Licking An Envelope

When things get too easy, then even the easy things get difficult.

* * *

It’s that time again, time to pay bills. No need to look at the calendar, just at the height of the stack of bills accumulated on the corner of my desk.  When it’s six inches high, it’s time to pay up. I pull out the checkbook and begin writing,

Writing checks, you say? That went out of style years ago. There’s a better way, I hear you say. Your silent judgment of my ancient methodology speaks louder than words. But old habits have deep roots for the aged.

So today I sacrifice valuable time writing checks, stuffing them into envelopes, licking the envelopes, pasting a stamp on them and pitching them on the floor next to the door. I do this so as not to forget to mail them.

I think about the process, all the time wasted paying bills. Age brings on these thoughts. When time is seriously limited for the long run, one thinks about not wasting it.

I count eight different steps required to pay just one bill, assuming you don’t disagree with the bill. That would add hours for the ‘dispute call’ to get adjudicated. Total time about five minutes, give or take a minute or two.

Here’s how I figure it: Open the envelope, take out the bill, look over it.  Can’t be too careful about fraudulent charges these days. Three steps. Satisfied I’m not being ripped off, I take the checkbook, rip out a check.  Step four. I write the check. Step five. Then enclose it in the envelope. Step six. Finally, lick the envelope and affix a stamp.  Steps seven and eight, not counting depositing it in the mailbox.

I’m about halfway through with the stack when the young tech-savvy neighbor sticks his head in the open office door.

Paying bills, huh?” he says.

Yep. Like running with a rock in your shoe.  Let’s you know you’re alive.”

“You still writing checks?”

“Is there another way?” I ask.

      “Man, where you been? Online banking, that’s what’s happening. Wake up, Rip Van Winkle. Things have changed, the digital world solves everything, cuts out all the work. Why are you stuck in the past? Online banking, do it digitally. Fast, convenient, efficient. Saves time. And it looks like you don’t have that much time remaining, brother.”

     “Hey, I don’t trust my bank account being exposed to online banking. I like to get copies of my checks. Besides, I get float time with checks.”

     “Float? That’s funny. Dodd-Frank sunk float years ago. Listen, grandpa, they take your check, zap it with a device and your money is debited instantly from your account. Checks can also be deposited instantly with an iPhone app these days. Float is a thing of the past. I’ll bet you don’t even have an ATM debit card either, right?”

     “Right. I like the feel of a wad of cash in my pocket.”

     “Man, this is serious. Wake up. Everything’s going digital. You can even get your bills online. No paper. And cash, forget it. It won’t even get you a ride with Uber. Soon it’ll be obsolete. Bitcoin, crypto currency, that’s the future. Get a life, you dinosaur.”

You can’t win arguments with the youth of today. I don’t even offer a rebuttal. Besides, I see it’s useless when he asks about my rolodex and the IBM Selectric typewriter on the table next to my Blackberry.

“Have fun with your relics, old buddy.” He laughs and leaves. I resume wasting time writing checks.

But his question of, “why are you stuck in the past” troubles me. Technology is making me feel like a voyeur in a Willie Wonka world of digital toys or lost in the wilderness of a Jurassic Park jungle filled with gender-neutral robots. ‘Why?’ is that primordial curse inflicted upon humanity that always demands an answer.

Some of us are of the old school where only fools test the depth of the water with both feet. About all I can come up with is that writing checks connects me with the old days where some measure of control still exists.

With all this efficiency in the system, something’s got to give. I suspect it’ll be me.  With personal liberties at risk everywhere, who’s to say that checks and cash won’t soon to be things of the past?

But until then, here we are, the old die-hards, sitting at our desks, writing checks, paying bills and licking envelopes. Efficiency be damned.

* * *

Say, do you think it’s time to upgrade our home telephone system? What’s your advice?



Bud Hearn

March 26, 2021