Old People and ATM Cards

I really love old people.  I don’t always like the way they smell, but I love the way they walk around this world with the knowledge that it doesn’t matter what other people think.  With confidence regardless of whether their boobs are hanging out of their shirt or not.  With assertive drive that indicates their sense of accomplishment at having made it so far in life.

Their wisdom comes in all shapes and forms, sizes and colors and I whole heartedly believe that they have something to teach each of us.  Lets face it, they have been around this Earth longer than we have, and they have life experiences that stem from an entirely different way of living (one in which few of us could handle today) that can definitely give us some insight as to where we are being led astray in today’s crazy ass world.

One thing I really love about old people is getting behind them in line at a store and watching them try to use their ATM or Credit card in the new and fancy machines that us younger folk can likely operate with our eyes closed.  Heck, my 6 year old knows how to swipe my card and sign my name.

Old Woman Using a Walker Equipped With a Horn ClipartEach time they approach the machine, there is at least 55 seconds of hesitancy, followed by an instinctive feeling that these new machines are completely for the birds.  Last week, while shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, I assisted an older lady who was trying to use her debit card to pay for her purchases.  She was clearly pissed, and clearly annoyed that the store wouldn’t allow her to write a check, and announced that in this world she was too frightened to carry around cash.  Her clear annoyance for the dreaded swiping machine was deeply rooted in mistrust that these machines will  actually work and her belief that this was just another trick and scheme that our government was forcing her to do so that they could one day steal all of her hard earned money.  “She worked for 57 years she told us,” shaking her head in disgust. She admitted quite loudly, that she still buried money in mason jars in her yard and told us that if we were smart we would start doing the same.  I smiled.  (And secretly wished I knew where she lived because I imagine there are hundreds of mason jars buried at her house).

When the machine asked for her PIN number, she was of course clueless.  “PIN Number!?” She screeched.  “I don’t have no PIN number, hell I cant even remember my granddaughters phone number, how am I supposed to remember a PIN number?”  More frustration.

The nice check out lady then convinced her to use her ATM card as credit.

This led to a lengthy conversation about the evils and perils behind credit cards and that she had just received her social security check and would not be charging food of all things.  She also explained that her grandson had gotten into some trouble with credit cards and pointed her soft finger and warned us younger folks to avoid the credit card scam.  Again, with a quart of ice cream melting in my arms, I explained to her as nicely as possible, that it would still come out of her checking account just like it would if she used the card as debit, and that she would not be receiving a bill, and that she wasn’t in reality using her card as a credit card.  “Well it says credit right here young lady!”  It was sort of hard to argue with that.

My words fell on deaf ears.  Not literally deaf, but ears that had likely heard so many lies and seen so many methods of deceit in one life that it makes it easy to mistrust.

“This would be so much easier if I could just write a check,” she grimaced – sliding her card through the reader one last time.  “This world is out of control.  If they don’t want us to use checks, then everyone should be forced to use cash.  I used to pay for my groceries with dollar bills and dimes back in the day before food became so dang expensive,” she quipped. “At least when I right a check, I can use my signature.”

Seeing a hole I told her, “You will get to sign your receipt here too!”  For a moment in made her feel better, until she realized that her signature would be taken on what she referred to as an etch and sketch, and that she was certain the bank would not accept her transaction because Lydia at the bank would know that was not her handwriting.  As she packed up her backs and left, I was just left to ponder.  What is it that we younger folks are missing?  What is it that the generation before us finds so frustrating about the way we handle day to day life.

Is it us that are so far ahead – or does this generation have something to learn?

As the clerk checked out my order, she said, “Like the banks really check handwriting anymore,” shaking her head in clear disdain about what she considered less than intelligent behavior from an elderly person.

But for me, this was proof that long ago, things were VERY different.

This was also some sort of proof, that perhaps our generation - as trusting as we are, as nonchalant as we have become about money and spending, are headed down a disastrous road that enables us to take too much for granted too far.  Be real, its easy to swipe a card and go.  There is something very detached about the way we handle money today, trusting technology and cable wires to transmit every little thing we do.  Maybe we are moving too fast in the wrong direction.  What if the innuendos about our money and bank accounts being tied to electronic tracking devices in our arms are true.  (Yes, a little apocalyptic and paranoid, but nonetheless thought provoking).  Chances are if you would have told today’s elderly that they would be carrying around plastic debit cards instead of cash or checks they too would have shaken their heads in utter disbelief.

Soon, as the years fly by – there will be fewer and fewer people who remember what it was like to know bank teller by name, who know about writing checks and balancing checkbooks without getting online.  And our detachment with our money will become even greater.  The people who lived through the great depression will no longer be here to teach us the simpler side of life, or to remind us that perhaps we are getting a little carried away with things.

There is a part of me that has to wonder why the older people today feel such a deep sense of despair when it comes to something as simple as a debit card and a card reading machine.  Maybe, just maybe – they are trying to tell us something.



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  1. Star says:

    I worked in a bank for over 5 yrs. and this is so true…
    The older generation do not like using ‘plastic’ as most of them call it…
    Plastic is evil, plastic will make you go broke…
    But trying to explain to them that this is safer for them to use was nearly impossible…
    My father (R.I.P) was born in 1909, so I heard about the evils of everything… LOL
    His biggest pet peeve was girls who wore ‘dungarees’ (jeans) and couldn’t walk properly in heels and a dress…
    Needless to say, I wasn’t allowed to wear jeans until I could walk properly in heels and a dress… And for a klutz like me, it was a challenge…
    And if I even THOUGHT of dragging my feet, I’d be in trouble… Now, that’s a big pet peeve of mine…
    It’s funny some of the simple things they can teach us, while we’re trying to teach them something quite complicated.
    I love reading your blogs… They’re awesome!!!

  2. Convenience does lead to nonchalance. Don’t you love that you were behind her that day? The bit of insight is definitely worth a little melted ice cream.

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