Foster City, CA
To be frank, I’m probably not the right guy for this. For instance, I don’t have any experience in finance. I don’t even have that much money. But I’m stunned—simply stunned—that no one else has spoken out about Visa yet, which I find shocking and shameful, because we all know that Visa is simply the best.
I use my Visa card every day, probably. Honestly, I use it so much I don’t even know I’m using it. Take a look around. Think about how you got all that great stuff—your computer, your ten-dollar funky socks from Express, or even things you can’t see like your college degrees or the gasoline to get to work this week or the truck that brings your vegetables to the farmers’ market, where they now accept credit. Isn’t it just awful that we don’t even think of thanking Visa? Sometimes, when I’m buying a lot of different things at once from a place like Target, I don’t even know what I’ve used my Visa for. But that’s the best part: Visa makes being poor painless. It’s like bourbon for your bank account, a consumer blackout. In fact, if you have Visa, you’re not even poor, not ever. You’re as rich as Visa. That’s how credit works.
Visa’s like this really rich high school pal of yours. Let’s call him Dougie. Say your high school pal Dougie owns a multinational corporation, and over the past couple of decades he’s grown wealthy beyond the realm of your understanding so that now everyone who’s ever met Dougie remembers him and considers him a friend and they hit him up for money like literally all the time. Like every morning eighty thousand people call Dougie and say something like, “Sorry to bother you, Dougie, but I’m in line at the coffee place and I ordered an iced coffee and breakfast taco, but it turns out I don’t have any cash on me. Again. Can you talk to the barista and vouch for me here? She’s ticked because I’m holding up the line, and besides, it’s only six bucks with tip and tax, and I told you about that job I have, so you know I’m good for it.”
Wouldn’t you think that Dougie, after maybe the second phone call, would say something like, “Hey listen, you bums, you’re not my friends, and I don’t owe you anything, especially not these piddling last-minute loans. Besides, only like maybe 10% of you ever pay me back. It’s annoying and it depresses me to engage with my fellow man in this manner, and, even though I’m wealthy beyond the realm of your understanding, it’s simply bad business. Besides, I hate dealing with baristas because every verbal exchange has to have a little quirk to it or they look at you like you’re dead.”
That’s what I would say, anyway. And I’d get a private number and live somewhere with other rich people behind gates so I wouldn’t get bothered like that all the time.
Now then, in light of all that—isn’t Visa amazing?
They’re goddamned saints.
It occurs to me that I should add something. I’m writing this on a public library computer in Austin, Texas. I have a library card so they let me in. They let me take books and they trust I’ll bring them back. Visa is no good here—until I lose the books, and then all of a sudden they take Visa. So that’s why Visa is better than library cards. But last week I was in here and this bum sleeping at the table got really sick after eating some Panda Garden a group of UT kids had left out on a table, and he needed to wash up so one of the librarians led him to the bathroom. The library lets bums wash up for free. But some other bum was already washing up, so this bum had to wait outside the library in the triple-digit Texas heat, covered in puke and whatever else had made his clothes look camouflage like that. So here’s what I did: I led the bum by some fabric at his elbow one block south and two blocks west, to the Wyndham. At the registration desk I whipped out my Visa.
I said, “I’d like a room with a warm shower and a flatscreen TV and several of those supple seashell towels.” Then I winked at the bum, tapped my Visa on the counter and added, “Immediately.”
“The ocean is four hours away,” the clerk said. “We have desert-themed towels.”
“Like, with cacti?”
“Cacti suggest roughage, sir. We want our towels to suggest plush.”
“There’s nothing plush about the desert.”
“Tarantulas are plush,” the clerk said, shrugged. “Bats.”
“You have towels embroidered with bats and tarantulas?”
“Love it or leave it.”
The bum swayed beside me in his camouflage shirt. It looked badass, actually, with the vomit dried out and everything, kind of like an Affliction shirt, so maybe the clerk didn’t think it was puke on there. Or if he did, at least it offered the salve of doubt. The bum swayed backwards, then forwards, then back, and then crumpled onto the counter.
“Is your friend all right, sir?”
“He’s not my friend,” the bum said, pushing himself up. “He’s just some do-gooder from the library.” He held up a finger, said, “If you’ll just give me a moment,” and shoved his other hand in the back of his pants and rummaged around in his rear end for a while. “I’ve got something that’s just as good as what card he’s got there.” He extracted his library card, slapped it on the counter.
“Run it,” the bum said.
“We don’t accept library cards, you bum.”
So that’s strike two on the library. I stepped forward. “Then would you perhaps accept—this?” And again I whipped out my Visa.
“Why of course, sir! We happily accept this token of your legally binding contractual financial obligations.”
With my fingertips I pushed the Visa across the marble countertop, but the bum caught me by the wrist.
“Wait, wait, wait,” he said. “You do-gooders are all alike. You see a bum like me and all of a sudden you think you got allllll the answers. You got so many answers, you forget the questions!”
He pulled himself to his full height, drew a breath that rattled in his chest, and with a swat of grubby paw sent my Visa skittering across the lobby floor. His eyes were bloody kaleidoscopes. His breath a summertime Dumpster. One finger raised heavenward, crooked, trembling, pointing—pointing.
“Once’t a time, I had me a Visa, too,” he bellowed. “I had debit! I had credit! I ate at Boston Market! Wore button-down Mossimo shirts! Slacks! Gas station Frappucinos indulged at every whim! The world was mine, I tell ya! Mine! As mine back then as it is your’n now. And just you look—look where it’s gotten me.”
The clerk had dialed for help, spoke into the desk phone with a hand cupped over the receiver.
But on went the bum. “You think Visa’s your friend? That Visa’s here to just help us all out? Ha! Help you out? The buzzards’ll wipe you out. Pick your bones clean. Regurgitate your rancid flesh into the mouths of their greedy, unthinking spawn.”
The elevator chimed and opened, and two uniformed men ambled across the lobby toward us.
“Times like these,” the bum said, “you need a real friend. No Visas. No stinking do-gooders.” He shoved his hand back into his pants and rummaged again. The security guards each caught him by an arm, spoke soothingly about how they were throwing him outside, dragged him backwards, heels squealing across the floor. In his hand the bum had another card, waved it in desperation.
“But I know Dougie!” he screamed. “I know Dougie!”
The automatic doors closed after him, the lobby now hushed as the library. I retrieved my Visa from where it had settled on the floor.
“Will this be debit or credit, sir?” the clerk asked.
“I don’t know the difference,” I said.
Visa: It’s everywhere you want to be.
Roger is a composition teacher at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He's working on his first novel, and would like to tell you all about it.