Thursday, August 14, 2003

TO BUY SOME OLD TENNIS TAPES from some guy in Italy, I needed a money order or similar financial instrument for 174 euros. (Yes, that's 200 bucks' worth of old tennis tapes. Shut up.)

The phrase "international postal money order" immediately popped into my head, and so I headed to my neighborhood post office. The line, of course, was very long, and, of course, the Too-Friendly Old Lady employee was chatting it up with every customer and working at a rate of two or three keystrokes per minute. If only my hero had been there, the guy who actually yelled at the old lady about how she shouldn't be socializing when so many customers are waiting.

Finally it was my turn, and Too-Friendly Old Lady could smell my disdain. She shuffled her feet and shuffled some papers and did that looking-at-you-while-not-acknowledging-you thing that the passive-aggressive lazyfucks of the retail industry do, and then she finally waved me over when she was good and ready.

Oh, lordy, she hadn't done a money order in years, and it took the assembled stampocracy a few minutes to decide who would help her with this task. She plowed ahead, to her credit, and pulled out a tattered old book for guidance. She and her designated helper seemed to be battling over who could "help" me, and finally one of them asked me where I was trying to send a money order. "Italy" seemed to puzzle them, but eventally they came to grips with the existence of lands beyond ours, and after some more fumbling they agreed that It Couldn't Be Done. Italy doesn't accept money orders.

Whether Italy accepts my money isn't really the issue, of course, but apparently no such money order exists. I should have known: Just imagine TFOL or her helper trying to calculate an exchange rate.

My bank is practically next door to the post office; surely, I figured, they could help me there.

Guess again. Oh, I could do a nifty balance transfer ("And what is the account number of the recipient in Italy?"), but getting a euro-denominated check of some sort would require calling the toll-free number on the back of my bank card and trying to get somebody from the home office to fly to Italy and pull a few strings.

I swear Western Union had an appropriate option a few months ago when I was first thinking of getting these tapes, but now I go to the Web site and there's an inordinate emphasis on how recipients must be "friends or family in need." Or maybe I'm taking that too literally.

I was ready to investigate the Western Union option further when I checked back at the tennis-video Web site only to find that it was shut down "due to copyright problems."

I guess that means the rightful owners of such "intellectual property" as Mikael Pernfors's 1986 French Open matches will be offering it for sale themselves. Right?

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