What’s In Your Wallet?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

“Picking up paw-paws, put them in your pocket,” is a song we sang in our youth.

But this is not about any woodland fall harvest. Paw-paw is a metaphor for those plastic cards we all seem to be required to possess these days to make purchases.

In my wallet I have 14 plastic cards; only one of which is a credit card. The remainder are member cards and purchasing information gathering devices disguised as discount cards.

There’s my bank card in case I run out of cash in some desolate area but still has an ATM…so I guess it isn’t so desolate.

The rest of my thick wallet is filled, certainly not with cash, but with member cards like AARP, my library card, my car insurance identification card, my health insurance identification card, my driver’s license. Then there are the discount cards for grocery stores, department stores and variety stores. That last bunch doesn’t get me that much in discounts as much as it lets the store track my purchases. For instance, if I purchase some health food at the grocery store, the next time I shop and use the card, my receipt has a coupon for my next purchase of health food.

I figure about two-thirds of my wallet’s girth is taken up with plastic cards. And the folks behind me in the check out line have a real world experience of how long it takes me to locate and then extract my card, hand it to the cashier, who scans and instantly hands it back for me to put away telling me I saved 37ยข on my purchase before my card is back in my wallet.

Hardly worth the effort on either of our behalf. It makes me wonder just how we bought anything before those cards came into being.

And, yes, I know that I could reduce the wallet bulk by carrying those small card versions on my key ring. But you’ve read about the recalls GM has avoided over the years because of ignition switch issues. Drivers involved in the recall are told the problem is exacerbated by extra weight on the car key’s ring.

So to be on the safe side I keep my car ignition key weight to a minimum: no extra keys, no tiny plastic cards.

I suppose we should have seen all of this coming. In the 1967 film “The Graduate” staring a youthful Dustin Hoffman as Ben Braddock, a recent college graduate who is aimless about his future, is given career advice from one of his father’s business friends, “One word: plastics. There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”

And, durn if he wasn’t right. Just ask my wallet.