Posts Tagged 'currency'

Cash is not king…

I have a cute box on the kitchen counter. It’s four inches wide, six long and four deep. Made of exotic woods, it contains much of what I need to sustain life in the event of an earthquake, fire storm, or a visit by unfriendly alien beings.

As my ability to locate things diminishes with age, I have used the box as though it were a lifeboat in hurricane battered waters. Realizing that, like the lifeboat, the box has just so much space, I am choosy about what goes into it. Once assigned a seat in the boat, the survivor can always be found in its assigned space. Time that would have been spent searching the house can now be spent watching more TV.

The principal occupants of the box are my keys, including our house, her house, and my car. Another space is reserved for my thirty-year-old wallet that Ila and I bought in Scotland. It has a Gaelic phrase on its face, the meaning of which has been long forgotten. The indestructible wallet has my driver’s license, auto club card, insurance coverage, and that registration thing I must give a highway patrolman if he stops me for driving like an old man.

The wallet also has my credit cards which, if used at their present stratospheric speed, will require replacement before my old wallet does.

The final occupant of the box is a wad of cash that includes ones, fives, tens, and twenties, all neatly arranged numerically and folded in half. This neatness was inherited from an old friend who not only arranged them numerically but also made sure they were all facing in the same direction. A shiny money clip kept everything in place. I asked him why he took such pains with his cash, and he said, “You treat your money well and it will treat you well.” I never really knew what that meant, but he was serious about it.

Other odds and ends litter the box but have no assigned seats. They linger in the box until I get up enough energy to file them away where they will never again see the light of day or toss them in the trash…same result but with less respect.

I will always have a seat for my wallet and my keys until the government, Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk find a better solution. Maybe a chip embedded in your armpit or a laser beam spilling forth from your eyeball will open doors or flash an electronic version of that thing you hand to the highway patrol guy.

I don’t think that cash has the same staying power as the other things. “Cash is King” will be a forgotten phrase that kids will think has something to do with that guy who used to sing Folsom Prison Blues and look a lot like Joaquin Phoenix.

Money was mostly unknown until about 1,000BCE when metal coins showed up. We bartered before that time, maybe like a cow for a shirt. Paper money arrived around 800CE and remained the currency of choice for over a thousand years until in 1960 someone said, “Why don’t we use a piece of plastic to buy things?” Sounded a little funny then, even funnier than a cow for a shirt. There are now 2.8 billion credit cards in use and the companies offering them fill up most of the space in my mailbox.

For sixty years I stuffed my pants pockets with credit cards and greenbacks; I needed both forms of payment since many merchants displayed signs saying, “Cash Only”. I used my credit cards infrequently since, like my immigrant parents, I avoided any kind of debt and the misery that would surely include putting me in the “poor house”.

As the years passed, my purchases using plastic began to exceed those involving cash. The recent pandemic accelerated the use of plastic as we avoided touching dirty money that might be carrying the dreaded virus. We did more on-line shopping that could only be transacted with a credit card. Coffee shops, including the cute one at the Ojai Valley Inn, would no longer accept cash for a three-dollar cup of brew.

Even the way we use the card has changed. Early on, we handed our card to the merchant who performed a series of steps to enter the transaction. Later we earned the privilege of sliding the card ourselves, hopefully with the magnetic stripe facing in the right direction. Current high-end technology allows us to simply “tap” the card on the reader.

These improvements have forced us to learn new tricks and on occasion feel frustrated as we fumble with the card, try to read the screen with our aging eyes, or wonder what the youngster behind us must be thinking as the line begins to back up.

Isn’t America wonderful? We can spend our money at the speed of light with an accompanying 18 percent rate of interest.

Feeling a growing confidence in digital technology, keeping cash in my pocket has diminished from a wad of papers that ruined the sexy lines of my expensive jeans to a single $20 bill for use in emergencies; I have yet to find that emergency. Yesterday, Jackie and I walked to the gym with only my Visa card; it was very liberating and I’m sure the women at the yoga class eyed me with greater admiration.

Now I understand there’s something called a QR Code that doesn’t even need a card reader to take your money.

Pretty soon we can just assign our paycheck or Social Security benefits to Visa or American Express at the beginning of each month and let them decide how to spend it.


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