If they can do it with cremated ashes, Laurie Williams figured she could do it with her credit cards. So she cut them to small pieces the other day, went up to the roof of her apartment building off Kalorama Road NW and tossed all that plastic to the four winds.
"You will probably report me for littering, Bob Levey," she said. "But I have never taken an action that made me feel so free."
Laurie is one of dozens of Washingtonians who have recently decided to go credit card-less. They are sick of mistaken charges being posted to their accounts. They are sick of worrying about cards being stolen or misappropriated. They are sick of the temptation to run up huge balances. And they are sick of all the promotional junk that's tucked inside each month's bill.
"I decided to live the way I lived in college," said Laurie. "I decided to pay as I went, like an Eisenhower Republican."
After a month, however, Laurie's consumer backspace hasn't worked as well as she hoped.
"The world is geared to plastic," she told me. "It's even more legal as tender than cash." And sometimes, it is accepted where cash isn't.
For instance, Laurie had to travel on business shortly after she scissored all her credit cards to death. "I tried to rent a car without a credit card," she said. "It was close to impossible."
Hertz finally agreed to part with "a crummy little Ford," Laurie said. But she had to provide her bank account number, her Social Security number and her boss's office phone number. "I think they thought I was a thief, when in fact more rent-a-cars are stolen by people with credit cards than by people without them, I'm sure," Laurie said.
She has also had a surprising amount of trouble paying for purchases by check.
"I went to Pentagon City mall," she said. "I bought some socks. I wanted to pay by check. They needed three managers to okay it because I didn't own a credit card."
Still, Laurie says she is pleased with her decision.
"A woman I work with was just making her plane reservations to go home to Chicago for Christmas," Laurie said. "She charged up $1,500 worth, in one quickie phone call. She'll spend months paying that off.
"Me, I don't have to go to Chicago, or want to go. But the money will have to be in my account before I ever consider it.
"I'm already sleeping better at night."
It had to happen. Road rage has had kittens.
Welcome to "page rage."
"A boy named Bill" called the other day to say he works at a "large chain furniture store in the Virginia suburbs." The place is so cavernous that managers wear pagers so that staff can find them quickly in a pinch.
Bill says that one manager had been paged so often last week that he confronted one of his employees, right there in front of God and all the end tables. The manager said he was sick and tired of being paged and the employee had better not do it again. "And he was shouting, Bob," Bill said.
Sounds to me as if the manager is having problems that go beyond pagers. If he recognizes himself, I hope he'll seek help.
In the meantime, could All Who Page agree not to do it unless it's absolutely necessary?
A couple of months ago, I wrote about used cellular phones and the lucrative business of updating them. Many readers pointed out that there's another choice with cell phones that can no longer go the distance: Give them away to endangered women.
Several programs will accept outmoded cell phones. Technicians adjust their innards so they can be used only to call 911. Then the phone is given to a woman who is either in an abusive relationship, or fears she might be. The woman can use the phone to call the police for help.
One of the most successful of these programs is run by the Wireless Foundation, a cell phone industry group. According to communications manager Sinikka H. Sinks, the foundation has collected more than 2,000 donated phones. More is always merrier, Sinikka says.
To donate a cell phone to the program, send it to Call to Protect, c/o Brightpoint Inc., Technical Services, 5732 W. 71st St., Indianapolis, Ind., 46278. For more information about the program, go to www.calltoprotect.org.
From John H. Hardison:
Did you know that forgetfulness can be mastered? All you need to do is remember.
Dorie James calls it "multitasking." I call it bananahood.
On the Beltway the other day, between the Gallows Road and Little River Turnpike interchanges, Dorie saw a woman rolling her hair in curlers as she drove.
Yes, rolling hair takes two hands.
Yes, driving a car takes at least one.
You can sense a shortage of hands as well as I can.
"What do you make of this behavior?" Dorie wants to know.
I can't answer, Dorie. My jaw is hanging down too far.