Payday Ain’t What It Used To Be

Published 10:00 pm Monday, February 29, 2016

Payday used to be special, something everyone  — even if you didn’t work – looked forward to. With today’s direct bank deposits, I’ve not looked forward to, much less celebrated, a payday in many years. I’ve not held a valid paycheck in my hands since my disco days.

My fondest payday memory is of my late Uncle Douglas Moony of Pineville, N.C. He and his wife Roberta, deceased also, were second- and third-shift mill workers with three daughters and then a fourth who came surprisingly late in life.

Roberta and my mother were like sisters, so our two families were very close and involved in each other’s day-to-day lives. One of my earliest memories is wondering what little but extravagant thing Uncle Douglas would do with money in his pocket… like bring home a bagful of penny candy for the kids, buy the fixings for homemade hand-churned ice cream, or have dinner at a fish camp.

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I’m sure there were other ways that my jolly Uncle Douglas found to celebrate his weekly payday, but the family’s anticipation of payday was more real than the actual payoff in Mary Janes or fried catfish. It was everyone’s reward for a good hardworking week.

Early in my working life, I was employed at a big corporation that issued weekly,  paper, paychecks. In my own little way to celebrate having my own money for the first time, payday became the day I went to bank during my lunch hour, cashed my check, and ate lunch at a better-than-usual fast food restaurant.

Payday, which was always on a Friday, was the best day of the week. I had money in my pocket, and life was good, especially at the discos after midnight.

Today, I don’t get a paycheck, not even a stub in a sealed envelope. If I didn’t program my computer, I wouldn’t even get a email notice telling me that my earnings had been transferred from my employer’s bank account to mine.

Not only is the thrill of getting paid been replaced with a Google Alert, the satisfaction of paying my bills is a thing of the past, too. When I still used a checkbook, I could at least sit down at the kitchen table with a stack of bills, a calendar, ink pen, notepad, calculator, checkbook, envelopes, and stamps to figure out who got what. There was some satisfaction in dropping a handful of payments in the mailbox.

Now, whether there are funds in my account or not, my debtors draft my bank account automatically. Unless I electronically intervene, my money comes and goes without ever giving me the satisfaction of signing a check or touching cold hard cash.

The only time I have money in my pocket is when I push the “cash back” button at the self-checkout register at Bi-Lo. Instead of cash, I now have a debit card, which used be called a check card and cash card.

Now, if I could only figure out if Starbucks wants me to swipe my card, insert my card, or just wave my card close to its own electronic gadget. No, it wants my Apple Watch to get cozy with its iPad checkout. I don’t even have to use my finger as an electronic pen anymore.

I sort of miss paying for a real cup a coffee with real money. I also miss Singapore Slings, too-tight polyester pants, and Disco Inferno. But I’d settle for a bagful of penny candy, paid for with real pennies.