I’ve never been a fan of paychecks or, worse, direct deposit.
That’s why my favorite jobs have always been the ones where I’m paid in cash.
I figure it has something to do with praise I received as a child. You did something good and your parent or teacher would walk over, pat you on the head and say, “Nice job, sonny.”
That was before teachers weren’t allowed to have any physical contact with a student without the permission of the parents, a guidance counselor, a chaplain, Mr. Rogers and the superintendent of schools.
Everything’s gone to pot since then.
You put in a week’s work, someone in the back office hits “send” on a keyboard to alert a computer operator in Jakarta to direct-deposit your wages to a routing number at the bank, also represented by a number.
You never see the money or get to hold it in your hand. It all happens silently, without even the slightest “Nice job, sonny.”
What kind of reward is that?
Then you pay all your utility bills with electronic checks. Where’s the fun in that? At least my father had a roll of bills, a money clip and the satisfaction of ripping a twenty off to pay for dinner and feel, maybe for 10 seconds, like Diamond Jim Brady.
Believe me, a little ego massage is a good thing.
When I’m done working (for the day, not the week), I want someone in a vest and visor, with a thick wad of bills, to count out my pay in front of me and put it in my hand.
OK, the vest is optional, but the visor would be a nice touch of nostalgia.
And ideally, the wad should have a thick rubber band holding it together and the person doing the counting would lick his index finger to achieve some traction on the bills.
He might even have one of those rubber things on his thumb, the kind a bank teller uses.
“Ten, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60” … and so on; when the person with the wad likes the work I’ve done, he can rip off an extra $10 and say, “Good job, and keep it up. Sign here.”
My ideal job — mind you, not necessarily from a long-term-security perspective — was driving a cab in college. Not only did I get paid in cash, my fares might reward me with a tip when they were sober.
At the end of the night, I’d pay the cab company its share for allowing me to hot rod its cab around town, and I’d get to keep the rest. Thirty or $40 in cash in the front pocket of a college student’s jeans feels like a million bucks in some big shot’s offshore account.
My writing jobs all pay by check, generally a passion-free experience, but it’s not always that way with music. I usually get paid with a check to perform, but most places also allow me to put out a tip bucket.
The highlight of my week is coming home, counting the money — sometimes upwards of $20, sometimes as little as $6 or $7 — and putting it in the bank.
Sure, there’s a bit of the “Nice job, sonny” routine – OK, so that’s what I tell myself – my real satisfaction is holding the money. I made something, I think, I did this.
It’s real, not some abstraction where a check-issuer in Indonesia plays genie and blows some money in your digital bank account.
This makes me wonder, when people rob banks today do they make off with computer hard drives or real money?
Couldn’t they just say “stick ‘em up” from the privacy of their own computer?
A paperless society may be good for trees and the environment, but think about the damage it could do to our kids.
It won’t be long before parents go online to credit $10 to their kids’ allowance debit account or pay their texting bill with a click of a computer key. And mark my words, it won’t be long before lemonade stands have signs saying, “We take VISA and Master Card.”
When it comes to paper or plastic, I know exactly where I stand.
David Knopf, managing editor of the Excelsior Springs Standard, has written columns since 1985 and currently writes two a month for The Kansas City Star’s 816 section. You can reach him, wishing he had a pocket full of paper money, at firstname.lastname@example.org .
By David Knopf • email@example.com