Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Letter from California-September 21, 2004

If you’re like me, you’ve done your best to ignore the pointless bickering between the presidential candidates about the ‘outsourcing’ of American jobs to other countries. I’ll go ahead and assume that if Kerry needs another dose of botox, he’ll hire the most gung-ho Yankee Doodle Dandy of a plastic surgeon available. I’m also going to assume that George Bush keeps the White House pantries stocked with pretzels made in Milwaukee or Chicago, or some other All-American city with Germanic overtones rather than from Germany itself. If the Commander-in-Chief is going to kill himself with snack foods, I have no doubt he’ll want to go out contributing to the economic recovery by buying American.
In fact, I don’t think anyone would be talking about outsourcing at all if it weren’t for the whole new breed of telemarketers and customer service agents that have come to dominate the business. I first realized something had changed a few months ago when “Bruce” from American Express called to offer me amazing discounts on an impressive array of magazines. He was a nice guy. In fact, he was a little too nice. He seemed vaguely genuine when he said that he hoped I would enjoy my first complimentary copy of Vishnu Today. As you can imagine, I grew immediately suspicious, so I dug a little further. “When will I receive my first copy?” I asked. “The magazine is published once in a two-month period,” “Bruce” said, “so you should expect to receive the next issue when it is released in about five weeks.” Well, that’s all the evidence I needed. “Bruce” was far too knowledgeable and concerned about my enjoyment of magazines to be an American telemarketer.
“Who are you and what have you done with Bruce?” I asked him. He just chuckled and convinced me to sign up for a year of Curry Connoisseur so I could claim my free bonus of a box of crispy papadums and a jar of mint chutney. You can understand why I signed up immediately.
“Ok ‘Bruce’,” I asked, “level with me. ‘Bruce’ is just your stage name, isn’t it?”
After some persuasion, he told me his name was Deepak and that he was calling me on a cell phone while riding an elephant on the grounds of the Taj Mahal. Or maybe he was calling from an office building next to a bus station in New Delhi. Anyway, “Bruce”/Deepak was doing a fine job of selling magazines. I even bought Indian Telemarketers Journal. “Bruce” said it was great, and I really trust his recommendation.
But some people are not as happy about all this as I am. Some are downright angry that foreigners are taking all our miserable, dead-end jobs like telemarketing while unemployed Americans have nothing to do but sit around all day and clip recipes for Chicken Tikka Masala out of magazines they don’t remember ordering.
That leads me to this week’s big news that the National Hockey League won’t be starting its season on time because of a labor dispute. That’s right, it’s possible there will be no hockey this season.
How are you going to make it through the winter? Oh, wait. I forgot. You don’t care about hockey. You’re not alone. In fact, Americans have a long, proud tradition of looking down on the NHL as the poor, weird, living-up-North cousin of the real professional sports leagues.
There’s even potentially a bright side to all this: if you’re opposed to outsourcing, the NHL strike puts a few hundred foreigners out of work. Remember, these are high-paying union jobs that used to go to Americans. Or at least Canadians.
What’s more, these foreigners aren’t even willing, like my friend “Bruce,” to change their birth names for ones that trip off our tongues more conveniently. I mean, couldn’t the L.A. Kings player Lubomir Visnovsky change his name to something more like “Mikey”? Wouldn’t it be easier to remember Mattias Weinhandl if he called himself “Glenn”? For an average salary of $1.8 million, I’d consider calling myself a lot worse things than that. Engelbert Humperdinck. Dick Butkus. Beavis. As soon as the check cleared, you could take your pick.
Actually, that’s just a small part of the NHL’s problem. Here’s a list of a few others: San Jose, Phoenix, Anaheim, Raleigh, Tampa, Miami, Dallas, and Nashville. These cities have a couple things in common: first, they have a recently added professional hockey team; second, they are all places where nobody gives a rat’s butt about hockey. Yet, for some reason the NHL seems surprised that it hasn’t been successful in getting the locals in these places to shower off the suntan lotion and come see the home team face off against the Ottawa Senators for $60 a seat on a Tuesday night forty times a year.
So in summary, the NHL brings in players we’ve never heard of and feel embarrassed at our stupidity because we can’t pronounce their names. They pay them way, way too much and open lots of teams in places where the word “hockey” is preceded by the word “tonsil” more than half the time. Then, they raise prices because all this unpronounceable talent needs more money to buy courtside seats at the NBA Finals. In the end, the owners all go broke and threaten to call off the season.
All of this leaves the typical American sports fan with one burning question:
“How ‘bout those Red Sox?”


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