My wife and I are eating at one of our favourite restaurants when I realise I don’t have any money. Furthermore, their debit machine is down. Not a problem; there’s always the ATM at the bank across the street. When I get there, however, I’m greeted by a sign that says: “We have moved for your convenience.”
Mirriam-Webster’s defines “convenience” as: “fitness or suitability for performing an action or fulfilling a requirement.”
Now here’s the thing — my “requirement” is to get money. The action for “performing” or “fulfilling” this requirement involves withdrawing said money from an ATM. The disconnect in this particular situation is this: I am here. The ATM is not here.
Nothing about this is fit or suitable for performing the action I wish to perform.
Furthermore, everyone else who may find themselves in the position of reading this sign is also here. They are here to fulfill the requirement of withdrawing money. From the ATM. That used to also be here. Now it is not. Now it is there.
Maybe the bank’s new location is much better. Maybe they have a lot more space and the floors are clean and the rent is cheaper.
But there is no situation in which anyone reading this sign is going to think, “Oh, how convenient.”
It’s not just the word “convenience” that seems to have lost any meaning. The phrase “for your protection” has taken a decidedly strange twist of its own.
For instance, Zeller’s instituted a new policy some months back, announcing it with signs saying: “For your protection we no longer accept $50 bills.”
While waiting in line I tried to imagine how this new policy could, in any way, protect me.
My imagination having failed me, I asked the clerk.
“How are you protecting me by not accepting $50 bills?” I said. Not that I often have $50 bills, but, you know — I was curious.
“Well,” she said, “a lot of them are counterfeit.”
“Okay,” I said. “I figured it had something to do with that, but while I can see how this is protecting you, how is it protecting me?”
She looked at me like I was asking why things fell to the ground when you let go of them.
“Because there are a lot of counterfeit bills,” she repeated.
Okay, then. That cleared things up.
Along with “for your protection” comes “for your security.”
Recently the TTC changed its monthly bus pass. Their ads explain that they did this “for your security.”
The new passes are much harder to duplicate. They’re great for the TTC, but how does it affect my security? Like almost every other TTC passenger, I buy my passes from authorised dealers. Authorised dealers aren’t passing off counterfeit passes as real ones, and anyone buying his pass from a guy with a gym bag standing on the street corner pretty well assumes he’s not getting the real thing.
So — how does this make it more secure for me? is there a weird cadre going around stealing people’s legitimate passes and surreptitiously replacing them with fakes?
Now I don’t mind if businesses want to change something for their own benefit. I just wish they’d be upfront about it.
“This location was crap for us,” they could say, “so we’ve moved. Sorry about that.”
“We’ve been getting ripped off, so we no longer accept $50 bills. Tough.”
But the most schizophrenic example of this double-plus-nogood newspeak has to be the sign I saw at the Tim Horton’s at the downtown campus of my college.
“To serve you better, we no longer accept debit. Sorry for any inconvenience.”
Do they just stick “to serve you better” on everything they write?
Of course they do. Of course they do.
After all, they’re only words — they don’t really mean anything.