Abraham Wilson, celebrating his ninetieth birthday with friends, joked that he didn’t feel a day over eighty. Then, with much protest from the group celebrating with him, he picked up the dinner check.
“Oh no you don’t,’ said one of the friends. We’ll get that.”
“Not on your life, guys. This has been a great evening and it’s on me."
Then he pulled out his wallet, selected a credit card and handed it, along with the bill, to the waiter who went off to work his magic on the touch-screen adjacent to the little window where the kitchen crew passed out the prepared meals.
Shortly, the waiter returned and handed the card to Abraham.
“Sorry Mr. Wilson, but your credit card has expired. I’ll need another source of payment.”
Agitated, Abraham took the little plastic offender from the waiter and searched through the other cards in his wallet.
“They’re all expired, he muttered. Now I feel like I really am ninety and incapable of conducting my own affairs.”
“Not a problem, sir. We still accept cash.”
“Maybe you don’t have a problem, young man, but I don’t carry that much cash.”
“No to worry, Abe,” said his best friend. “I’ll get it and you can pay me back later.”
Abraham’s mind went into overload later that evening, alone at home. He had always been on top of his finances since he started working as a grocery stock boy when he was just thirteen years old. He knew it was silly but he was devastated by the earlier fiasco at the restaurant. As he sorted through the few credit cards he had, he resolved that it wasn’t him getting older; it was technology getting more invasive and demanding.
When he no longer needed the credit cards, he would let the banks know. Where did they get off assigning a random expiration date to his ability to conduct his personal affairs?
“Digital, schmidgital,” he scoffed aloud. “I’ll show them. Starting tomorrow morning, I’m going back to the good ole days of analog, or whatever they called it back then. I didn’t need a wallet full of plastic then and I certainly don’t need that now.”
* * *
Right after breakfast and his morning news via antenna TV, Abraham headed onto the Internet and soon was persona non existentia on all social media and even email. The email opt-out was the toughest to swallow but he was dedicated to the task of getting back to the way things were when life seemed so simple. Ironically, he renewed his library card online before canceling his ISP contract. The next hardest action he took was to give up his smart phone for a simple flip version. He added prepaid post cards to his weekly grocery list; common courtesy demanded that he notify everyone he could of his cold turkey exit from technology.
At the few retail stores where he had credit accounts, going analog was simple. Just talk to some pimply faced script-kiddy working for gas money and Abraham’s access to credit was history. But the bank was a whole different world. The young tellers there had never lived in an analog world and they were not sure what to do. They insisted that Abraham speak with one of the personal bankers; slightly older ladies and gentlemen who wore suits and had private offices.
“Mr. Wilson, we certainly can honor your request but you might want to reconsider. The world is going cashless and there could be problems if you buck that trend. How about switching to a debit card? You can pay for your purchases with it and the merchants will be paid automatically. You’ll get an accounting of that each month but you won’t have to respond. Just file it away for your record.”
“Plastic is plastic and I don’t want any plastic between me and my meager income. I’ll take the cash and settle my business on the spot with green-backs.”
“If you insist. But if you have any problems, we’re here to help you.”
“Funny, said Abraham, “that’s what you said when I first got the credit card.”
Back home, Abraham looked at his wallet and imagined it a lot thinner than it really was after removing all his credit and banking cards. But, as he took one more look at the empty section of his wallet where the cards had been, he noted that all he had in his wallet now was his driver’s license, social security card (although he had been advised not to carry that with him) and his Medicare card. Life was good.
“I’m not really fully analog as long as my social security income is electronically transferred to the bank,” he thought to himself. “But, I do travel to see my kids frequently and I guess I should stick with direct deposit instead of snail mail. I can handle that much automation, knowing that my money will be in the bank on the fifth of each month.”
* * *
Promptly, on the fifth of the next month, Abraham walked to the bank to convert part of his social security stipend to a handful of fives, tens and twenties. It had been too long since he had the satisfaction of his income in hand, prominently inscribed with “IN GOD WE TRUST”.
“Good morning, Mr. Wilson. What can I do for you today?” asked the young teller.
“Well, I don’t know what you can do for me, but you may be able to help me,” Abraham jested. “I would like to withdraw two-hundred dollars from my checking account. Do you prefer a check or a withdrawal slip?”
“Either is fine with the bank, but I will need to see two forms of ID even though I know who you are. It’s a bank policy.”
“OK,” Abraham said although he cringed a bit at the request. “Here’s my driver’s license and my social security card.”
“Do you have a bank card?” asked the teller, even though he knew the situation.
“No I don’t, sonny,” said Abraham with a forced smile. “I’ll be back. We’ll get through this together with a little patience on both sides.”
From the bank, Abraham went to the local craft store where he found just what he wanted; sheets of press-and-stick black letters about the size of ordinary typewriter font and an individual sheet of light green thick vinyl. He knew vinyl was technically plastic but he could justify having it in his wallet if he just called it vinyl.
Back home, he took out his old Exacto knife, a metal straightedge and a homemade burnishing tool he had used in his youth to apply transfers to model airplanes. In just a little time, he completed his work and slipped the small rectangle of vinyl into his wallet before returning to the bank.
“Welcome back, Mr. Wilson. How …MAY… I help you?”
“I would like to complete the withdrawal we talked about earlier. Here’s my bank card.”
Looking at the little piece of light green plastic, the teller returned it to Abraham and then counted out a combination of fives, tens, and twenties as originally requested.
“Thank you very much, sonny. I knew we could come to an understanding. Have a great day.”
“That was interesting,” said the other teller as Abraham exited the bank. “What kind of bank card did he hand you?”
“A handmade masterpiece that said, ‘If the bearer of this card, Abraham Wilson, does not immediately receive the requested funds from his personal account, you can bank on him grabbing your scrawny little neck and pulling you through the tiny opening in the sneeze screen to issue a beating you won’t soon forget. Welcome to the analog world.”