I am an old out-of-date kind of guy. I know this because young folks remind me of my obsolete ways every time I see them glued to a small hand-held device double-thumbing important text messages to all their cool friends.
“what up” No punctuation. Punctuation marks are archaic.
“not much, bro” No capitalization, either.
“wub” Where you be? Hood talk has invaded the language of kids who have never lived in the hood.
“hanging at home btd u” Poor guy is bored to death.
I will never again be young enough to get my thumbs to do this thing. I peck at texting. And when I try to be fast, I get garbage. I constantly hit “c” or “v” when trying to hit the space bar. So, I end up with phrases that look like gibberish. “Whatcarevwe havingcforvsupper?” But I do capitalize and use correct punctuation.
Another sign that I am ancient is my system of writing checks to pay bills. I don’t own a debit card. And I still like to go into the bank to make deposits. I understand that among the cool folks, this is perhaps equal to wearing plaid bell-bottoms, but I can’t help myself. This is how managing my finances makes sense to me. Taking a picture of a check and hitting a “send” button and swiping a card for every little purchase just seems nuts to me. I can’t make it feel right.
Back in 1983 my wife and I got a debit card, or maybe it was just an early version of an ATM card. This is how old and out of touch I am. It was a plastic bank card of some kind. We went to a machine in the parking lot of a bank in Cartersville, GA to make a transaction. We ended up overdrawn a couple weeks later because the machine had made something like a $500 error. It took us weeks to get it straightened out. I haven’t been to an ATM since. No kidding.
I used to love going to the bank with my Dad over in McDonough. A massive brick building right on the corner of the square in town. Arched entrance way with heavy wood and glass doors. Marble floors. Dark wooden teller counters with marble slabs across the top. Dad would take his paycheck and stop by the table in the center of the lobby, and on a thick glass top he would sign his check and fill out a deposit slip. We’d stand in line.
There was a hushed sense of conversation that filled the room. Men in white shirts and ties sitting at desks across the room talking with people who looked like couples from a Norman Rockwell painting. A man in boots holding his Pennington Seed cap in his hands between his knees. His wife sitting next to him in a print dress with her purse in her lap. The man in the white shirt and tie is leaning forward from behind the desk with his chin propped on his fist.
An old man with a cane and dressed in bibbed overalls walks up to us. His face unshaven and a pipe titled out the corner of his mouth.
“How you doing John? Who’s this young fella you got with you?”
I’d hold out my tiny hand to shake his rough, thick hand like I was taught to do. It seemed like everybody waved or spoke or nodded to everyone in town on a slow Saturday morning.
The teller spoke to Dad like they were old friends. He’d stuff a few bills into his wallet. Every now and then he’d let me hold one before he put it away. And later that evening he’d sit at the kitchen table with the bills spread out and his check book in front of him. I never really understood how he kept things going back then, but I learned that this is how it’s done.
This is why I still go to the bank, or why I’ll go back to the bank once this pandemic is over. I see people I know. I make deposits in person. If I asked for it, Doug would loan me whatever I needed without having to wait on some long, drawn out approval. I may be old-fashioned, but banking in person is what works for me.
I’m trying to be a modern old guy. It’s not easy. But sometimes I have no choice. Like last Tuesday.
I was delivering trees up toward Alex City, AL last week. I made the drop and was on my way back to Pine Mountain. I had a thirst for a Mountain Dew and remembered seeing a gas station on the corner where I made my turn on the county road off Hwy 63. It was a spank’n-bran-new store. Clean as a pin. When I pulled in, there was a guy outside hosing down the concrete curbs which were not dirty. No one else in sight.
I wasn’t there for fuel. Just a drink. So, I hopped out of my truck and went into the store. You could’a hit me with a 2×4. There were no aisles. No counter. No cashier. No people. Just two walls of vending machines with a kiosk computer screen in the middle.
I stood there a few minutes trying to decide if I should try this or go on down the road. The old man in me was a little confused. I stood up to the computer screen. Pushed the start button. Choose snacks. One bag of peanut M&Ms. Add to cart. Hit the back button. Drinks. One bottle of Mountain Dew. Add to cart. Check out. Card or cash? That’s a stupid question. I put in a bill. Change dropped out through the slot. One machine to my left buzzed and dropped my M&Ms. The machine to my right raised a mechanical tray, picked a Mountain Dew and brought it to the little door at the bottom.
I guess I shouldn’t be put off by computerized snacks. I got what I wanted. It was quick and the change was accurate. But there was no face behind the counter. No human contact. No name tag that read, “Martha Sue”. No one said, “Is that it for you, Honey? Yes sir, you have a nice day. Come back and see us.” It was the most sterile experience of my life. Right there on the corner of County Rd 128, Alabama.
Some days I feel like the world is moving on without me. Like, just being older makes me more and more obsolete. And the longer I live, the more I feel it. The more I’m determined to hold on to my old ways. I’ll never understand how a sterile, plastic, and impersonal world makes anything better.
I know this. Handshakes and smiles and cordial conversations with strangers make life interesting. A world of buttons and screens and kiosks leaves me feeling a little empty. A little lost.
Good thing the M&Ms and Mountain Dew cheered me right up.