Monday, February 20, 2017


We got new credit cards the other day.

This is kind of a special thing, since we pretty much only have the one account.  It’s a lot simpler that way, and it’s a great deal easier to keep a close eye on expenses so they don’t get away from us.  Been there, done that, took a long time to bring them to heel, don’t plan on doing that again.

The old cards were about to expire, so they sent us some new ones.  They’re snazzy.  They’re shiny.  They’re sleek.

And they represent an end of an era, really.

When I worked at the museum, a decade ago now, we were as behind the times as you would expect a non-profit historical site to be.  Our cash register, for example, had manual typewriter keys for numbers and you youngsters can look up what those are for yourselves.  Apparently the new director has since moved it from the gift shop into the museum itself as an artifact, which was kind of depressing but not unwarranted. 

I used to hate it when people tried to pay with credit cards.  We didn’t have any fancy magnetic stripe reader, and chip cards were something that only Europeans knew anything about at the time.  No, for us, we had to take the card, put it in one of those old-fashioned impression-makers and slide the roller over it hard enough to get the numbers to print on the carbon paper.  It took some muscle to process a credit card order, and a good five minutes.

Nobody does that anymore.

Nobody under the age of thirty even knows what that paragraph was talking about.

It’s all chips today.  These are much nicer, probably more secure, and generally easier to work with once you get the hang of them, and if I ever get to visit my friends in Europe again perhaps the storekeepers there will not look so disappointed as they hand back my dowdy old magnetic strip American card and tell me to try some other establishment the way some of them had to do last time we were there.  The cards still have the magnetic strips, since many places haven’t made the jump to the chip readers yet here in the US of A, but I find that even ATMs are now focused on the chip.

The thing is, neither the chip readers nor the magnetic strip readers require raised numbers on your cards. 

For a long time the cards would have them anyway, sort of as a relic from the 1970s, much like the idea of holding a president accountable for his crimes.

Then some bright soul figured out that since impression-makers had gone the way of VCRs, they could probably save themselves the expense of molding the credit cards with raised numbers.  She probably got a promotion for this.  And then was let go in a cost-cutting reorganization, because that’s how corporate America works these days.

So we have sleek, smooth credit cards with the numbers just printed on.

I’m still find myself looking for the numbers, but then those old 1970s ideas die hard.

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