The man on the sidewalk, reclining in his folding chair but clearly not relaxed, held a sign in his hands detailing the dealerships many sins against him. He'd been cheated, you see, and evidently had achieved no personal satisfaction in his wranglings with the car dealership. Clearly frustrated, angry, and determined, he sat and waved his sign at passing traffic, in what was an act of near futility in the broiling sun.
"Whoa, what do you suppose they did to him?" my husband asked.
"No idea, but that is one honked off car owner." I replied, and we went on our way.
It is funny how that image stuck in my mind all these years because it's been more than ten years since I saw that truly ticked off customer, trying to exact his small act of revenge. Searching for his small portion of justice.
Oh what a change a decade has brought. There are a lot of articles, blogs and lists musing about what the first decade of this century has contained, but I think the biggest among them is that the little guy is no longer quite so little. No more is there little recourse. If an entity does us wrong, we can talk about it, at length, here on what used to be known as the Information Highway.
Today that man wouldn't take up magic markers, and poster board, risking skin cancer and dehydration, he'd jump on the internet, and he'd share his tale of woe with anyone who cared to look. A simple search using the dealership's name would turn up a long list of a people, venting their spleens.
The internet has brought us much, and it has changed customer service. Or at least it should have but some companies have been slow to catch on and are having a bit of trouble keeping up. United Airlines probably took the most famous face-plant of 2009 in terms of addressing customer concerns when they not only broke a guitar belonging to the lead singer of The Sons of Maxwell, they decided rather famously to not make restitution.
This led to this much watched video on Youtube which at the present time has over 7 million hits on it, and this is not the only posting of that video:
United Airlines no doubt ended up taking the "no publicity is bad publicity" stance but that catchy little tune went viral and was seen across the globe. Not exactly the best association for customers to have. In days gone by the singer might have had to take to a lawn chair on a public sidewalk to voice his complaints, now a world of possibility exists when someone, or some company has done us wrong.
A friend on the internet mentioned watching the 1979 movie Friendly Fire and how heart breaking it was. I remember it well, a heartbroken mother struggles to find answers about her son's death, and is stonewalled at every turn. She continues to do battle relentlessly and eventually learns the truth, but just imagine this situation today, with every electronic media service picking up the story.
It wouldn't change the tragic nature, but we no longer live in a world where things can flourish in the dark. We aren't as helpless and alone. We can be better informed about the entire world around us with just a few clicks.
In the mid-1960s, my mother, newly transplanted from Scotland, drove herself almost to distraction searching for "Corn Flour" in the wilds of Indiana as my father filled in for a friend on sabbatical from Purdue. My mother loathed Indiana and thought she was going to die of homesickness the entire time she was there. Scotland seemed a million miles away, and she couldn't even find a decent cup of tea. Corn Flour turned out to be cornstarch, by the way, but it took her years to find that out.
Today she'd be able to comparison shop for Bird's Custard rather than crying into her terrible cup of Indiana brewed tea over the scarcity of it.
I've been on the internet since the mid-1990s, back when we all spoke baud fluently and if you announced that you'd just bought a "28-8" it was considered a scorching connection, although hardly any servers could handle one so rapid.
In the last decade, insomnia ceased to be the most isolating feeling any of us can have. Can't sleep? Don't worry, someone across the world is likely up, and even if they aren't there is a bottomless supply of material at our fingertips.
I've seen so many blog posts, articles and lists pondering the decade. They're all very interesting, and I've enjoyed them greatly, but sometimes I think we've become immune to the fact that, thanks to the internet, our world is only as small as we choose to make it. The internet age really dawned in the 90s, but in the past ten years, it has become a mainstay in many a household.
Not feeling well? Type in your symptoms, and there are answers at your fingertips. We no longer need rely solely on the diagnosis of a local sawbones, we are empowered.
Much has been made of the fact that people in Iran twittered their way through an uprising, and attempts by a repressive government to silence the voice of a people failed.
The age of wonder. The age of an existence with boundaries that we define for ourselves. You can audit high level classes from a seated position in your living room these days. That is an everyday occurrence. We can be exposed to so much, some of it bad, some of it strange, but much of it highly informative.
I ran across something amusing in the journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of the sets of books I read in the last ten years. Rather famously she described Anne Shirley as having Titian hair, a fact that became rather central in a lawsuit against her publishers. You see, Montgomery had only ever read the term, she had no idea what shade of red she was describing when she used it. Now, with some decent typing skills, and a handy search engine we can all know what Titian hair looks like. We need only form a question in our minds to be within seconds of finding a multitude of answers.
It's been a long ten years, and sticklers for accuracy will say that the new decade does not begin until 2011 has dawned. When I think of what happened in the past ten years, I think about how much I know about what has happened in those ten years.
Including the fact that if United breaks a Taylor guitar people across the globe can end up knowing about it.
2009 was a disappointing year in terms of what wasn't accomplished, but how much I know about that is nothing short of a technological miracle. We are only as limited now as we choose to be, in what we know.
When historians look back, I don't think they'll have any difficulty in spotting the progress we made. Perhaps we don't because we are living that advancement. Having it become our norm, taking our expansion for granted, and that is a wondrous thing.
A decade of wonder in which the little guy found a strong voice, and in some cases sang a catchy tune.