Digital Age shreds key Sub culture
Despite being constantly connected via the Web practically every hour of the week (with the possible exception of Fridays at 10 p.m. when "Battlestar Galactica" is on the Sci-Fi Network), Digital Slobs are still not what you would call "joiners."
We have to be poked and prodded to mix and mingle in three dimensions. If our spouses let us choose between a dinner party at the boss's house or an IRS audit, most Slobs would consider it a toss-up and eventually pick whichever option had the shortest commute.
That said, it was a sad day when I learned that a certain club, of which I had been a proud member for many years, had ceased to be. I went there regularly with my fellow members. We'd come to order, discuss business, perhaps donate some loose change to charity and engage in idle chitchat with the staff.
I speak, of course, of the Loyal and Benevolent Order of the Subway Sandwich Shoppe Sub Club Card.
It was a social, tenure-based organization -- you gained power by collecting stamps on a card. As I always told new members at initiation (I was the grand wizard historian for Local Chapter 1367), if you were persistent enough -- and pure enough of heart -- you could eventually collect enough stamps to earn free food.
But unexpectedly, and without any vote, I might add (I lobbied unsuccessfully for the privilege back in 1998), national headquarters disbanded the organization, blaming widespread fraud and abuse.
Apparently, some unseemly types made use of high-tech tools like laser printers and office supply stores to counterfeit their way into our well-fed aristocratic world.
According to an article on Wired.com, fake cards were even being sold on eBay. That's crazy. I can see bidding on a 12-inch BMT with a visage of St. Nicholas baked on the bread -- but stamps?
The suddenly defunct club hit a lot of us hard. For one, it decimated my résumé -- now all I've got under "clubs and organizations" is my stint as moderator for the Uma Thurman Online Discussion Board.
Wired.com pointed to an online petition to save our club (www.thiscause.org) but also said franchises can opt for a new magnetic-card system.
Regardless, the Sub Club's demise is the final nail in the Analog Era's coffin, replaced by an age of points and perks, where the astute can augment their income with extra credit only if they check in with the appropriate corporate overlords. An age where business travelers watch frequent-flier programs closer than Citibank watches the Federal Reserve.
Most of us already have key chains that look like retail charm bracelets dangling with laminated trinkets, from the Blockbuster Awards program to the Safeway Card that "saves" us $25.89 by agreeing not to overcharge us $25.89 -- as long as we let its mainframe leer at our grocery list.
As for the Sub Club, I choose to remember the good times -- finding five extra cards in an old wallet and eating all week for $4.87, buying three cookies right before closing, knowing I'd always find four in the bag.
Still, we must adapt, or else find ourselves on the outside of consumer savings looking in.
I'm just waiting for someone to explain how the new Subway system will recognize my secret handshake.