Sadly, that’s not quite the same thing as “the last check I’ll ever write” but it’s not far off. I’m deep into the ebills thing. Deep. Kudos to my bank for making this service so sticky. It used to be you had to pay extra for your bank to save copies of your canceled checks, now you have to pay extra for them to give you back the originals. I don’t miss them. I’m well beyond using online bill payment just for regular bills like rent or utilities or phone. I use it for one-offs. I don’t remember the last time I ordered checks, and I’m not even sure I could easily find the box of checks when the current batch in my little checkbook runs out. If it ever does. It struck me as I pulled out the checkbook to write out a never-inappropriate holiday gift for a little cousin, these could be… the last checks I’ll ever buy.
OK, that’s a bit dramatic. But it’s nice to take a moment to note the passing of a part of life, a process or a technology that’s gone or irrevocably changed, even if the new way is far better than the old. Balancing a checkbook used to be a skill one needed to have. Today it might be only a turn of phrase – like “dialing” a phone – a palimpsest of an old way.
Thinking about the passing of paper checks leads to thoughts of the other paraphernalia of analog paper correspondence — envelopes, handwritten correspondence, return address labels, postage stamps, letterpress stationery, rubber stamps — things with marvelous textures and sounds and smells. I never collected postage stamps, but I always liked them before they got so terribly glossy and self-adhesive. I often lump stamps in with checks under “paper stuff I might never run out of” except that I’m still in the stubborn habit of sending out new year cards – of my own design and sometimes handmade – every year, by good old US mail. So I’m going to need more stamps. Again.
I’m still smarting from last year, when I bought stamps from the machine to avoid the long line and received annoyingly religious Christmas stamps. When I finally got to the front of the line, the postal clerk would not exchange my stamps for more secular ones because these were special stamps that came from the machine, and they could not be mixed with the regular, in the drawer type stamps. Probably should have gotten an ambulance-chasing lawyer and made a big separation of church and state case of it.
I wonder how much money the postal service makes selling stamps that never get used. I also wonder how they account for the liability of the “forever” stamps, but those are topics for another day. For now, I think that I’ll keep my annual ritual of cutting and pasting and stamping and sticking. Once a year is plenty, but I’d miss it if it were gone, much more than I ever miss writing checks.