by Art Shay
Vladimir: (to Pozzo) Tell him to think.
Pozzo: He can't think without his hat.
Vladimir: (to Estragon) Give him his hat.
Estragon: Me! After what he did to me! Never!
Vladimir: I'll give it to him. (He does not move.)
Estragon: (to Pozzo) Tell him to go and fetch it.
Pozzo: It's better to give it to him.
Vladimir: I'll give it to him.
He tenders it at arm's length to Lucky, who does not move.
Pozzo: You must put it on his head.
Samuel Beckett, Introduction to Waiting for Godot, 1954
(Swans - May 3, 2010) Me: I've been impatiently waiting for a spare battery for my new Nikon. I sent PayPal $18.05. They bollixed my street address. I e-mailed the correction. "You got my address wrong. Left out the street. It's XXX Indian Hill Road, etc."
PayPal: You sent a payment of $18.05 USD to Chen Li. This charge will appear on your credit card statement as payment to PAYPAL *ECOMMERCEBA Merchant Information Chen Li. Payment @ power-battery.org. Instructions to merchant. None provided. Shipping information. Arthur Shay, XXX Road, Deerfield, IL, 60015 United States. Shipping Method. Not specified.
PayPal or Chen Li, from his little apartment/battery den in China, sent me my receipt number 4641-2786 and eight more numbers. Plus the newsflash unasked for: "No need to type your information. Your personal and financial information is securely stored and never shared with merchants when you pay." I sorta didn't trust Chen Li, so that was reassuring. "Questions: Visit the Help Center at: www.paypal.com/help... Please do not reply to this e-mail. This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response."
At the PayPal Center I got the choice of asking other PayPal members and finding answers to my questions, or "Ask Sarah." "Email us," or "Speak to Us."
I tried to do the latter -- but PayPal doesn't list a phone number. What the hell! I liked the name Sarah. I have a terrific niece named Sarah who edited some of those instructions-for-idiots books. And a dear old Aunt Sarah, but she was kind of nervous -- driven that way, everyone said, by her husband, the flakier Uncle Jake. He used to boast about his WWI service, Mesdemoiselles from Armentiers, fierce trench battles with the hated Boche. Stuff like that. Then I found out from an ancient comrade-in-arms of his that he'd spent his entire month in Europe until the Armistice sitting in the enlisted men's lounge of the SS Pettigrew, playing poker and winning enough to open a tailor shop when he made it back, unscarred to New York, where he marched in the Victory Parade with a slight limp brought on, apparently, by plantar fasciitis complicating his athlete's foot, then virulent in the ship-borne Infantry.
Shapely, pretty Sarah appeared on my screen wearing a green jacket on a white blouse, left hand thoughtfully cradling a slightly prognathous chin.
One of her first screens instructed me in the changing of my address. I did this twice and got another screen asking me for my second address. But Sarah refused to relinquish her hold on my wrong address. It kept popping up like a frisky puppy some villain is trying to drown in a bathtub.
The following is a transcript:
Me: I don't want to change my name, I merely want to correct your mistake with my address which I've used successfully for 52 years.
Sarah-PayPal: I'm afraid I don't understand your question. Can you ask it more simply?
Me: You goofed my address. Please correct it.
Sarah-Paypal: Let me know if there's anything else I can do for you.
Me: You may use the above record of your assistance to me in ads to educate other potential users of PayPal.
Sarah-PayPal: I don't know exactly what you mean. Can you be a little more specific about the issue?
Me: I know you're a machine but alas, you're a dumb machine.
Sarah-PayPal: Please don't use that kind of inappropriate language. Tell me about your PayPal issue and I'll do my best to help you.
Me: Sorry I called you dumb. I should have said "street-address-challenged." Please try to correct my address so my merchandise won't be sent by Chen Li to some collusive stranger possibly on his own continent.
Sarah-PayPal: I don't know exactly what you mean. Could you be a little more specific about the issue? Let me know if there's anything more I can do for you.
Me: Please show this to the presumably intelligent founder of PayPal. He may be interested.
Sarah PayPal: Was this helpful?
Me: No, it was not helpful.
Sarah PayPal: How can I help you?
There were several more screens. Like Samuel Beckett's Krapp playing his last tape I was getting weary, so I paged through Sarah's earliest communications and found one that might have obviated my entire second act.
Sarah had said disarmingly enough for a machine: "Good morning -- you're an early riser!" This disarmed me, I began to wonder whether they had a greeting for night owls like, "My you're up pretty late to be bothering PayPal..." But while wondering about this I must have missed Sarah's importuning me to "simply click the appropriate link to adjust your account information." Followed by "Was the information I gave you helpful?" And onto the merry-go-round -- because I don't know doodly about "appropriate links" or even inappropriate ones. I just wanted them to use the address I had carefully adumbrated for them when I nervously trusted them with my credit card numbers.
My Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jake had two fine, intelligent children -- one becoming a doctor with a degree of fame in some uncommon disease.
Samuel Beckett went on to write Endgame. I've gone on to buy another spare battery overpriced at Best Buy just in case Sarah gets tired of waiting for me to find then click that appropriate link.
[ed. See also, Succumbing To PayPal, by Gilles d'Aymery, Swans, November 2, 2009.]
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About the Author
Art Shay is the author-photographer of more than fifty books, the former staff Washington correspondent for Time-Life and Life Bureau Chief in San Francisco. Shay has had 25,000 published pictures including 1,050 covers of magazines, books, and annual reports for such clients as Ford, 3M, National Can, Motorola and ABC-TV. His pictures hang in the National Portrait Gallery (Heffner, Durocher, Robert Crumb) in the Chicago Art Institute. His work is currently exhibited at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art (through June 29, 2008) following an exhibition at the Gallerie Albert Loeb in Paris, France. The April 2008 issue of North Shore magazine (Chicago) says that "his pictures have the psychology of Dostoevsky, the realism of Hemingway, and the metaphor of Melville... He's in the Pantheon of great photographers such as Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Strand, and Stieglitz." The Daily Herald (Chicago suburban) of May 5, 2008, called him "the pre-eminent photojournalist of the 20th century..." (back)