time on my hands

So I’ve done it again: a second attempt to solicit from CIBC an explanation as to why their ATMs insist my “transaction is complete” before, not after, handing over my money. I mean, we all hate banks, right? Do they really have to rub our noses in their supreme power by informing us that, as far as bankers are concerned, a withdrawal “transaction” consists solely of debiting our accounts an appropriate amount? Whether or not we receive any of our money is, it seems, immaterial.

I wrote to the bank some time ago to complain about this dismissive view of their customers. I received no response. And in such circumstances, the best option is to wait a year or two before acting. It’s something I’ve learned from OC Transpo, which somehow received favourable press this week by responding to customers’ complaints about reduced service… 14 months after effecting said reductions. We’ve listened to concerns, our public-transit service proudly stated, and after waiting just over a year, we’ve acted in the best interests of our riders.

Well done, OC Transpo. And as for the bank, I’m now playing the waiting game. I will, of course, keep you up to date as things develop.

Just as I continue to await a response to my request for membership to Osmonds’ fan club, sent five years ago as part of a letter-writing campaign inspired by addresses printed on the back of old LPs. Some of you might remember the corresponding column, printed in the Sun, like so:

From your number one fan

by Allan Wigney

It had been a while since I had written a fan letter.
The last one I recall writing was to former Habs forward Russ Courtnall, and that was merely to obtain an autographed photo to give to a smitten pal on her birthday. A photo did arrive, unautographed. (Perhaps Courtnall went to sign but, mistaking the image for an oncoming opponent, fled. That’s the sort of player Russ Courtnall was.)
Time was, popular recording-artists routinely included a fan-club address on record-sleeves. Today, your favourite band can in theory be reached through Yourfavouriteband.com, or MySpace.com/yourfavouriteband, or a Facebook page, or Twitter, or something that’s so cool no one knows about it yet… but that serves the same function as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and a website.
It’s too easy. Send your email address to some faceless entity and automatically receive updates on shows, CDs and apparel available for purchase. All to demonstrate how much our favourite performers care about their fans. And need their money.
But back in the day, one had to put some effort into being a truefan. Like sitting down and writing good a old-fashioned fan letter.
You can still find evidence of that more innocent time at your favourite thrift shop. Antiquated LPs that promise fulfillment to listeners willing to send a self-addressed stamped envelope and unite with like-minded number-one-fans.
What, one might wonder, became of those once-thriving fan clubs? The Rolling Stones are, after all, still very much with us, even if ‘Miss Patricia Thomas’ may no longer be answering requests to ‘Start a Rolling Stones fan club’ as indicated on the sleeve of the band’s debut North American album.
It would be nice to think, though, that someone would respond, should a fan still wish to express undying devotion.
So I set about sending a few messages in bottles, if you will, into the past. Expressions of loyalty to a variety of entertainers thoughtful enough to have once provided us with an address. A few ‑ The Rolling Stones, Nancy Sinatra, the Everly Brothers, the Osmonds ‑ are still active. Others, like Buck Owens, are sadly no longer at home to reply.
Still others disbanded ages ago, but are surely due for a reunion and should therefore be answering fan mail, if only to stay sharp.
Each letter was written by hand, because that’s how fan letters should be written. And none gave the game away by acknowledging the passing of time. I preferred to have the recipient wonder, however briefly, whether this letter had somehow been lost in the mail for 40 years or so. It’s not like it couldn’t happen. And if instead they should wonder what kind of loser writes a fan letter to Lenny and the Squigtones in 2007, well, you’re reading him.
But hey, no sacrifice is too great for you, dear reader. Not even using my real name in a letter that gushes over New Kids on the Block. (Though that came pretty close to the line.)
And the result?
Well, unless my lifetime membership to The Pogues’ fan club counts, I am still not a member in good standing of any celebrity-appreciation society. All but two of my letters came back unopened, adorned with a “Return to Sender” label. One, my request to join The Monkees Fan Club, was stamped, “Address Incomplete.” (But, Mr. Postman, we didn’t have postal codes in 1966!)
The other – my request to become a member of the Osmond Family fan club – remains at large. I like to think they are still mulling over my credentials, as you know that organization must still be going strong especially in light of Donny and Marie’s recent high-profile return to TV as would-be ballroom dancers.
In retrospect, I probably should have enclosed the requested $2 handling fee, but at the time I reckoned I’d already spent enough on this presumably-futile exercise.
So Donnie, Marie, et al, if you’re reading this, I apologize for being too cheap to send my membership fee and wish to stress I am still keen to join my fellow Osmondmaniacs in your club. Besides, I’ve already spent close to $2 US on the stamp. Surely, that should count as paying my dues.
As should providing post-office sorters with a good laugh at my expense.
Much like that Russ Courtnall letter did, back in a more innocent time.
Now back to playing the waiting game. Though, let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely that CIBC cares more about its customers than the Osmonds do about their fans.

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