using this sensitive information to identify and prey upon my profound weakness for pasta, cereal, and 2% milk.
On the other hand, I realize that such information may have already been obtained by third parties monitoring my internet activity. It seems eminently possible that internet research that I recently undertook in order to complete Satiric Press articles about Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden may have caused the authorities to place me on a list of possible AlíQaeda operatives.
Above: By downloading this photo, have I become a terror suspect?
Another reason I resisted the pressure exerted upon me to get an Air Miles card is that the payoff hardly made it seem worth the effort. The number of Air Miles accumulated from a single order of groceries was negligible compared to the number theoretically required to pay for a pair of round-trip tickets from Toronto to Buffalo, let alone a trip to Hawaii.
Part of it may have just been sheer stubbornness on my part. The more people tried to convince me that I really ought to have an Air Miles card, the more determined I became not to acquire one. And so I didnít.
However, over the last several years, I began to notice a substantial increase in the number of shoppers who had Air Miles cards, and in the number of retailers who asked for them as a matter of course. Particularly, in the local supermarket where I purchase most of my groceries, the cashier has never failed to ask me for an Air Miles card. Never! Even when the store is at its busiest, and there are half a dozen impatient customers waiting behind me. Even when itís the middle of the night and the cashier and I are the only people in the store. Itís almost as if they believe that they are under constant surveillance and will be severely reprimanded if they ever fail to ask for the card.
Above: The Air Miles card has a larger than life quality to it
When I declined to produce an Air Miles card, the cashier invariably assumed that I had merely misplaced my card. When I occasionally made the mistake of explaining that I neither had nor wanted such a card, they usually looked as me with such utter, unrestrained contempt, youíd think I had just told them that Iím an American citizen.
In spite of such awkward moments, for years I persevered in my Air Miles abstinence. The first five hundred times I was asked for an Air Miles card, I politely dismissed such inquiries without hesitation.
The next few hundred times, it started to become quite irritating, but I managed to maintain my Air Miles-free lifestyle.
By the thousandth time, I was quickly losing both my patience and my resolve. The interminable requests for that wretched card were becoming unbearable, and I was rapidly approaching the point at which Iíd do or say just about anything to make it stop. I donít think itís an exaggeration to characterize it as a form of brainwashing that Iím certain would be just as effective if perpetrated upon prospective cult members or prisoners of war rather than an unsuspecting grocery store customer like myself.
Above: ďYouíre not a soldier, youíre an errand boy, sent by a grocery clerk to pick up a bill!Ē
This scenario reminded me of an episode from the syndicated television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the episode, Starship Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is captured by a hostile alien race known as the Cardassians. For days, Picard is savagely beaten by his captors, but is told that the torture would immediately cease if he simply acknowledges that there are five lights emanating from one of the walls of his cell, when it is clear that there are in fact only four lights. Picard refuses to make this spirit-crushing concession, and so the beatings continue until he is rescued. After being returned to his ship, Picard admits to a colleague that he ultimately became so desperate for the agony to end that he actually saw five lights.
After being asked more than a thousand times to produce an Air Miles card, I too saw the imaginary light. I become convinced that the card was not just another piece of plastic to carry around in my wallet, but rather it was an indispensable capitalist tool that I simply had to have on my person at all times. Now, all of my purchases revolve around my compulsion to maximize the accumulation of Air Miles. I feel obliged to purchase any food item that will give me a few precious ďbonusĒ Air Miles, even if itís food that I would otherwise consider disgusting and inedible.
While itís with some sadness that I realize Iíve now become the very thing I was once so determined to avoid becoming Ė a full-blown Air Miles junkie Ė I take some comfort in the notion that if I channel all of my spending through that magical card for the next five to ten years, I may yet be able to take that dream trip to Buffalo.
Above: I chose not to choose life. Instead, I chose Air Miles.