A Change of Leeches

Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Bierce

That I should give my hand, or bend my neck, or uncover my head to any man in mere homage to, or recognition of, his office, great or small, is to me simply inconceivable. These tricks of servility with the softened names are the vestiges of an involuntary allegiance to power extraneous to the performer. They represent in our American life obedience and propitiation in their most primitive and odious forms. The man who speaks of them as manifestations of a proper respect for “the President’s great office” is either a rogue, a dupe or a journalist. They come to us out of a fascinating but terrible past as survivals of servitude. They speak a various language of oppression and the superstition of man-worship; they carry forward the traditions of the sceptre and the lash. Through the plaudits of the people may be heard always the faint, far cry of the beaten slave.

Respect? Respect the good. Respect the wise. Let the President look to it that he belongs to one of these classes. His going about the country in gorgeous state and barbaric splendor as the guest of a thieving corporation, but at our expense—shining and dining and swining—unsouling himself of clotted nonsense in pickled platitudes calculated for the meridian of Coon Hollow, Indiana, but ingeniously adapted to each water tank on the line of his absurd “progress,” does not prove it, and the presumption of his “great office” is against him.

Can you not see, poor misguided “fellow citizens,” how you permit your political taskmasters to forge leg-chains of your follies and load you down with them? Will nothing teach you that all this fuss-and-feathers, all this ceremony, all this official gorgeousness and brass-banding, this “manifestation of a proper respect for the nation’s head” has no decent place in American life and American politics? Will no experience open your stupid eyes to the fact that these shows are but absurd imitations of royalty, to hold you silly while you are plundered by the managers of the performance?—that while you toss your greasy caps in air and sustain them by the ascending current of your senseless hurrahs the programmers are going through your blessed pockets and exploiting your holy dollars? No; you feel secure; power is of the People, and you can effect a change of robbers every four years. Inestimable privilege—to pull off the glutted leech and attach the lean one!—Ambrose Bierce, Antepenultimata (1912)

I Get Scammed

Doesn’t Look Like a Crime Scene, Does It?

Doesn’t Look Like a Crime Scene, Does It?

If I haven’t posted the last couple of days, it’s because Martine and I took the weekend off and drove to Santa Barbara. We were staying at the idyllic-looking Marina Beach Motel on Bath Street right near the coast in Santa Barbara. It was an ideal location, midway between the marina and Stearns Wharf with their seafood eateries.

Unfortunately, Martine is still not feeling up to par with the traveling pains around her back and shoulder blades (fibromyalgia?). She got tired quickly, and she wasn’t able to sleep comfortably on the king-sized bed in the motel because the mattress was too mushy for her. Also, she was still too exhausted to do much walking at the tourist attractions we visited, about which you will be hearing over the next few days.

More seriously, last night as I was dozing off in the motel room, I received a phone call purportedly from the front desk. It was one “Stacy Anderson” to tell me that the registration records for eighteen rooms in the motel had been lost because of a computer glitch, and would I dictate the relevant info to her over the phone? Because I was groggy and my critical faculties were not operating at par, I complied—including giving “Stacy” my credit card info.

As Bugs Bunny, would say, “Whatta maroon!” Just after I gave this info, I was given an 8-digit “confirmation number” (94184437) and told that I would get 40% off my bill for helping them out. It was at that point that I said the big “Uh oh!” and threw my clothes on.

Naturally, the night crew, who were sitting around sharing a pizza, had no idea of who “Stacy Anderson” was, nor had they called, nor was there anything wrong with their computer. I ran back to my room, picked up my cell phone, and called U.S. Bank to report a credit card fraud. Sure enough, they had already run up a $320 charge with Access Secure Deposits, which I denied having initiated. My credit card was promptly canceled, and I scissored it and distributed the pieces across a wide swath of Southern California.

If you are staying at a hotel or motel, you would do well to distrust any communications over the land line telephone in your room. If it is from the “front desk,” tello them you’ll be right there—and hang up! Don’t be a fool like me.