Going into the challenge, I was excited yet nervous about what this week would look like. Normally dependent on the various pieces of plastic in my wallet, when I drew the “cardless” assignment I knew I was in for an interesting experience. Like everyone else, I took the necessary precautions before the week started. I paid my rent early through online transfer, haphazardly budgeted the week ahead and made a trip to the ATM to stock up on cash.
It was when the cash came out of the ATM that the excitement really set in. With a wad of cash in my hand I felt powerful and that this week’s expenses were totally in my control. That’s when the nerves set in. What was I supposed to do with this wad of cash? Was I supposed to keep it on me? Hide it under my clothes (a la travel belt)? Or stuff it under my bed and use it bill by bill? Keep in mind; we’re talking about a couple hundred dollars here, nothing crazy, but still more than I had ever carried. I reasoned with myself to put a couple bills in my wallet, stuff another into a secret hiding spot in my wallet, and keep the rest at home for when the stash in my wallet ran out.
At the beginning of the first day, I planned out all the instances where I would usually use a card. It all seemed doable except for one: using my Charlie card. I take the bus to work three times a week. Each day I see people struggling with coins and bills and thank myself for keeping a balance on my Charlie card. I have always had a personal mission to always reload my Charlie card at the station in order to avoid struggling with loading cash onto it on the bus.
On my first cardless expedition on the bus, I kept 6 quarters carefully in my pocket to counteract the anxiety of digging through my wallet for the right change. As I got onto the bus, I took a deep breath and carefully deposited the coins into the machine. As I got to the last quarter, I was horrified to see the machine was still asking for 25 more cents. Panic! Panic! Panic! I looked to the bus driver in shock. “That was six quarters!” I promised. He looked at me, stuck his finger into the change slot and pulled out a Canadian quarter.
“Miss, we don’t take Canadian”
Oops! Lesson 1 of my cardless challenge: make sure to carry the right currency.