On Checks and Checkouts

self checkoutI was trying to deposit some checks over the phone recently and I just could not get the app to accept the images.

Turns out I’m now supposed to put my checks on a dark surface to get them to stand out, which is something I never had to do in my previous three-odd years of depositing checks by phone, and something that I only learned about when I opened my laptop and pulled up my bank’s website.

And that’s all fine, and I now have a piece of dark paper that I keep at my standing desk specifically for the purpose of check deposit photography, but it got me thinking about the offloading of work to the individual and how unreasonably frustrated I am that I have to deposit my own checks every month.

All in all, I should be happy that I don’t have to, you know, put on shoes, walk to the bank, and stand in line. But I’m not, and it bothers me. Every time I get out my dark paper and my stack of checks, and I have to set aside at least 45 minutes twice a month to do this, I think “This is not my job. This was a job, a real job, and now it’s my job.”

I was at the grocery store recently, doing the self-checkout, and the clerk said “wow, you are really good at bagging your groceries!”

Yeah, I thought, I’ve had this job for something like six years. 

And, someday, they’re going to change the self-checkout machines. Then we’ll all be kicked back to the beginning of the learning curve again, asked to master a new job.

Running a household, whether you have a house and family or live alone in a microapartment, has always taken a solid amount of unpaid, invisible work. The extra work of the past decade, from depositing your own checks to answering emails at midnight to idling in the school pickup line until your child is personally escorted to your car, is not likely to go away.

To balance this, we fill in for these extra bits of time by outsourcing as much as we can afford—specifically meals, of course. As I told a friend, once: “Downton Abbey hasn’t really gone away. We still rely on people to cook all of our food for us, we’ve just eliminated the centralized kitchen staff.”

(And yes, it’s a class issue, but from what I understand, in The Olden Days, nearly every family who could afford it hired a cook. Today, every family who can afford it orders out for pizza, buys lunch at the office, or stops by Applebee’s Carside To Go.)

This is a grumpier post than usual, from me, and it may be because I am on the cusp of that paraphrased “every technology invented before age 30 is awesome, every technology invented afterwards is horrible” quote.

But I hate depositing checks by phone. I especially hate the understanding that I’m going to have to re-learn how to deposit checks by phone every year or so, just like I had to re-learn how to use Google Maps yesterday afternoon, and like I’m probably going to have to re-learn how to swipe groceries in 2018.

My last smartphone put the call button in the center of the bottom navigational bar.

My new phone put it on the far left.

I’ve had my phone since 2012 and I still push the center button every time I want to make a call.

Photo credit: Sharon Hahn Darlin

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