I have a Smartphone that I never use, partly because all I wanted was a cell phone for emergencies and partly because it has so many icons that I never know what to touch in case I get something other than the camera which doesn’t work half the time. So it stays in my carry pouch, turned off. One of these days I may get an app – whatever they are.
So I was a little in awe as I watched a fellow pay for his groceries with his phone the other day. Apparently, you scan the QR code - one of those squiggly Rorschach-like boxes - and send your money to the grocery store’s bank account in Switzerland from your bank account in North Bay. I guess that is kind of neat, but I just push a piece of plastic into the slot and do the same thing.
This got me thinking of how payments have changed even in my short lifetime. My wages at my first job as a teenager working in the general store were in cash. A little brown envelope you received on Saturday evening - a few bill and coins. When I got my first real job I needed a bank account to deposit the paycheque. A person could withdraw some cash after depositing your cheque or write a paper cheque to pay for your purchases or monthly payments. You signed your name, legibly, so the bank could match your signature to the card on file.
William Warren Walton is a long moniker to sign on a cheque so I used W W Walton. Now, I learned to write using a metal quill pen, dipping it in an inkwell on my desk, so it took some skill to make those Ws look impressive and yet legible. By the time I reached grade 9, we were using those new fountain pens – the ones that would leak ink into your pocket if stored wrong end up. Within a year or two, a new ballpoint pen was on the market and those are still in use all these years later.
With a ballpoint pen, I could write my signature much more quickly if not quite as legibly as the old metal quill pen. This became a time factor, as I was now an accountant and charged with signing company cheques both for the payroll and the general accounts. Time was of the essence and my WWWalton became compact and unless you were a handwriting expert, barely recognizable. But the banks seemed satisfied with my scrawl. My wife says my signature looks like a chicken caught in a windstorm but the bank seems as happy with that as they are with a picture of an ink blob from a Smartphone. It is sort of like a secret handshake, known only to me and the Bank. Knights Templar and all that.
On the rare occasion I sell one of my books directly to a person I will sign it with my pseudo signature – a reasonably legible Bill Walton. It takes a little concentration to form the letters and I think back to the days of the old straight pen and wonder what happened to my steady hand. I can’t afford to give away the signing pen as the Prime Minister does when he autographs a document and I have to so remind some of my tight-fisted friends.
So I thought I ought to get a rubber stamp of one of those square Rorschach QR blots that the Smartphone apps recognize and use that for my signature. If you look closely at my test example I think you can see that there is a chicken in there. Just saying.