For the Millionth Time, I Speak English

Why doesn’t my bank know what language I speak?

I’ve held an account with this bank for about fifteen years, and yet every time I visit an ATM machine, I must select my language before proceeding with the transaction. The choices are “English” and “Spanish”.

For the sake of argument, let’s disregard the fact that only 13% of the United States population speaks Spanish, compared to 82% for English according to Wikipedia.

Let’s not even consider that in the suburban, white, yuppie community in which I live, those percentages are surely skewed even more in favor of English (I’d guess 99%, but I confess I have no actual data to back that up).

So, dismissing the fact that most people speak English, why the hell doesn’t my bank know that I, Mattdude, who has used this very ATM hundreds of times, speak English, even though I’ve selected English each and every time? Nevermind that all communications between myself and my bank over the past fifteen years have been in English, you would think at the very least the system could “remember” my choice from the last visit and automatically select English. Perhaps it could include a secondary option lower on the screen to change the language, you know, just in case I became a fluent Spanish speaker since my last visit.

We’re not talking about profoundly complex algorithms here. This is the most basic of interface issues which millions of developers, large and small, have already grasped. There’s simply no reason a large institution can’t do the same.

As if to mock me further, the newer ATMs in the area display a “Checking for preferences” message before beginning the transaction, and then proceed to make me select a language. Lol.

For the Millionth Time, I Speak English

Election Bowl 2008

Congratulations to Barack Obama and his supporters for an historic triumph in the U.S. presidential election. Obama is a charismatic leader who ran an incredible campaign. He truly earned his victory and I’m confident he will make a fine president.

I did not want Obama to win. I consider myself conservative when it comes to economic issues, so I tend to recoil at concepts such as universal healthcare and increasing taxes on the wealthy. Though I was not particularly impressed with McCain’s campaign (this was not the McCain who ran against Bush in the Republican primary eight years ago), his economic philosophy more closely matches my own, and so he was “my guy” in this election.

However, as the campaign season dragged on and the election grew near, my support for McCain was replaced by something else altogether–bitterness toward outspoken, self-righteous “Obamaholics”. I wanted to see them cry like they did four years ago when they were so smugly certain that John Kerry would become our president.

In the end, my desire to see Obama defeated really had nothing to do with the man himself. Heck, I like Obama. I think he’ll make a great leader and I don’t even find his policies that objectionable. But his supporters, with their omnipresent anti-Bush, anti-Palin, anti-“Joe the Plumber” rants, along with their naive, unconditional faith that this one man can create some kind of American Utopia, drew my ire. Democrats could often be heard accusing McCain and Palin for making “divisive” comments, but there was nothing more divisive than the behavior of so many indignant Obama supporters.

They were (and I say “were”, not “are”, since I assume that Obama’s victory will temper their rage) like ravenous, angry fans of a local football team. McCain supporters may not have been any better, but they certainly didn’t make as much noise. You see, it’s not “cool” to support a Republican, and with such widespread disapproval of Bush (which took on a life of its own to such a degree that just about anyone felt socially secure railing against Bush, even if they were completely ignorant on the issues), supporters of McCain tended to keep quiet lest they be drawn into an irrational, angry political “discussion” with nearby liberals, who are never bashful about sharing their views.

The presidential race, as usual, became a sporting event, with people choosing their side and hurling venom at the opposing team. Civil discourse over the proper direction of the country was abandoned long ago by both sides. Do people even understand the issues at stake, or do they simply read some headlines, catch a few sound bites, and ride the wave of common sentiment around them? I suspect the latter.

For these reasons I will once again be tuning out the news for the foreseeable future. I’m tired of the arguments, the anger, the divisions. The ignorance disguised as knowledge. At least for the next four years I don’t have to listen to every other idiot complain about Bush.

Good luck, Obama. I’m sure you’ll do great. Maybe not. Either way, I’ll be blissfully unaware.

Election Bowl 2008