Just look what I got in the mail the other day! That scribbling on the bottom left is my kid using my mail as a scratch pad. Can't blame him. He's only 20.
Like anybody who's been away from the beach too long, I was excited.
I got very worked up. Liberated. White sands, warm seas, and ocean breezes beckoned. The only think better than a beach holiday is a cruise, and Delta doesn't to water in the normal course of business. They do their best to avoid it and, thankfully, they have a pretty good record of it so far. And Delta, of all the airlines still standing, still has some semblance of brand identity. I've never had a bad experience on Delta. Then I remembered that I don't really have that much experience flying with them. In fact, the last time I flew Delta was in the '80s or '90s. Back when you didn't have to be on the beach to get a free drink.
Just check out the flip side of that card:
Home Sweet Home
Pay no attention to that fine print in the bottom left. I did. And, yes, I blotted out my address so none of you crazies will stake out my home. That won't stop hordes of you from descending on the Nation's capital for whatever whacky thing is on your mind - including you damn Phillies fans, who stroll in here and get your butts kicked every time the Nationals take you on in their home park. Just stay away from NE.
Putting all of that aside for a moment, just look at this thing. Wouldja just look at it?
It's custom-designed to appeal to the baser instincts of idiots. Like me.
First, there's that Delta reference pasted boldly at the top of the top of the card. Wow! A card from Delta!
And my name is actually spelled right. Both of them. So somebody worked pretty hard to reach me. Even people I owe money to can't get the spelling of my name right. I still pay them, though.
Then, read the very first sentence. "You've been selected to receive . . . " What more need be said? I'm among the selected. Just as I suspected.
OK, so I'm not a complete idiot. I knew that there would be some price to pay. I figured I'd have to listen to some hardcore time-share sales pitch. The kind where they pair you up with some miserable soul who will not let you leave without making sure you know that without my sale he is at risk of losing his home, his marriage, his inheritance - that without my contribution to his well-being he will be searching for a bed at the old Occupy DC encampment. I've been through that before and I know how dispiriting it is. I expected to walk out of the place with a complete emotional thrashing. Oh well. The warm sands were waiting.
So I resolved to put my reservations, such as they were, aside. I picked up the phone the next morning and made the call that idiots everywhere are destined to make. In fact, I'm such an idiot that I tried that night. They weren't there. That should have been a tip-off. Delta never sleeps.
When I finally got through, it was a typical call-center operation - nothing like what I imagined Delta to be. But I persevered. The guy tells me that, yes, I was among the chosen few and that if I would just drag my sorry ass over to Georgetown for a 90 minute sales pitch they would honor their end of the deal. Then he said something about "qualifying" me, which I didn't quite understand since I figured they had already been through all that. Plus I was thinking about what a drag it would be to get over to Georgetown just to listen to them make me feel like a cheap, vindictive bastard. So I told him I would get back to him, and I really intended to do that.
Then I talked to an attorney friend of mine, who burst my bubble with one simple question. "Does it say the word 'free' on that card anywhere?"
And that's when I realized that I'm an idiot. Or I've been away from the beach too long, which also makes me an idiot.