Whenever I go to the airport in Portland—on my way, usually, to the Southwest counter—I pass the United Airlines counter, where they advertise their policy on luggage. It isn’t that I don’t admire the candor. They give you the price for transporting one bag or two or more. But if you aren’t taking a bag at all, they announce that it will be…free.
It will be free. They will not charge you for not checking a bag. Or look at it this way. If you will agree to travel without luggage, they will agree not to charge you for the luggage you are not taking.
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a very pleasant young woman at The Oregonian, Portland’s only daily newspaper. It wasn’t a very comfortable conversation for me because I was up in Forest Park running and as I stopped to talk to her, I began to chill. And then, as you will see, I got warm again.
She was just checking to see why we had stopped subscribing to The Oregonian. Why we actually did stop is not germane here—Bette found too little news in it to continue reading it—but when she had fixed it in her mind that we had allowed our subscription to run out, she said that there was an amount due on the account. I was incredulous. We pay by the year.
But that wasn’t it, she said. It was that after our subscription ran out, they continued to deliver papers to our house. The said it was the Oregonian’s policy to have a “grace period” at the end of a subscription. And now she wanted me to pay for the papers they had delivered during the “grace period.”
I hadn’t been running for several minutes, but when she said that—in a breezy and confident way, I will say—I had to work to catch my breath. “You want me to pay for the papers you delivered during the grace period?” I said. I saw where that was going and switched quickly to a less explosive response. I said that I was happy to pay for all the papers we had asked them to sell us, but I was not eager to pay for the papers they gave us afterward. That turned out to be enough to end the conversation amicably.
But I am a man with a theological vocabulary and she had nicked a corner of that vocabulary by putting “grace” and “pay” that close together in the same sentence. I came worryingly close to asking her if she had ever heard of the Protestant Reformation and whether paying for grace didn’t seem…well, confusing.
But I didn’t.