This man, who came to adulthood before most people had bank accounts, probably has no need of a credit card – he could just as easily manage with a debit card and a cheque book – but he has presumably been sold it as an easy way of managing his everyday financial transactions. And it has brought him only anxiety that he will be left in debt.
Credit cards, cashpoints and the internet have almost removed the necessity for high street banks to deal with their customers in person. Queueless services mean that they can focus on valued clientele and retreat from any obligation to the wider community. Online accounts allow them to cream-skim their wealthiest clients and offer them preferential rates. As smaller bank branches close, queuing up to be served by a cashier is now an old-fashioned way of getting hold of money – although I notice that there is also an alternative queue in the bank for ‘premier customers’.
The sad thing is that everyone within earshot, including the people in the queue, is laughing quietly at this elderly man. Why is he talking so loudly? How can he have got through life without understanding the basics of how banking works? The cashier is still laughing when I arrive at her till to pay in my cheque. She explains that the money will be in my account by next Friday. For six days, in other words, my money will cease to exist, except perhaps in the form of virtual chips on the international money markets.
I share the old man’s incomprehension at this way of ordering things.
A piece I did on birdwatching a while back is now on that excellent website, Caught by the River: http://caughtbytheriver.net/2011/08/off-piste-the-birdman-of-academia/
Mundane quote for the day: ‘How many people turn on the radio and leave the room, satisfied with the distant and sufficient noise? Is this absurd? Not in the least. What is essential is not that one particular person speak and another hear, but that, with no one in particular speaking and no one in particular listening, there should nonetheless be speech, and a kind of undefined promise to communicate, guaranteed by the incessant coming and going of solitary words.’ – Maurice Blanchot