AA, AAA or Double D’s
by Carolyn Wyler
“To B(e) or not to B(e) that is the question,” Well maybe back in your day, Mr. Shakespeare, but today we’ve advanced up a grade level, to where two A’s or triple A’s is the question. Everything from people, cars, stereo systems, credit agencies, businesses, athletics, movies and even countries has a rating of sorts. It might be a letter, number, medal or stars. Though I understand the purpose and benefit of these rankings, (I myself have a subscription to Consumer Reports and do refer to them whenever I plan on making a major purchase), I question if our world has become overly obsessed with ratings.
Years ago, if I had brought home a D on a report card, my parents would have flipped out and downgraded my freedom a couple notches from something positive to a negative, at least until I had worked back up to meet their expected standards.
So if one D is considered bad, what about two? You definitely would not be making it into Harvard with these grades and it would, most assuredly, limit your choices of colleges you would be able to attend. If you’re a porn star however, your double D’s most likely would assure you more paid “acting” opportunities. Either way though, you’re screwed.
And if one A is above average and considered a good thing, two or three A’s would be even better, or so one would assume. But sometimes two A’s give you recovering addiction meetings. Yet AAA offers auto insurance, towing and multiple discounts.
Bo Derek gets a rating of 10 as she bounces around on the beach, and is considered a real babe by many, yet if you’re a kid and your mom is counting to 10, it generally means your butt is going to have a stinging encounter with her hand if you don’t move before she reaches 10.
So pardon me if I’m a bit confused.
Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. a single notch from AAA to AA+. Let me put this whole notch thing in perspective for you. If you’re measuring on your bedpost all of your sexual escapades with a slash mark, this tiny little “notch” is generally nameless and insignificant and mostly just for show. A single company’s rating, however, can cause people to panic, the stock market to take a dive and the economical future of the U.S. to stand on unstable, shaky ground.
Yet Fitch still rates the U.S. with an AAA rating. This leads to another problem with this whole rating fiasco. Just because Simon Cowell says he doesn’t like you doesn’t mean someone else might not think you were fantastic and you might still have a chance at winning American Idol. Two patients in the hospital, having had the exact same procedure with no complications, might rate their pain level on two opposite sides of the 0-10 scale. Or a late night adult magic show in Tahoe that your husband rates as “one of the best he’s ever seen” gets cancelled just a couple of weeks later because the critics thought (as you had) that the show was really awful. (The moral of this story: Never trust an individual’s ratings unequivocally when there are scantily clad women prancing about).
Another problem with the world’s grading system is when one loses perspective and it’s no longer about the original altruistic goal or purpose. The battle to win becomes an obsession and it no longer matters who you hurt, whose toes you step on, or who you take down, but, rather, who becomes the alpha male. Presenting exhibit A-: the political battle party being thrown in this country right now.
So what is the answer? Certainly not to rid the world of all value symbols, as they do in fact serve a purpose. If I plan on purchasing a new car, I wouldn’t just run out and buy the coolest looking red convertible that would guarantee to make me look 20 years younger and have good looking rich men throwing phone numbers my way, without once investigating how it was rated for performance and maintenance. Maybe the answer lies in trying to get people to understand that these numbers or letters are just symbols, and sometimes just one individual’s or group’s subjective judgment. They can be used at times as a measurement to make better choices or improvements to our lives, but are not always absolutes.