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Life as performance art

Life as performance art

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By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

I wrote recently about how the U.S. is edging towards becoming a cash-less society, much like several European nations.

It might be a trend; it might be a conspiracy foisted upon us by parties who want to pry even deeper into our personal lives. That theory seemed to gain credence when Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg announced his hopes to launch his own e-currency.

It’s worse than we thought. Not that long ago most local banks had a whiz of a machine for counting and sorting coins.

A customer might bring in a coffee can full of accumulated change and hand it to the teller.  Said teller would empty the coins into the hopper on the top of the machine, start the motor and magically quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies were dispatched to the appropriate drawers.

The teller offered the customer a choice: deposit the money into the passbook savings account or walk out with oblong pictures of Presidents, et. al.

One day the change-counting machine disappeared because it was broken. Not to worry; the bank would soon be a new one. When that never happened, the option became counting and rolling our own change or taking the coffee can to a non-bank location where there was such a machine. The unpleasant surprise was their sizeable percentage fee.

That’s when I realized the fix was in and, being cheap, I rolled my own.

The trend in banking has become informality. Locations used to rely on classical Italian architecture to give the impression they were temples of wealth. Solemn and formal tellers were ensconced behind metal grates like priests in a confessional. One look from them when you wanted to withdraw money could make you feel like you really were a sinner.

All that is being replaced by soothing “café” settings. A host or hostess invites a guest to enjoy a cup of coffee and use a computer terminal to transact business. We ladies and gentlemen of a certain age will remember receiving a toaster or six-pack of leaded glass champagne flute for opening a new account. Nowadays forget it.

Café-style banks don’t have coins nor will they receive them. Perhaps the coffee-doling host/ess can explain what a business is supposed to do, or where they can get change to give their customers.

When we were growing up we learned about money, thrift, spending, saving and investing through our pennies, nickels, dimes and the rare quarter. We watched our parents fill up that coffee can or glass milk bottle with their spare change, asked questions and got a can or piggy bank of our own.

It was grown-up stuff when we accompanied a grown-up to the bank, and took comfort in knowing our vast hoard of wealth was being counted out by a teller who knew he or she was under the watchful eye of the retired police officer stationed near the door with a 12-gauge on his lap. No John Dillinger was going to make off with our money!

Gone. Now some poor mum or dad has to explain to their little tax exemption they have a plastic card that replaces all of those pennies, nickels, dimes, etc., and that savings account passbook.

When the little tax exemption asks where is the money, the old folks can say it’s invisible but there. Seriously? Want to find out what happens when we have an industrial-strength solar flare? It really will be invisible.

Change is good for us! We need change! Change is good for America.