My late and ex husband, who served in the Korean conflict — a good ways from the front, as a company clerk, but let’s say that I married Radar O’Reilly — used to remark that certain forms of Army slang would be a good barometer for sleuthing out foreign infiltrators: “We all knew, for example, what it meant to have the chaplain punch your TS card.” (TS stands for Tough Shit, and referred to the various personal vicissitudes that might lead one to seek out a chaplain, like straying wives or dying relatives.)
These days the only cards I routinely have punched, or otherwise manhandled in any way, are credit cards, and the sons of bitches that issue them periodically supply me with a new card whether I want one or not, requiring me to call some 1-800 number and get the thing “activated” before it can be used. Because I have a couple of backup accounts active in case, say, someone swipes my everyday credit card and forces me to can my main account, I find that those replacement cards languish in my tickler file for weeks, nay months, before I do anything about them.
Why? Because if I call 1-800-ACTIVATE-ME, some underpaid outsourceur in Bangalore or Bombay is guaranteed to be on the line in a jiffy, trying to sell me an agreement that will cover my minimum if I’m disabled or set up a PIN so I can get cash with my card (at a handsome interest rate) or some similar damn thing. And God love ’em, the wallahs on the Indian subcontinent speak glossier more perfect English than anyone I meet on the street in the Nation’s Capital, but with such a heavy accent that I can’t quite tell what they’re suggesting I agree to, so the entire operation is a hardship and a misery to the spirit, and can’t a body do business without being hectored at every turn to sign a contract of some kind?
The most difficult thing about this, honest Injun, is that I really appreciate the fact that these headphone-wearing folk in Bangalore treat my own language with such genial respect, and therefore feel compelled to respond to their scripted importunities with some level of politeness. A heroic amount of restraint is required. It can take me months to screw myself up to it.
Oh well. Tough Shit.
Where is the chaplain when you need him?