About a year ago, I said something in this space to the effect that "I seem utterly to lack a sense of entitlement." Singular. Not to be confused with "entitlements", which may be defined as "cash or in-kind payments to (or on behalf of) individuals that are not contractually linked to payments or services received by the government in return." I do have a sense of those, inasmuch as I don't anticipate ever collecting any in cash, and I'm not sure the minor tax breaks I get on employee benefits really qualify as "in-kind payments." Maybe the Veterans Administration can be persuaded to bury me with my DD 214.

On a more metaphysical (or, at least, less mercenary) level, I don't automatically assume that I have X coming to me by dint of Y; it has always seemed to me that my only legitimate and unassailable birthright is death. And this, I suspect, is not a commonly-held belief; on the contrary, the world seems to be largely filled with people who think that on the basis of some Y or other, they deserve all the X they can get.

At 42nd and Treadmill, a surprisingly high percentage of our customers resist the idea that they should have to pay for services in something resembling a timely manner, and not a few of them are possessed of the notion that so long as the order is placed on time, it shouldn't matter to us whether they actually have any money or not; eventually they'll make good, and "Don't you trust me?" Well, no, not if you're in the habit of proffering a maxed-out MasterCard week after week and ignoring the bevy of NastyGrams" we keep sending. Just once, I'd like to see someone threaten to take his goddamn business elsewhere, just so I can wave goodbye.

These nogoodniks, however, barely cover the tip of the iceberg. One particularly annoying bunch clutters up automotive message boards. Automotive warranties run generally three or four years and/or some mileage limitation; a few brands exceed this, but most don't. (Emissions equipment is covered separately at the behest of the Feds.) I've spent enough time in this environment to have seen literally hundreds of iterations of the following exchange:

"The transmission in my Bulgemobile is going out, and the dealer wants $3000 to replace it! What can I do about it?"

"How many miles on it?"

"Seventy-two thousand."

"The warranty is for three years or 50,000 miles. I suggest you write a check for $3000, or go someplace other than the dealer."

"But that's not right! I shouldn't have to pay that kind of money!"

No, of course not. Bulgemobile Motor Division of Generic Motors Corporation only says that the warranty is three years or 50,000 miles to meet Magnuson-Moss requirements; people like you are entitled to free fixes forever. (I think I actually said this to someone once, in about four times the number of words, and it was greeted with silence worthy of Stonehenge.)

Besides, you know as well as I do that our Bulgey owner never once set foot in the dealership from the moment he drove away from the prep area; he goes through the line at Spee-D-Loob once a year, whether the car needs it or not, and he believes that the purpose of the little engine-shaped warning light on the instrument panel is to provide dealerships with working capital. (At 42,000 miles, he asked how to turn the light off; when told that he should have the codes pulled and the indicated malfunctions repaired, he responded as though he'd been asked to donate a kidney.)

The infinite perversity of mankind ensures there will be an infinity of variations on these themes; I'm sure you've encountered a few yourself. And while there's never enough humility to go around, I figure there's a lot to be said for the Carol Leifer approach: "If a day goes by and I haven't been slain," she once said of living in New York, "I'm happy."

The Vent

24 January 2003

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 Copyright © 2003 by Charles G. Hill