Steven Soderbergh's Traffic and Mimi Leder's Pay It Forward have very little in common. One is a slickly produced, brilliantly directed, well-written film that may grab an Oscar or two, and the other is Pay It Forward. Both, however, deal with the connections between people - Traffic concerns the way people in all aspects of the war on drugs find their lives intersecting, while Pay It Forward shows how the actions of one person can affect the lives of millions.
I also think they have another thing in common. In Traffic, Catherine Zeta Jones drives a Mercedes van thing (A130, I think) with the California licence plate 2GAT123. In Pay It Forward, Jay Mohr is the recipient of a Jaguar (model unknown) which, I think, has the same licence plate. I wasn't sufficiently impressed with the film to see it again and check, so if any of you see it any time soon, I'd appreciate it if you'd make a note of the licence plate and drop me a line. Address below.
Which reminds me. A couple of weeks ago, I took my Canon BJC-4550 printer in for repair. The print head on it started acting dodgy a while ago, but I hadn't seen a need to do anything about it since it only really affected colour printing. However, an unfortunate drop from my desk resulted in lots of very small bits of plastic and rubber flying loose, so the time had come.
I took it to a repair place and was told they'd call soon with a quote. A few days later, a message was left on the machine asking me to call back.
"Good morning, [bleep] Printers and Copiers, this is Sheree speaking, can I help you?" said the voice on the end of the phone. "Yes," I replied, "this is Matthew Powell" - I don't use the initials in everyday speech - "I left a printer in there a few days ago and I've got a message to call back".
"Alright," said Sheree, gleefully, "I'll put you through to our service department".
A little bit of hold music later, and "Good morning, [bleep] Printers and Copiers, this is Maree speaking, can I help you?" Now, I'm a little annoyed at this stage that the person I've been put through to doesn't know who I am or what I'm after, but I presume I'm speaking to someone who can give me my quote, so I'll let it slide. "This is Matthew Powell calling, I left a printer in there a few days ago and I received a message to call back."
"Alright," said Maree, "I'll put you through to repairs".
While the hold music is on, I'm left to speculate as to what the difference between their "service" and "repair" departments might be. Perhaps some people take their perfectly functioning printers in for a checkup every few thousand kilometres.
"Good morning, [bleep] Printers and Copiers, this is Aimee speaking, how may I help you?" Now, this is silly. Do these people never communicate with each other? Why is the third person I've spoken to still telling me the name of the shop? I repeat my spiel again.
"Alright," says Aimee as if it's really perfectly OK, "I'll put you through to a technician". Why, I beseech you, did Sheree not put me through to a technician in the first place? Remember that I've been into this shop. It's not a big corporation, nor even a branch of a big corporation. Once I got this technician on the phone, I believe I spoke to everyone who works there. Do they never see each other? Perhaps they get lonely.
"G'day. Bob." I recognise the voice on the other end of the line as the voice from my answering machine. I repeat my spiel, yet again with feeling.
"Yeah, right, the Canon," he said. Makes it sound like mine is the only one they've got. "The print head is dead and I'll have to order a new one. Take a couple of days. With the minimal amount of labour I can expect to put in, it'll be . . . roughly . . . $129.95."
This is just an estimate, of course. I couldn't get him to be more specific. Woe betide me if I go over there with $129.95 in hand and it turns out to be $129.96, or if it really blows out to $130.00. Then I'll be in trouble. And what's the bet, if he manages to do it for $129.94, I won't see the change?
Perhaps I'll let him keep it. He can just "pay it forward".
Matthew JC. Powell does not endorse Pay It Forward. If you do see it anyway, drop him a line on firstname.lastname@example.org