Saturday, November 9, 2013

No Money

My apologies to the woman ringing the Salvation Army bell outside of the grocery store.

My apologies to the earnest young woman in the mall who has dedicated her life to Christ and is looking for financial support to out and spread the word.

My apologies to the woman hollering me down as I finish pumping gas.

I know that it may sound like I'm anti-charity or just a damned cheapskate, but that isn't the issue.  I don't know the last time I actually carried money.

The answer does not come easily to me.  I know that I took some out of an ATM when I was in New Orleans in the middle of October, because that tends to be a "cash city," except that it really wasn't.  There are still some places that will only take cash, but they have their own ATM machines, so the city doesn't require the kind of carrying around money that it once did.  And because we stayed out in Metairie in a hotel without parking valets, I didn't even need the supply of one dollar bills that grease that kind of operation.

Last weekend, I was in Atlanta.  I never used anything but a debit card.  Yesterday, I drove to west Tennessee and back for a funeral. Again, nothing but swiping that card for whatever I needed--gas, drive-thru food, etc.

Where has all the money gone?

I know I'm not alone.  I know that you are the same, though some of you can't quite break the habit of feeling like you need some cash in your wallet "for emergencies."  Most likely, you don't.  If you have no cash and you need some, there are a number of ways to get it easily.  But you probably don't even need it.

What does this mean for people who rely on money, who can't necessarily download an app and add a little swiping device to their iPads to conduct business?  That is, of course, the lower class, the underclass, the desperate, the man standing at the stoplight by the freeway exit with a sign.  It is the fish fry on the corner and the Mexican family that can't spell "chicken" right set up in the parking lot.

The old dodge of "I'm sorry, but I don't any money on me" has become truth.

While having no cash may make me feel urbane and modern, in front of a national trend and able to offer ironic commentary on popular culture, the fact is that all kinds of commerce depends on the money that I don't have unless I plan for it--tips, handouts, lemonade stands, spontaneous yard work, door-to-door sales.  Any chance for anyone to make a quick buck has been undermined by the technology of electronic money.

Certainly, that makes things easier for me.  I can't be hustled.  I can't be hit up for a donation.  I have the easiest time saying "no" or "sorry" because even if I would, I can't.

But that is the problem.  While electronic money was expressly designed to make things easier for me, and to make a bunch of electronic money for someone else, it is also a simple, small, but pervasive way that the have-nots can't get even a little.  It allows us to tell one of the big lies:  saying we don't have any money on us doesn't mean that we don't have any money.  It just means that we can't be bothered to get it.

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