Who misses paying in cash? Well I do | Money


IIn high school, my 10 closest friends and I used to cram into Civics, Corollas, and Mustangs and spend 40 minutes in quick, casual restaurants on Saturday nights. Sitting around sticky tables and munching on bread sticks at will, we chatted, laughed at each other, and ordered meals that we thought were fancy, mimicking suburban adulthood.

When the check came in, we were teenagers again. The money would come out. The negotiations have started.

You don’t really know your friends until you split a check 11 ways. Some friends casually threw 20’s on the table, and some brought change like arcade clerks to make sure they weren’t paying too much for a dime. Some said they deserved a free lunch because they drove and we owed them gas, or because they covered you last time, or because they gave you math homework. to copy. I veered between stingy and munificent depending on whether it was winter or summer (I had a job as an ice cream collector).

Splitting the check was a miserable operation made even more miserable when we belatedly asked the server to grant us separate checks. They often refused. As a part-time ice cream scooper, I understood their resistance.

Fifteen years after high school, I find myself crying about money economics. Cash has become less and less relevant due to the rise of electronic payment options such as Venmo and Apple Pay. More recently, according to the New York Times, “the coronavirus is accelerating a shift towards a cashless future.” Throughout the pandemic, before learning more about the dangers of surface transmission, paying in cash seemed like an unnecessary risk. The imaginative pleasure of wondering where your dollar got turned into a suspicious background check: Did the previous owner wash their hands well?

I understand why people might not want to use cash outside of recent pandemic security concerns. Money is dirty. It is quite often old. It rocks. It’s cumbersome. It represents the faces of white men who own slaves. It is likely to tumble in strong autumn winds.

And even.

My love for money was instilled in me from an early age. When I was a child, there was a clear rift between my divorced parents. While my mom preferred to buy everything with a credit card, my dad always used cash. What might appear to be mere differences in personal preferences in reality spoke volumes about their distinct economic upbrings. My mother grew up the youngest daughter of an upper middle class family in rural New Jersey. After his parents died as a child, my father jumped between foster homes before settling in my mother’s hometown. My mother still has the same paid job she got when I was a kid. My father was constantly doing odd jobs when I was young.

Cash is the most reliable source of income for those without a bank account. It is paid to those who work illegally; this is the tooth fairy’s favorite offer. What else in this world so harmoniously connects the black market to childhood fantasy? My older stepsister used to carry a dollar with her at all times to make sure she “never goes bankrupt”.

Money is not, as the saying goes, king. On the contrary, it is paid by kings to people like my father: those who moonlight to serve their wealthier clients. On my Sundays with him, he took me through his work rewiring garages and installing ceiling fans for wealthy families in suburban New Jersey. He was normally paid in cash for this work. On the rare occasion that he received a check, he and I would go to various bodegas and restaurants to try to cash it.

After I finished a job, before handing me over to my mom, he would take me to a toy store to choose a gift – a bribe. Even as a child, I understood that he bought me toys out of guilt, wishing he didn’t need to rush and be able to spend time with me instead. I don’t remember a single gift he bought for me. But I vividly remember the money he kept folded in his metal money clip, how he slid the bills and counted them, nervously, before handing the correct amount to the cashier.

Like many men, my dad struggled to express his feelings, and it’s no surprise that he used money to show his love. His addiction to money made it clear how vulnerable he was – economically and emotionally -.

Years later, when I was 17, I saw my grandfather tragically die, and when I told my father about the incident that same day, he hugged me and gave me a hug. consoled while I cried. After letting go, he pulled out a $ 50 bill from his pocket, handed it over and suggested I go to the mall. It would be easy to blame him for this gesture. But it was the expression of the love he knew how to give. I went to the mall that day and bought something fun and silly. I buried my grief elsewhere, if only for a few hours, and I was grateful.

In college, I served at a table in a small Japanese restaurant where money represented more than half of my earnings. At the end of the night, my boss was dividing up tips in envelopes for each server – after tipping sushi chefs, cooks and pulling a percentage to cover credit card fees. My bi-weekly checks abstractedly hinted at the work I had done, while tips were immediate markers of effort. My colleagues and I would often go out for drinks after our shifts. I never drank more than I could afford with my tips. I wasn’t a night owl, and since colleagues ordered new tours, asking me to stay outside, I liked having an excuse to come home: I just ran out of money.

I still feel uncomfortable with credit cards. I opened my first when I was 20 to get 15% off at Banana Republic and left it unused until it expired. I opened my second in my mid-twenties; this remains my only card. For years, I used cash to buy alcohol or junk food.

When the lockdown started I put $ 500 aside in a secure place. At 32, I still don’t like leaving my house without a $ 20 bill in my pocket. There is something solid about cash that credit cards will never duplicate. Like many tangible objects being phased out in a digital world, cash is not ideal for the environment, although cryptocurrency mining is the furthest thing from a solution.

Cash offers what credit cards and cryptocurrency will never do: a clear and indisputable marker of what I have, who I can be, and what I intend to lose.

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