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I Am A Two-Percenter

On Wednesday, I joined two-percent club. I loaded a Wikipedia page like I had done every other day and was hit with the following message:

To all our readers in Malaysia,

Please don’t scroll past this. This Wednesday we ask you to sustain Wikipedia. 98% of our readers don’t give; they simply look the other way. If you are an exceptional reader who has already donated, we sincerely thank you. If you donate just RM10 or whatever you can this Wednesday, Wikipedia could keep thriving for years. We ask you, humbly: please don’t scroll away. If Wikipedia has been useful to you, take a minute to donate RM10. Show the world that access to reliable, neutral information matters to you.

Thank you.

It wasn’t a strange message. I had seen similar ones in the past and never had trouble ignoring them. However, this time it felt different. Maybe because it blocked the top portion of the page and I had to scroll down to read the article.

Or maybe because this time I noticed they said “readers in Malaysia”, which made it feel personal even though I knew it wasn’t. Whatever it was, it triggered something within me. It made me think about how often I used Wikipedia.

I use Wikipedia very often. When I’m learning about a new topic, it’s one of the first websites I visit. I love that they have such detailed entries on whatever I happen to look up, especially when it comes to music and bands.

I love tracing the history of my favorite musicians and finding out which bands or side projects they’ve been a part of, so I can check out more music from them. From those articles, I discover even more related musicians to listen to.

Sure, these days we have Spotify’s “fans also like” and their curated playlists, but they don’t give any context to why I should listen to them. I enjoy discovering the lore of musicians, why they leave or get kicked out, and their ties to other musicians.

I also like knowing the names of obscure bands and releases so I can hunt them down on Soulseek or YouTube. Spotify doesn’t have every song out there, unfortunately. Wikipedia makes sure I know that.

Beyond music, I’ve used it for looking up GPUs, countries, languages, comics, books, and everything under the sun. I know Wikipedia isn’t just one person. The site is great because its contributors do a fantastic job of filling up and updating the pages.

It’s not a reliable source for academia due to its editable nature, but I’m not using it for such purposes. All I want to do is grasp certain concepts quickly, or look at information compiled in neat tables. I click on external links when I want to find out more.

Easily editable is a double-edged sword: it means that it’ll be constantly updated, unlike encyclopedias. On the other hand, people can choose to fill pages with nonsense. Fortunately, attempts to vandalize articles are usually spotted and fixed very quickly.

Wikipedia isn’t as “rabbit-holey” as TV Tropes, which I’m glad because if it was, I’d never get anything done. Then again, it can already be quite a time sink in its current form but that might just be me and my curious nature.

After donating, nothing changed. I received a thank you email from Maryana, Wikimedia Foundation’s CEO and I resumed using the site as normal. I didn’t gain any extra perks which would have been a nice touch, but I guess that goes against the spirit of donations.

I guess it feels good knowing I’m doing something to keep one of my most-used websites afloat, even though it has been running for over twenty years will continue doing so without my help.

I’m sure I underpaid Wikipedia but that’s okay, other people can pick up the slack. What am I, Mr. Moneybags?

These Old Eyes

The other day I learned how much my eyes deteriorated again. I had taken off my blinkers for funsies and realized the words on my laptop display were a mess. It was a strange feeling.

For the past decade, I have never had any issues using a laptop without glasses. Sure, the text would be slightly blurry but I could still get things done. This time it was different.

I couldn’t decipher the text in front of me, which meant I couldn’t work. My laptop was at the usual distance away from me, approximately fifty centimeters. Regular brightness, standard resolution, etcetera. The only variable was my lack of spectacles.

Here’s an approximation of what I saw:

One hundred percent true

I promptly put my vision apparatus back onto my nose and there they remained until the end of the day. Of course, I removed them in the shower. I, too, worry about rust.

The incident opened my eyes to how damaged they were. It made me think about how I take my eyesight for granted. My silly brown irises.

I used to tell myself I didn’t need my optical equipment to survive. I had no issues driving without them, provided I didn’t need to follow signboards. I could read books, use the computer and go about my daily life with naked corneas.

What caused this disaster? Was it age? Bad habits? All those years of swimming without goggles? Who knows. Probably a combination of everything, like everything else in life. What I do know is that it’s an affliction I’ll have to spend the rest of my existence with.

I used to tell people, and I still do, that I wear goggles because they give my appearance character. And I look weird without them. That hasn’t changed, but I have one more reason to add to the list: I enjoy people mistaking me for a famous activist I can’t see well enough.

Cultivated Loyalty

Whenever I need to pump gas into my car, I’d head to the nearest Shell station. And for the longest time, I didn’t have a reason why I chose that petrol station. Not that anybody asked. I didn’t know how to justify my loyalty to the brand.

I was like a soccer fan who couldn’t tell you why I supported a specific team. Even when any excuse would have sufficed because you didn’t know anything or care about the sport, you were just being polite trying to make conversation.

Just say you watch them because they have the hottest guys, or they can always pull crazy comebacks. Or they wear your favorite color. Or shoes. Anything! It doesn’t matter!

Why did I choose Shell? After all, fuel from all major brands is meant to be interchangeable without damaging your vehicle. There’s no particular reason to use one brand over another other than for convenience’s sake.

And so, the other day, on one of my introspective drives home, the answer came to me. My obsession with Shell started a long time ago. Back when I was a kid tasked with pumping petrol for my mom, while she waited in the car.

She would hand me the cash or credit card to pass to the attendant or cashier, I’d grab the pump (after making sure it wasn’t diesel), slot it into the fuel tank, and pull the trigger. If there was no lock, I’d hold it until I felt the pump stop.

I enjoyed the smell of petrol and it felt like such a grown-up thing to do. I enjoyed the chore. My mom got to relax in the car. It was a win-win situation.

Back then, we didn’t have any gas station loyalty. It was whichever happened to be on the way to our destination, we played no favorites. One day, that changed.

I don’t recall the exact point in time but it was at least 1998 because that was when BonusLink launched. My mom got herself a card and because Shell was the only petrol station they partnered with, she made sure that she would only get gas from there. She wanted to collect as many points as possible.

In addition to giving the cash or credit card to the staff, I also had to hand over a BonusLink card.

The only time when we didn’t pump Shell was when our fuel tank was reaching empty and had no other choice. Even then, we wouldn’t pump the car to full. We’d only get enough gas for the current trip and head back to Shell to top off the remainder. We had to maximize our points!

Not that it was a bad thing, mind you. If I owned a reward card for a particular gas station, I would have done the same thing.

For years I helped my mom pay for gas at Shell stations until I was old enough to drive. Then I was given a BonusLink card (which was under my mother’s account) to buy Shell fuel for my own car as well.

I don’t remember when we stopped using BonusLink but it didn’t matter. All those years of pumping gas at Shell stations had done a number on my brain. Until this day, I haven’t stopped filling my car at the McDonald’s-themed gas stop (it’s red and yellow too).

I have no incentive to fill my car at Shell. My family hasn’t used BonusLink for years. I still do it anyway.

Hearing anecdotes over the years about how Shell fuel is more efficient than other brands also reinforced the belief, in my already biased brain, that I’ve been making the right choice. I tell myself and other people that I’m not picky about where I pump gas, it doesn’t matter to me. But somehow, I always find a Shell to pull up into.

When I know there’s a Shell up ahead, my brain tells me to push the car a little further to get fuel from there instead of Petron, Caltex or Petronas. Or god forbid, BHP. I can’t even rationalize why their stations look so unappealing to me. Something about the orange and yellow, even though I normally like those colors.

Thank you, BonusLink. One day, I’ll break the cycle.