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luddites
the beauty of digitizing everything
by dirk cotton
1.31.11
humor

“Watch this!” I boasted to my friend in the cafeteria checkout line. “I don’t carry credit cards, anymore! I shredded all of them.”

It’s always been important to me to have the latest technological gadget before anyone else, so when I found out I could put my credit cards on my smart phone and just have the cashiers scan a barcode on my screen, I stuffed those little plastic cards down the throat of my paper shredder (which I had before any of my friends, by the way) faster than you could say Engadget.com.

“We don’t have a barcode scanner here, sir,” the enormous and slightly amused cashier informed me after overhearing our discussion. “So, if you can’t squeeze that phone through this little credit card slot or glue those shredded pieces of plastic back together real quick, I’m gonna need to see some cash, Honey.”

She looked back over her shoulder at a coworker with a mop standing next to her and they both LOL’d.

I ignored her snark, picked up my tray and said to my buddy, “Can you get this for me? I’m out of cash, but there’s an ATM across the street.”

“I don’t know," he asked suspiciously, "did you shred your debit card, too?”

He smirked, but reached for his wallet, pulled out an old-fashioned credit card and sliced it through the magnetic stripe reader without a hitch.

We found a table and I regaled him with an explanation of the credit card phone technology and how much it had simplified my life.

“So, you replaced a few tiny cards of plastic with a handful of electronics and that has made your life simpler?”

“Yeah, but you're missing the point. . .”

“I thought you told me that you hate your cell phone company,” he added.

“Well, I do. Just not as much as I hate my cable company. And I hate Blue Cross even more.”

“OK, so why, then, do you want your cell phone company involved in your banking transactions?”

The guy was thick.

I realized this discussion was going nowhere, so I cut it off. He’s not a technology guy. He just doesn’t see the beauty of digitizing everything. He carries a three-year old ThinkPad around in that old shoulder bag. Seriously? A ThinkPad? I know an Amish kid with a nicer laptop. This guy doesn’t know Engadget from lifehacker.

We cleared our trays and walked across the street to the bank so I could repay him for a breakfast that I didn’t ultimately enjoy that much after all.

Luddite.

I still had my debit card, though I couldn’t wait to get that on my smart phone, too. Maybe I could get rid of my entire wallet one day.

My password was rejected by the ATM machine, so I walked over to the service desk. The bank employee checked my account number on her computer.

“I’m sorry, sir, but your account has been deactivated.”

“What? Why?” I asked in shock.

“Says here that your account has been hacked. Do you use online banking?”

“Who doesn’t?” I asked with all the indignity I could muster.

“Well, could be that. We’ve even had some problems with viruses on smart phones. Doesn’t have to be a problem with your PC, anymore. Let’s go into my office and start clearing this up.”

My buddy didn’t think I noticed him roll his eyes.

“Look, I’ve gotta go,” he said. “We can catch up later.”

Fortunately, the bank had the account problem resolved in a couple of hours and I was able to do some shopping. I bought a pair of jeans, three t-shirts and a screen protector for my iPad at Wal-mart. Compact Flash cards were on sale, so I picked up two 8 MB cards for twenty bucks each and a mouse pad and a cover for my iPod Touch. I dropped my last iPod and cracked the screen, so now I don’t go anywhere without protection.

The checkout line was fairly long, but I finally made it to the cashier. I picked up a box of AAA batteries as I slowly shuffled forward from one of those handy display stands they put right next to the checkout line. I never seem to have enough batteries.

“You have a barcode scanner, right?” I asked the 20-year old behind the counter.

“Of course, we do!” he smiled.

I reached into the pocket of my cargo pants for my phone.

It wasn’t there.

I searched several other pockets while the customers behind me began to lose patience.

“I’m sorry, but I guess I left my cell phone in the car. I’ll be right back.”

“I’ll place your merchandise here beside me until you return, sir,” he informed me with noticeably less than his initial enthusiasm.

I walked back across the parking lot and found my car. Finding the phone was easy. I had plugged it into the car’s sound system. I pulled it out of the dock and returned to the store.

The line was shorter now, but I was too embarrassed to step to the front, so I waited my turn. I grabbed a box of Tic-Tac’s from the display while I waited, once again thinking how considerate the store was to place necessities so close to checkout.

I pulled up the credit card app on my smart phone’s screen and held the barcode image up to the reader, but nothing happened. I angled it every way I could under that thin red line, but it wouldn’t beep. I kept trying, but the clerk was losing patience.

“It often won’t read those, sir,” the clerk said. “I think it’s the shiny screens or something.”

“Can’t you just type in my credit card number from here on the screen?” I pleaded.

“Sorry, sir. Store policy. I need to see your signature on the back of the card.”

I tried several more times, then gave up and reached into my wallet for cash, realizing that I could have saved myself a walk across the parking lot and back, a second wait in line, and a box of Tic-Tac’s had I paid cash earlier.

Of course, I wouldn’t have had a downloadable record of the transaction on Mint.com if I had paid cash.

I took my merchandise home, logged onto Mint.com and laboriously entered the cash transaction, actually typing information from the paper receipt on my keyboard and thinking to myself, ”how 1990s is this?”

My wife interrupted my mental musings.

"You know we're going out to dinner with my boss tonight, right? You'd better get dressed."

We went to Chez Elaine’s with my wife’s new boss, Anne, and her husband, Jim. My wife had put me on strict orders to help her impress Jim and Anne and not to dominate the conversation with a dry technical discussion of the latest advances in consumer technology.

But, I could tell that Jim was really into that sort of thing, despite my wife’s concerns, so I told him about my new wireless-N router and how much our Wi-Fi throughput had improved from nearly every room in the house since I installed it.

I thought Jim and had I hit it off well and when the check came, I insisted on paying for dinner. After the requisite back and forth about splitting the bill, Jim conceded.

“Watch this!” I winked at Jim as I pulled out my smart phone.

I stared at the check and my phone for several seconds until the waitress finally interrupted.

“Is there a problem?” she inquired with a puzzled look.

“Sorry. . .” I answered sheepishly. “The battery on my credit card seems to be dead.”



ABOUT DIRK COTTON

Dirk Cotton is a retired executive of a Fortune 500 Internet company who loves to spend time with his family, fly fish, shoot sporting clays, attend college baseball games, sail, follow the Wildcats, and write. Everything else he does is just for fun. A computer programmer-cum-marketing executive-cum-financial planner who now wants to be a writer, he apparently can't decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He and his family moved to The Southern Part of Heaven in 2005 and couldn't be happier with that decision.

more about dirk cotton

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COMMENTS

jael mchenry
1.25.11 @ 4:55p

Heh. Nicely done.

tracey kelley
1.25.11 @ 11:25p

After the hassle I just went through regarding my "smart" phone, I'm beginning to see the value of paying for everything with two chickens and a goat.



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