Every morning, after having an espresso and a chocolate croissant, I was off for a walk in the quiet and scenic landscape of the Dordogne Valley just as the sun was barely beginning to light up that part of the world.
|Morning at Carennac|
We didn't have one of those cards. It seemed like we were stuck.
A guy, about in his late twenties, was filling up at the adjacent pump.
"I am going to ask him whether he can pay for us on his card and I will pay him the cash" J whispered as she walked towards him.
I thought about the French stereotypes. Won't speak in English even when they know the language. Will not want to help an American who can't speak French. Will look down upon us.
"Oui, oui" I heard him say. And then in English too, for a good measure, "no problems."
Stereotypes are horrendous caricatures.
After all those years, a couple of months ago, I got in the mail credit cards with chips in them. Finally! But, it has a magnetic stripe as well. So, I have been swiping the card everywhere as before.
A few days back, I was in the grocery store when I noticed that the machine had an option for the chip technology too. Like a kid excited about the new toy, I eagerly placed it in that designated slot. I wondered how the new technology will respond at the register.
"It doesn't work" the clerk said.
She smiled, and added, "I bet the day Whole Foods comes to town, they will update all these machines in a hurry. Because Whole Foods will have it and we will have to keep up with the competition."
All those hardcore left of center people conveniently forget how the conveniences of the lives that we lead pretty much resulted from competition in the marketplace. Everybody seems to be trying the hardest to build that metaphorical better mousetrap so that they can get rich--and, in the process, the rest of us have better television, smartphones, planes, cars, ... Without that competition to build a better mousetrap, well, the local grocery store has no incentive to upgrade their point-of-sale machines, right?
Of course, we could always argue whether we really need better television, smartphones, planes, cars, etc., when, for instance, there are hundreds of millions who are trapped in acute poverty, or when millions suffer from illnesses like malaria, or when India's millions have no place to shit but in the open. But, all those are different discussions from this one which is about competition delivering miracles in the form of various conveniences and gadgets, don't you think?
As far as I am concerned, my problem is this: I now have credit cards that will work in France, but don't have money to get there! It is tempting to charge the card and enjoy, if it were not for the unfortunate reality that people are not competing to pay my bills ;)