I’m quite sure that that’s what the banks, globalised industry and The Markets have decided. Or maybe it's just 'let’s get rid of the little people'. People who save money in jars. People who won’t use an automated coin counter because of the high commission rate. People who like to interact with other people. Me.
I saved over €300 in coins since Christmas – it is spending money for a week in the sun with son#2 and nephew supreme. A week away from Irish weather. We opened the stash and counted it, bagged it carefully and I set off to turn it into notes.
My bank doesn’t ‘do’ cash. Not even as a lodgement. They have contracted all cash dealings to the Post Office. An Post can look after those plebs who sully their hands with coins and notes. Banks seem to operate for people who have so much money they don't need actual cash. So I toddled off to my local Post Office where I was met by a machine with an automated menu from which one should choose a service. But changing coins into notes wasn’t on the list and it didn’t fit into any other category so I pressed Other Services. I got my ticket. I waited.
As I waited a cry of frustration came from an elderly gentleman standing in front of another machine that dispenses stamps for letters and parcels – it has an automated weighing service etc. An Post must be heading away from people too. Another customer - a dreadlocked nose-ringed young man - went and helped the older man to use the machine.
‘I pressed every button,’ the old man said, ‘every bloody button – and nothing happened. It kept sending me back to that bloody Main Menu. I've no stamps or money now.’ His voice quavered and one could see the bewilderment in his eyes. He is lost in a world of machines – machines that chew up his money and won't explain why.Nahnahnehnehneh. It must surely feel as if Big Brother has truly arrived . (Yes I know I’m exaggerating – bear with me, it was a frustrating day).
‘I only wanted a bloody stamp.’ The old man said as his dreadlocked noseringed saviour smiled and handed him his stamps and his change.
‘It’s not easy,’ said the younger man.
‘You said it son you said it.’
My number was called and I plopped my coins on the desk ( all correctly bagged I might add). The very-nice-young-man told me he couldn’t change them for me.
’But you handle cash for my bank!’ I said.
‘Ah well, in that case you have to lodge it,’ he said.
‘And probably pay a fee,’ I said. He shrugged. I sighed and rooted for my chequebook to get a credit slip.
No cheque book.
‘Sorry’ I said, defeated by rules I didn’t know.
I put all my coins back into my bag and marched home again. I would take the coins on hols with me if I could but we’re flying Ryanair and they’d probably surcharge me.
In the greater scheme of things this is only a minor irritation. But then I had to contact our Internet/tv provider about an error in the bill and spent an hour and a half trying to navigate my way through an automated greeting menu in order to speak to a real live person. Once I talked to the person all was well but sweet lamb of divine god I was totally frustrated at the end of it and when I got off the phone I had to rant about bloody companies squeezing every last penny out of you. Hence this post.
I'm convinced all these institutions are trying to force all us ordinary Joes and Joesephines to stay in our homes and only communicate with each other via the net. We'll be like bees in a hive, ants in their hills. If banks can make a simple procedure like lodging coin as complicated as possible then everyone will eventually be forced to sit in front of a computer screen to do basic tasks. Then, slowly slowly catchee monkey the little tentacles of The Markets will sucker their way into our lives, targeting us for marketing and managing the herd, keeping us in our boxes. Deffo Big Brother.
But - be warned all you people (are they people? Maybe they're aliens) behind desks in soaring skyscrapers with profit margins as your driving force. Greed kills. One day someone, somewhere will snap - like Michael Douglas in Falling Down - and run amok. Maybe a whole bunch of us frustrated little people will break out of the coraal into which you are shoving us. And woe betide you when we do.