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Plastic or pineapples - the indignity of being told your money's no longer any good

Opinion

Plastic’s fantastic, until you realise you have no way to pay the ferry-man. These are the perils of a modern society, writes Michael Blucher

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And here I was thinking the greatest divide in our community at the moment was the vaxers vs the anti vaxers.

What about the cash carriers vs the card swipers?

Over the festive season, I was reminded, in ways I wasn’t expecting, of the competitive tension between the two.

Presenting the case for the card swipers, your honour – on the last day of the work year, I’d ducked down to get sushi for lunch. Having placed my order, I tendered my tenner, ready to pay, only to be told “We don’t accept cash”.

A gentle little opener, something like “I’m sorry but….” would have been nice, but this was Christmas eve, after all. Old mate must have been in a hurry to get home and get the turkey on.

With nothing more liquid than one of my back-up money clips (I now have a few, because at my advanced age, people tend to hide them from you), I was forced to duck back upstairs to the office and collect a credit card.

It was all about Covid, turkey boy explained. Something to do with the transmission of germs on paper/plastic money blah blah blah.

Fair enough, I’ll wear that. Perhaps this year, we throw up some sort of sign, shall we? Something that alerts the dinosaurs of the “card only” policy.

A few days later, just when I thought the whole commercial world had moved on, I get an irate call from my mad mate Scott – as in “Scott-no-idea”.

Scott is dead-set ropable. “Can you believe it,” he says. “These dickheads – they kicked us off the ferry for not having cash.”

It took a full 10 minutes for “Scott-no-patience” to calm down, but when I heard the full story, no wonder Scott had no patience – it was worse than I could have imagined.

He and wife (Scott-lucky-there) were taking a day trip up to the Noosa north shore. They boarded the ferry, the last vehicle to squeeze on for the three minute dash across the Noosa River.

But a third of the way across, when old man river arrives with his money bag to collect the $10 freight, the trouble starts. “No cards – just cash,:” he grumbles, pointing to a small obscured sign. Scott-poor-eyesight hadn’t seen it. “Sorry, mate,” Scott-no-cash explained apologetically. “Take my numberplate, and I’ll fix you up on the way back.”

Nup.

Without warning, the ferry clunks to a halt – in the middle of the Noosa river. Don’t Pay the Ferryman whacks the old girl into reverse. and back they go to where they come from. I’m not joking – It was further to go back than it was to go over.

Once they dock, Scott-no-way-of-paying is told to reverse off. “No cash, no trip. Read the sign, Chief”. Vrooom – and off the ferry goes again, the rest of the drivers, sitting impatiently in their cars, thinking WTF?

Now-Scott-an-urge-to-kill-somebody and his wife had to go all the way into Noosaville before they found a bank that will give them cash. Two refused because they weren’t customers. It made Scott-no-faith-in-the-banking-system even more furious.

So there you have it viewers – just a few days apart – the two extremes of our current monetary muddle – to cash or to swipe? This remains the question.

Personally I’d hate to see the abolishment of cash. For starters, it would deprive us all of one of life’s greatest little pleasures – that moment you put on a pair of jeans or some shorts that you haven’t worn for a while, you reach into the pocket, and you find that lazy “pineapple”. What a bonus that is.

Beyond that, I worry about the dangers of always paying by card. The “automatic monthly sweep” for instance – how hard is to keep track of them all?

Two of the kids were still in high school by the time I realised I was still paying their annual Club Penguin subscription – 180 bucks a year. I don’t know how many different igloos or penguin outfits I bought over the 11 years, but I reckon it would have been cheaper to take the whole family on a trip to Antarctica.

Those thieving bastards from Amazon are the same.

Not until I waded my way through “Bezonomics”, the gushy text paying homage to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, did I discover that I was an Amazon Prime member – one of probably 10 ka-trillion mugs world wide paying $60 a year for goodness knows what. Can’t even remember signing up. And I reckon I got more value from the igloos and penguin outfits.

In a similar vein, how do the 20-year-olds go, keeping track of what they spend across 10 hours on the drink? Swipe, skull, swipe, skull. Talk about dangerous. Three o’clock in the morning, and you can’t remember that you don’t know, or you don’t know that you can’t remember. It’s got to be one of the two. Either way you’ve probably done $300 cold.

Call me old school, but I like the idea of actually handing something over to complete a transaction – something that you’re all too aware has taken time and effort to accumulate.

Riddle me this, 19-year-olds – if you were handing over cash, rather than swiping a card, how much less smashed avocado and crumbed feta on sourdough do you reckon would be consumed in cafes on a Sunday morning? Do you reckon you’d think twice? Forking out $24.50 for some green mush on a bit of bread.

Probably not, but I think the point still stands.

The debit line in the bank statement is just that – a single line. There’s no visual attached, no pile of cash, dwindling before your very eyes.

Now I am starting to sound old.

Not as old Scott, though. Talk about clueless. We all know ferries are cash only businesses.

Scott-to-get-with-the-times.

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