Every time I take out my credit card to make a transaction, I bless it for the convenience it provides me. A quick swipe of plastic and that Hershey Almond Bar is mine, nougat filling and all. Some kiosks encourage even lazier habits. Just tap your credit card on the scanner and with some NFC voodoo, your credentials permeate the airwaves in encrypted matter, zipping straight into the merchant’s bank account. It’s kind of incredible how it works so seamlessly without effort, like turkey bacon on a warm hot dog with melted velveeta. That’s got to be amazing, right?
Yet I have an uneasy feeling. Dave Caolo pondering of money’s existence got me thinking about cash and the lack of tangibility. You know, that feeling of a crisp $5 note that you hand over to a cashier to get your regular coffee. The smell of crumpled green notes in your wallet, waiting to be counted one by one. A new set of bills from a client, greeted by a moistened thumb to make sure he didn’t “forget” to pay you. For me, having a tangible and valuable asset in your hand to covet, cherish and call your own is huge.
However, once I go to a bank teller and hand over that hard earned cash, it sits in the confines of that faceless institution. I can go withdraw my cash at the any bank location but never get the same dollar bills I deposited. To see my account in digital bits feels impersonal, like it doesn’t belong to me but to the server on the wayside. Watching the numbers fluctuate up and down on my cellphone is a numbing and cold feeling.
And a transaction between me and you stops being between me and you. There is this invisible hand who moves it for us, sometimes without us even realizing it. And the transaction is over. And it happened so fast. I didn’t get to see my money leave my hands. Only refreshing digits on a backlit screen and a confirmation number. Transactions are so seamless it’s almost muted. My balance is a computer algorithm, at the whims of an indiscriminate broker.
In this digital age, I’ve given up tangible ownership for convenience by a middle man. Its more than uneasy. It kinda freaks me out.