The other day I was caught short at Liverpool Street station and was reminded that cash hasn’t had the decency to pass away with dignity.
As I rushed down to the gents toilets, I saw that there was a 30 pence charge to, well, spend a penny. I don’t carry cash. I saw another gent jump over the turnstiles and was momentarily tempted to fight the fight, but being a passive revolutionary I decided to go on the dubiously heroic search for some metal money.
First I would have to find an ATM. That proved quite easy and after waiting in line for a few minutes, I withdrew a hundred pounds which was dispensed in 5 pieces of paper marked 20. Knowing that there was a change machine next to the turnstiles I ran (yes, needs must) down the stairs only to find that the change machine did not accept anything above 10 pounds.
After a heavy sigh and a quick march back up to the station concourse the search for somewhere to break the 20 before my bladder did the same began.
My first thought was to go to the underground station and buy my onward ticket. A short queue and I was ordering my ticket on the machine and then noticed the sign on the machine which indicated “Cards Only”. Sigh. Another (longer) queue for the machine that took cash and I then had my paper ticket for £4.90 and £15.10 of paper and metal.
Back downstairs. It was now a very deliberate walk. I needed the change machine again because my metal money was not enough. Another 3 minute queue and I had enough metal coins to trigger a security scare when I went through airport security a few hours later. I inserted the metal currency in the metal turnstiles and, much to my relief, I was through.
Most of my trips to the UK are totally cash free. No need for cash in London, normally. So when you find yourself needing it, it’s like a visit back to the dark days when cash was king.
Why? Why do we still rely on dirty paper and metal to exchange value in the same era that we are sending Teslas to Mars and even letting them drive themselves. Won’t we be telling our grandchildren about the time we used to pay people using folding paper and metal tokens?
I know....people trust this (dirty) paper and (fake) metal more than digital currency sometimes. Others like the anonymity of cash. But for me it’s just another four letter word that should only ever be used when there is absolutely NO alternative.
Please join the good fight and let’s win the war on cash. Soon.