As I was trying to yank out cash from my wallet to pay the affable restaurant server — who had come to flash the bill at the end of a meal — my colleague leaned forward and said, “Stop! Let me take this.”
“Nope, let me,” I insisted, still in the midst of dredging operations inside my disorganised wallet. But by the time I looked up, I saw my friend placing his watch close to the card-reading machine Mr Affable had carried along with him.
“What are you doing?” I wanted to know.
“Paying the bill,” he replied.
“With your watch?”
“Yes — which rock have you been living under? This is a smart-watch, it can do anything.”
“You know, you should have let me pay,” I grumbled, ignoring his flourish of tech superiority entirely.
“I can’t let you pay,” he scoffed. “You pay cash. Who pays cash? You would have embarrassed me in front of the restaurant staff.”
“Hello!” I retorted, “Do you know how stupid you looked just now while you were twisting your wrist around the card reader? It looked like a forearm exercise… And, by the way, you were bursting with self-importance simply because you were using your watch to pay — which was kind of tedious to watch.”
Sitting in the car, going back to work, he repeated himself again, “Hmm, so you still pay cash… Do you know even paying by card is passé? The world has moved on, and you are still stuck in the past.”
“Tell me something,” I sighed. “Why is it such a talking point, the fact that I pay cash? I mean, I do use a card at times, but I like carrying cash, and you don’t come across pickpockets in Dubai, so it’s kind of fun…” I was rambling.
“Because you don’t realise how convenient it is to hold your wrist against a machine — albeit with a little manoeuvre — to make a payment instead of rifling through your bag,” he shrugged. “Plus, you save time.”
Why do our lives have to be convenient all the time? And what exactly are we doing with this “extra” time we’re getting (30 seconds? 45 seconds? In my case, probably a minute, since my bag/purse is likely to be disorganised)?
He had no answers obviously, but I when started with “So if someone presents you a lovely wallet…”, he finished the sentence with alacrity: “I will have absolutely no use for it.”
But that’s bad news for the purses- and wallets-making sectors, right? “Who cares?” he said.
As we stopped at a nearby gas station, and while he flicked his wrist on the machine, I thought of the time when I got my first credit card, sometime in the 1990s (it came as part of our company ‘perks’). I would, along with a bunch of then-colleagues, scrounge around for places that “accepted” cards — not too many establishments were on board with carding in that era (at least in the eastern quarters of India). But it was not because it was convenient to use a card… it was because we were making a statement: “See, I have a card, therefore I have status.” Some friends would even keep opening and reopening wallets just so card-less folks could see the many credit cards lining the privileged ones’ wallets.
Now it’s all out there, you are literally wearing your net worth on your wrist. I’m past the ebullience of youth, and I don’t really care about letting it all hang. Cash is convenient for me. I like its crispness, and it makes me feel opulent.
Besides, I hate these ugly smart-watches: whatever happened to our love affairs with handcrafted, timeless timepieces whose job it was to only tell time?
Life's Like That is a column that envelops Suresh Pattali's musings on everyday life
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