The e-ticket receipt
I was angry this year when I discovered that my Tokyotravel agency had switched from paper tickets to so-called “e-tickets,”printable off the Internet for customer convenience, speed, and savings of paper.
“Will the airline go back to proper tickets in the future?”
“This is how it’s done now,” I was told.
There are several problems, as I see them.
I pay money - cash - for my airline tickets, and for my money I want tickets, not ticket vouchers, or e-mail “ticket receipts.” I go to my travel agency to book travel in face-to-face dialog with a living person. When I pay, I return to the travel agency office and pay in cash, from my hands directly into the agent’s hands in a face-to-face transaction. When the time comes to collect the tickets I go once more to the travel agency office to pick up what I paid for face-to-face, directly from the agent’s hands into mine. Once cash changes hands I feel that the travel agent has a personal responsibility to me, although she might not feel the same.
I pay cash for several reasons. First, because I want to. Second, because experience has taught me that my MasterCard credit card - the only credit card I possess - does not work in Japan. I mean, it is not approved when Japanese merchants scan it, swipe it, or dial it in. Who knows why? I have discussed the matter more than once with the Bank of Montreal in my hometown that issues the card, and have been told that it shouldwork. Well, yeah, it should, shouldn’t it? MasterCard is supposed to be an international business, but…
Third, because when I got the card as a university student the credit limit was only $800 - not enough to pay for the airplane tickets that I buy - and the bank that issued the card in Canada (and continues to renew it every few years) has never informed me that the credit limit has changed. Fourth, if I was able to and did use a credit card to pay for airplane tickets here, the bill would go to my home address in Canada, and I do not have enough cash in Canada to pay it.
So much for money.
Until I actually went to the airport on the day of travel and presented my e-ticket receipt in lieu of an actual ticket at the check-in counter, I did not trust that it really was an equitable substitute. (After receiving it from my travel agent, but before the date of travel, I telephoned Air Canada to re-check the veracity of this seemingly ridiculous scheme.) The travel agent said that the e-ticket receipt was the ticket. But what most people do not understand is that human language does not have the ability to accurately describe how things really are. I mean, Reality is always something other than what our speech has the ability to say that it is. At most, we can only speak in metaphors and similes to say what things are like. So, when my travel agent said that instead of the old paper ticket I just had to present this computer print-out at the check-in counter and it would be accepted there as my ticket, I was not reassured. I expected to go to the airport, stand in line for an hour and then be turned back. It did not happen that way in fact, which is a good thing, of course. But I had no reason to think that it would not happen that way. My experience is that things are neverexactly the way that others describe them to me.
The statement that the e-ticket system is intended, in part, to reduce paper wastage is a transparent lie. I don’t mind lies so much as I mind people lying about their dishonesty. And, if you are going to lie, at least do me the honor of lying competently. A whopping, big lie told well is so much better and more attractive than a small lie told badly, or even a small lie told well that is only foreplay for the big ones. Using computers - in the home, in the office, at school, in business, in church, in hospitals - does not use less paper. Just the opposite, it uses more - a lot more. The ideas of the “paperless office” and the “paperless society” date form the 1960s, but were popularized in the 1970s. Intelligent people knew then that it was a foolish suggestion, and experience bears it out. But it galls me no end to suffer that ridiculous fiction still being bantered about. People should know better, but they don’t, which is a shamful condemnation.
Why do computers fail to reduce paper wastage, but in fact increase it? Because, as I said above, electronic communication, commerce, record-keeping, etc. are not real. Computer users know this. These transactions are ‘virtual,’ and such records do not last. Instead, they are more prone to decay and loss than old, paper records. If you want/need something to last, you stillmust make a paper copy of it, which is what businesses, police, government, doctors, teachers, individuals, and all who use computers do. Nothing beats paper - except maybe lithoglyphs (stone carvings). It is not sufficient to store information electronically, because the technology is changing so fast that today’s records will be unrecoverable in five-to-eight years, whereas, paper records are permanently recoverable if they are treated properly. This is partly why I resist buying the latest technology as soon as it is available. Today’s technology, it seems to me, is more a fad than a lasting, or stable thing. If I buy it now it will be obsolete too soon to justify itself to my pocket book. I prefer to wait so that I can observe stability in a new gadget or way of doing things.
More information has been permanently lost in the last thirty years than was lost in the previous two millennia. I think most people do not realize this, but buy into the fictions taught in their high school social studies and computer or business classes, or their college sociology/anthropology classes about the“paperless” world. We are not so much living in an Information Age as we are living on the brink of a modern Dark Age, an Age of Unknowing. Because, not only is information lost/destroyed like it has never been before, but people are losing the ability to think properly about what information remains, or what limited pieces of information they access, or have access to. In fact, many people might balk at the notion that there is even a “proper” way to think, as if the suggestion is an infringement on their liberty to think and to practice freedom of conscience. More and more, it seems, people think that the universe of ideas is a free bulk market where the consumer can pick and choose any idea, and any amount of ideas/information they fancy, unaware that more often than not one belief or piece of information precludes another.
So we end up living with, or being surrounded by increasing contradictions. People want democracy and civil liberties, but they also want, or say they want absolute security; they want good schools and health care, but they want reduced taxes; they want their children educated, but they don’t really understand what that means; they want a clean environment, but they also want to drive their cars and heat their homes with cheap fuel; they want to be healthy, but they want to eat at McDonald’s; they want abundant, free and clean water, but they want industry to manufacture all the things that fill their homes. And so on.
Well, maybe the e-ticket is a good thing.