“You need a square,” she says, this pouting, fourteen-year-old princess who slouches impatiently beside her mother, a delightful woman who is in the process of giving me money for my art.
I look up from where I’m sitting, filling out an antique credit card slip. A hard copy, one of those old, blue, two-sheet, pressure-sensitive combination bill of sale/customer receipts, the kind that crunches through a classic, knuckle-busting Addressograph machine. Old school. Damn near paleological these days.
“Why is that?” I ask.
“It’s easier,” she says, grabbing one elbow and shifting her weight so she can relax onto the other hip. I'm taking up way too much of her time.
I position the slip into its space on my little plastic machine, the one that we found online for nine bucks, delivered, just a couple of weeks ago. This is the machine that replaced my old aluminum Addressograph, the one that finally fell apart after twenty, no, nearly thirty years of use.
I had called my wife from the road, informing her of our knuckle-buster’s demise, and asked if she could find a replacement. There should be plenty of these old things floating around on the web, I said. She wanted to know the brand name and product number listed on the back of the old machine, said she’d take a look, and get back to me.
This she did, in short order, and in a mild state of shock. Our old metal machine, it turned out, is a bona fide antique, worth well over a hundred bucks if it worked. We decided to go with plastic.
I shove the handle back and forth, mashing the rollers down against the raised figures on mom’s credit card, a nostalgic gesture that transfers her name and account number onto the paper in a manner not at all unlike that devised by Gutenburg himself.
“With a square, all you do is swipe the card. Your phone does everything for you.”
“I see,” I say, handing the paperwork and a pen to the mother.
“So why don't you?”
“Why don't I what?”
“Get a square?”
“Oh, that. I don't wish to afford one,” I tell her.
“But it’s free.”
Her mother chuckles, just loud enough for me to hear. Mom’s with me on this one.
“It’s only free if you have a smart phone,” I tell her. “That costs hundreds of dollars, plus a couple hundred a month for a service plan.”
“You don't have a smart phone?” Daughter gasps, incredulous.
“No. I don't,” I confess. “I’m afraid my phone is stupid. But it does everything I need it to. And it’s cheap.” Mom snorts her approval.
“Besides, this way gives me and your mother a tangible legal record of our transaction that we will each have for future reference. It won't get lost in the cloud, and we won't ever need a password to retrieve it. I’m sure one day I’ll catch up with technology, but for now I’m happy just to keep doing what works.”
“Whatever,” says the girl.