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Vanya’s Baby Boomer Rant and Mine

After 2+ hours of updating a credit card

Published in ChicagoNow, July 14, 2015

“WE USED TO LICK POSTAGE STAMPS BACK THEN. Obviously, you’ve never heard of that. They didn’t just peel off ready made with sticky stuff on the back ¬ the sticky stuff had to be triggered by your wet tongue. It took time.”

These words are part of a brilliant monologue in the play currently at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang. Vanya explodes in irritation at Spike, a much younger man who is multitasking and half listening to Vanya’s play while he texts and checks his Twitter feed.

The monologue really hit home with the Baby Boomer members of the audience. Yes, I identify myself with this crowd. I try my best to keep up with newness but share Vanya’s outrage about how many of the changes in my lifetime have made life more complicated and anxiety-ridden. Like Vanya, I think some of this change is making us a less cohesive and caring society.

Here is Vanya’s Top Ten List of things he misses from the 50’s:

  1. Thank you notes

  2. Hand written letters

  3. Doing one thing at a time

  4. Three rather than 785 television channels

  5. News that is objective, not tailored to what people already think

  6. Entertainment that is slower paced, leaving time to absorb it

  7. Being articulate

  8. People returning phone calls as an expected behavior

  9. Cultural phenomena that are shared experiences in real time – national TV shows everyone watches at the same time

  10. Children who are fairly innocent

The play is a comedy and Vanya’s monologue is sprinkled with tons of laugh lines. The audience roared with laughter and showered the actor with applause. I wonder if anyone will applaud my personal rant that follows.

It all started innocently enough. My credit card was about to expire and I received a new one – the exact same account number but with a new expiration date. Unfortunately, this is the card I reserve for online purchases. Well, my bad. I should probably have had these payments auto-debited from my bank, but the bank just changed hands, so I would have had to do this one way or another.

I’m fairly organized, so I pulled out my last statement for this credit card. Yikes – I had to update my card for 12 vendors (maybe more). I naively figured it will take me less than 30 minutes to make this simple change online. OMG. Not one of these outfits had the same way to accomplish this routine task. Several required waiting on the phone for my “customer service advocate.” Others required searching the help menu and FAQs for the right button to select. Several forced me to change my log in and password. Only Netflix was simple, once I located the link to click for my account. I guess that makes sense given that an outfit that streams video should also have an easy path to update a credit card. But even this one took me a while, as I was distracted by all of the new stuff I could watch if I weren’t wasting my time on this.

All in all, this seemingly simple task took over two hours of hitting dead ends and waiting for technical support that appreciated my business but had an unusually high call volume. Like Vanya, as a fellow Baby Boomer I long for simpler times that are less stressful and more understandable for folks like me. It might even be worth passing on the convenience of paying my bills online. Maybe I should just lick a few postage stamps.


by Laurie Levy
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