Corporations are people. Everybody knows it. The fourteenth amendment says so, kind of. In fact I was hanging out with a certain fellow last week, a certain orange logo home improvement superstore. Let’s call him Poe Method. We went out drinking. Sloppy drunk, Mr. Method is. His ass crack is always showing, first of all, a feature common to his profession. There hasn’t been a pair of pants invented that can cover it. He is awkward, socially. His tedious pickup line to women is, “I’ve got wood. And I’m open twenty-four hours a day, at certain locations, some restrictions apply, void where prohibited. Did I mention I’ve got wood.” No woman will sit within ten feet of him. I’m guilty by association. Quasimodo and John “The Elephant Man” Merrick have better chances of scoring at a bar than we do. Good old Poe assures me he can help me fix anything at my house, although when I’m wandering around his place I can never find what I’m looking for, and his posse of helpers always seems to be on break. Even so he is constantly inviting me over, tempting me with reduced prices, limited time offers and stuff I absolutely can’t live without, whether I know it or not.
The cornerstone of his business is loyalty. Poe Method loves frequent customers. A lot of his friends, other corporations themselves, even have programs in place to ensure the maximum amount of repeat business. Poe may have one too. I don’t know. I’m leery about giving my contact information to marketing concerns. They are a little too eager to try and convince me that they aren’t huge, monster business enterprises but a trusted and reliable buddy, a friend in times of need, a shoulder to lean on. Aristotle once said, “He who has many friends has none.” He said it before he died, though, and since he died he hasn’t said much of anything. Corporations used to dismiss Aristotle’s idea, saying the more friends the better. “Not only are us corporations people, we are people persons.” That seems to be changing, though. Like a lot of people out there, corporations love to hang out with rich people, and find themselves better for it. So they are changing their loyalty programs to weed out the cheapskates. It’s no longer about how often they see their friends. It’s about how much money their friends spend on them. Which makes sense. After all, the happiest and most harmonious of relationships are always based on money. Nobody who has ever married for money has ever gotten divorced, as far as I know.
One of the big pioneers in the “friends are better friends when they spend money” philosophy is a certain airline named after a certain letter of the Greek alphabet. We’ll call him Omicron Airlines. Omicron has a funny relationship with his best friends. They all hate him and bitch about him constantly while they throw buckets of money at him. Omicron refers to his best friends as “Diamonds,” which, he confided to me, means they are really chunks of compressed charcoal up the ass of a crushed dinosaur. “Which when you think about it, is basically the same thing.” His best friends can’t stand him. He’s always running late, they say. He tends to break down. He cancels on them without warning. He leaves them stranded in, say, Detroit. He seats them next to fat people with breathing issues. He is so pukingly condescending in his kindness that he can drive frequent fliers and rednecks into fits of homicidal rage. Still, his Diamonds can’t live without him. They have invested years with him. Their relationship is so hostile it makes Ike and Tina Turner look like Ma and Pa Kettle. After all of the drama, though, things have really gotten bitter. Omicron has changed his friend policy to encourage more money spent, instead of just seeing the same old faces day in and day out. Frequency is for a radio, he says. If the Diamonds want to stay Diamonds they need to pony up, or be relegated to Gold, Silver, Tin, Lead or some lesser metal in the scrap heap.
Not to be outdone, there is a certain coffee chain named after a certain chief mate of a certain doomed sailing vessel helmed by a certain captain from a certain novel about a certain whale. Let’s call him, oh I don’t know, Ahab. Ahab’s a jittery bastard. He is always hopped up on caffeine. He paces constantly, and is obsessed with only one thing. Not a big blanched leviathan, as it turns out. He is obsessed with how to get rid of the broke and penniless writers and slackers sitting around his place all day drinking discounted refills of plain old coffee. Instead he wants the handsome executives dropping by, five or six times a day for fancy, frothy, frapping fixatives. The kind that cost like eight bucks and have trademarked names designed by leading marketing firms and resemble an actual coffee the way beef wellington resembles a living cow. A caffeine addict must now show his or her love by buying more. Loitering is for lepers. Ahab will in turn drop a few free frapps for his friends, the real ones, the ones with disposable cash. The turds can go grind their beans and their teeth at home.
I stopped in at this dive bar the other day, privately owned, no corporate funny business. The place is a shit hole, downtown, across the street from the jail. I was waiting on a friend who had to go clear up some charges at the county courthouse. He is a frequent customer of the prison system, and would definitely benefit from some type of loyalty program there. “Get four drunk and disorderly offenses and the fifth one is on us!” The bar across the street is a good place to await a verdict. It sits in between some bail bond offices and a pawn shop. I went in and sat down. The bartender was mistrustful of me, a new face. She did her best to pretend I wasn’t there.
“This place is cool,” I said.
“Nobody asked you,” she said.
“Do you want to be friends?” I said.
“Go fuck yourself,” she said.
The honesty was refreshing.
More Alembics to come.