With the end of April comes the quickening of Spring, a time celebrated by the ancients with bonfires and cleansing rituals (and the occasional loss of sexual innocence). Look at a calendar and you will find that April 30th, once known as Beltane, is just across the year from Halloween. Both are cross-quarter days, in that they divide the interval between solstice and equinox, and both were considered to be times when the spirits would walk about unfettered.
We here at the Star Chamber are always looking for ways to adapt ancient rituals for new purposes. Paracelsus, inspecting the growing pile of direct mail ads and catalogs in his mailbox, is considering a cleansing fire ritual of his own. Put all that junk mail into a great big pile under the evening sky, set it afire, fix yourself a nice dry martini, and cast away, if only for a brief period, the demons of Marketing and Direct Sales. Happy Beltane!
When I was in sixth grade, some friends of my parents gave me two hermit crabs in a great big glass aquarium. It was never clear why they gave them to me. It wasn’t my birthday or any other appropriate gift-giving time. But they were delighted with the giving of this gift, this perfect gift to a sixth grade boy. Those two crabs lived in my bedroom for what seems like months until a terrible fate (which I will gently pass over) became them. It still gives me the creeps to think about them there on my big desk; I didn’t want them, but someone had given them to me and so I was stuck, beholden to some social contract I could not escape.
A few months ago I got an envelope in the mail from APS Technologies. I like APS Technologies. These guys make, among other things, hard drives; I bought my magneto-optical drive from them a year or so ago, and I’ve been very happy with it. But inside the envelope, there was a plastic card called “Inside Track.” When I saw what it was, I got a little queasy feeling in my stomach. The Inside Track card is supposed to save me all kinds of time and bring me all kinds of benefits. But it also came with a seven digit Personal Identification Number. Oh no! Another plastic card, another PIN! Where will I put it? It took up residence on my desk.
Three weeks ago, I got a card from NYNEX that’s supposed to save me money when I make phone calls. But I’ve already got a phone card. It’s from AT&T, and I’m pretty good at forgetting that PIN even without a new addition to my card family, thank you very much. The NYNEX card has yet another four-digit PIN that I need to memorize if I’m going to use it. They didn’t let me choose it, and they gave me stern warnings about not letting anyone see it (it’s 3477 – I figure if I post it to the net, I’ll have a much better chance of remembering it)
I’ve got enough PINs.
I wish I could take a stand and call out in a firm clear voice “I am throwing these damn cards right the hell outta my life.” But of course that’s not what happens. Hey, it’s just a little card, after all. And maybe I’ll need it. Wouldn’t I feel stupid if I had to call APS, and they said “And now what is your special Inside Track identification number? I’m sorry, but we DID send you that little card, didn’t we? Look, I’m afraid we can’t help sloppy, happy-go-lucky people like you. Good-bye.” No, I can’t throw them away; they tug at my psyche. I add them to my voluminous list of Important Numbers I Must Never Forget. Those bastards in Marketing got me again! I understand all the market forces that give rise to these things. I know they just want to serve me better. But it still wears me down. I do my best to ignore these nifty, well-designed cards, but sometimes at night I can hear them crawling around my desk.
Eventually it occurred to me, why should I be left out of the fun? Why not make a Star Chamber card? Yes, but the Star Chamber card would be a card with a difference. Something with charm, something with cachet. A card that offers nothing whatsoever except a long, convoluted Personal Identification Number that you are expected to, no… positively encouraged to forget as soon as possible.
So, after minutes of careful market research, and the concerted efforts of our expert graphics team, here it is: the Star Chamber Cachet Card. Take as many as you want. Your official PIN is 0214-8760-999. I officially absolve you of the need to remember this number. And I welcome you to the Star Chamber extended family of overburdened consumers.
Star Chamber Cachet: “Better than a case of crabs.”
Now if I could just find a cat that will swallow all my other cards.