Be afraid, be very afraid

There’s so much fear lately. This isn’t really new, but I’ve been hit by it twice in the past few days. The problem is that with fear comes distrust, and with distrust comes mistreatment.

During a very fun vacation at Disneyland (which I shall blog about later), my girlfriend lost her wallet, which contained her ID. She was going to take Amtrak back home from my place, but of course, you need a photo ID to get on the train or on the buses. This wasn’t that much of a surprise, I guess, but we started wondering what would happen if a person got mugged far from home and needed to find a way back — plane, bus, or train. Without ID, you’re stuck! I called up Amtrak and explained the situation, and asked if there were any options. Nope. The guy on the phone said that “with all the terrorist attacks in the United States nowadays,” photo ID is required.

I’ve heard this from others too. People are under this impression that we’re under seige 24 hours every day. I guess that’s what they’re supposed to think, given how the news depicts things, and our wonderful “You’re in danger!” color system.

“Terrorist” has become a catch-all phrase. If we still had a major threat of pirates (the sea kind, not the software and media kind), we would probably be calling them aquaterrorists.

The second incident was today when, after a very long day full of typical crappy Monday things (it’s surrogate Monday, due to Monday being a holiday), I decided to go to Fry’s to pick up a few things. Now, I ended up walking home today from work, and I keep my laptop in a backpack, so I entered Fry’s with the backpack on. I didn’t really think about it at the time, though. One of the employees stopped me as I was walking through one of the aisles, which is to be expected. They’re of course worried about someone stealing something. What I was upset about was how they treated me. I ended up in the middle of the front of the store, where everybody was walking through. They looked in my backpack and had me take out my laptop and show it to them.

I wasn’t too upset at this point, but then another employee came by and, with a less than friendly tone of voice, demanded to know what I was doing in Fry’s with a laptop. I explained that I had just walked in from work and stopped there on my way home. His response was “uhh huhh..” in that “Yeah, right” tone. He told me he’ll need to take the backpack. I asked where it’s going to be put, and they said “somewhere safe.” I asked where. He repeated himself: “Somewhere safe.” I asked where again. He finally told me that it’ll be behind the counter. I said, “The laptop is expensive and it’s my primary work computer. I want to make sure it’ll be taken care of.” He got a bit agitated at this point.

So, they stuck the backpack right behind the counter, where really, anybody could get it. I walked around for a few minutes and decided not to bother giving them my money today. When I went to pick up my backpack, the second guy gave me this look like, “Yeah, knew you’d be back so soon.” I picked up the backpack and left. The way they handled it was just embarrassing. Pulling me off to the side and talking to me like I was a person, rather than talking loudly and accusingly in the middle of a crowd, would have been fine. I’m now making those purchases at newegg. Fry’s lost a sale because two of their employees couldn’t treat me civily.

Fear is natural, and everybody fears something. The problem is when people let fear control what they assume of a certain person or class of people. And that’s something that’s now all too common in this day of “Don’t cross the street alone, the terrorists will run you over in their car.”

6 thoughts on “Be afraid, be very afraid

  1. Treating customers like criminals is policy at Fry’s. At least the one here in Portland, OR where they search everyone’s bags as you leave.

    Of course, you don’t have to submit to these searches (just because you’re on someone’s property doesn’t give them a right to a non-consensual search) and if you politely decline, they merely say “have a nice day!” (they know they have no right to a non-consensual search).

    I’m not sure what would’ve happened if you would’ve refused to have your backpack search, though. It’s possible they would’ve made an even LARGER scene and trespassed you from the store.

    They’re really the only store I know that makes a habit of treating every single person that walks through their doors as a criminal. They can only get away with it because their prices are so cheap, but I refuse to shop there anymore, too.

  2. Bummer dude, time to move?

    Just joking about the move thing, but all the things I hear about life in the states today I am really really glad to live in the south pacific.

    It’s a shame, the USA used to be somethnig to be admired, land of the free. You guys seem to have almost no freedom now, sounds very much like what I immagined the USSR to be like in the 80’s…

  3. Unbelievable! Looks like the Terrorists totally won their game in the US. “Gods own country” now lives in terror – what else could a Terrorist want?

  4. To understand the kind of ambient paranoia that plagues the US, watch the movie “Bowling for Columbine”.

    First comment talks about Fry’s having cheap prices. That is an illusion. I now go at Fry’s only to see and physically try various models, then I buy online (pricegrabber, ebay, …). On average, I pay 30% less than at Fry’s.

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