A week in card-less purgatory: A diary

(Background: Your humble blogger is a self-styled guru of “Zen and the art of cashless living”. With over 10,000 hours of practice in non-cash payments (Here’s one more data point for you Malcolm Gladwell!) in the last 12 years, this blogger has been relentless in capturing and optimizing the hidden value in all payments cashless, in stretching the digital dollar, and in making it work extra hard for him.

In the interest of full disclosure, your blogger was and is a crusader of cashless living. He helped spread the gospel truth of cashless payments to parts of Asia, Middle East and North Africa for nearly a decade before going to Fletcher.)

29th March, 3.52pm: The results of the group assignments are out, and to my utter horror, I see my name in the cardless group. This seems like some kind of “man-machine conspiracy” to make me suffer the purgatory of paper money and coins for a whole week.

29th March, 7pm: Desperately try to swap out of the “random” assignment to the cashless group. Nobody comes forward – I am now convinced that I am being conspired against.  Et tu classmates?

29th March 10pm: Amazing how quickly I cross the four stages of DABDA and accept my reality for the week ahead. Now, strategy time: All I need is a plan to survive this week. Even better if I can somehow turn this into a fun experience (grimy currency & clunky coins – fun? Yeah right! Note to self: buy a small bottle of Purell to sanitize my hands each time I touch cash)

29th March 11pm: A quick trip to the ATM – Draw US$240 – I haven’t carried around so much cash in my wallet in a long time (What a terrible waste of wallet space really! How horribly inefficient, and unsafe! God, how I hate carrying around a bulging wallet. I might as well be walking around wearing a placard “rob me, I am carrying cash” around my neck. About time even wallets became obsolete if you ask me!)

29th March Midnight: Rent payment transfer – check; purchases on amazon and online grocery for the week – check. Buy Bloomspot dinner vouchers at True Bistro – check. This doesn’t seem hard at all! I think I am all set to go cardless tomorrow afternoon.

Pull out all my cards from the wallet and leave them on the table. I won’t be needing them for a week. Besides, having them on me might tempt me to use them and break the rules.

30th March, 12 noon: Brainwave – I decide to use this week to eat out at all those amazing restaurants that I usually avoid because they are annoyingly “cash only”. I can still turn this around… Like the saying goes, “when life hands you lemons, ask for tequila” (only, I may have to pay for that tequila in cash this week).

30th March, 6.30pm: Dilemma – Where does using a paper voucher (True Bistro – face value $35 – paid for yesterday ago on Bloomspot) for dinner fall as per the rules? Cashless or cardless? A very interesting grey area… Technically, it is neither cash nor cashless – it is a voucher with no monetary value whatsoever (per the fine print on the voucher). In this moment of great dilemma, I chose to defer to the constitutional principle of English Law “everything which is not forbidden is allowed”. Take that organizers! You should have thought about this loophole. Haah!!

Great dinner, settled the tip and excess amount over the voucher in cash. Now that I blogged about this, my conscience is clean.

31st March, 7pm: Dinner with a Fletcher friend at that wonderful “cash only” Sapporo Ramen at Porter Square that I heard an awful lot about. Since said friend was in the cashless group, I gladly pick up the tab. Delightful meal. It’s a shame they don’t accept cards. (Note to self: This place is definitely worth the hassle of carrying $20 in my wallet the next time)

31st March, 10pm: MBTA charges you an awful lot more per ride if you use cash! Thanks to this week long smackdown, it did not make financial sense to purchase my monthly pass for April. Great! Now I have to shell out $0.25 extra per ride :-/

Wait, even settling cash isn’t that easy. That machine on #96 accepts only $1 bills. Now I have to go and get myself enough $1 bills to last me a week. Fatter wallet… What fun!

Interesting exchange at the convenience store:

Me to counter clerk: Can I get change for $20 please?

Clerk: Sure. Would 10s and 5s do?

Me: (sheepishly) Umm no.. can you please make it $1 bills

Clerk: (Gives me a grin as if he knows what I am up to). Here buddy. Enjoy your evening!

Me: (Embarrassed) This is not for what you think it is… I am supposed to be using only cash for a week (God, how do I even begin to explain this!)

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