I order my coffee and begin to mine my wallet for the elusive punch card. As a small line builds behind me, I shuffle through receipts, random bills, and coupons that I still hope to redeem even though they expired last November. A minute later, it surfaces. Just one more punch to go. I get such satisfaction seeing those little circles adding up to a free, steaming beverage, knowing when that day comes, I can splurge on a flaky pastry to go with it. I hand the card to the barista, whose hip, horn-rimmed glasses can’t conceal the eye roll I know she wants to give me.
“Um, yeah, so we don’t accept those anymore.”
I am not quite sure what to say, so I just stare back blankly.
“Yeah, we’ve gone electronic. It’s way more efficient,” she says with a side-eye at my hoarder’s den of a wallet.
“But, I have nine punches,” I reply with a hint of desperation. The now archaic card lingers there awkwardly. At this point, it might as well be a stone tablet.
“Don’t worry, ma’am. They will transfer,” she says with an exasperated sigh. “What’s your phone number?”
I wearily recite my number and am suddenly reminded of the hot dog bun scene in Father of the Bride (linked below as it one of the best movie scenes of all time as it perfectly captures the art of a full-blown meltdown) and I halfway wish that I carried a hole puncher around with me so I could whip it out and start punching with abandon, like, “Oh yeah? You don’t accept these anymore?? Well, accept this!!” and then huff off in a confetti of paper circles.
Sigh. The hole puncher. Another relic of a simpler time.
I am all for advancement. I mean, it’s not like I am writing this article with a quill by candlelight (although now I kind of wish I was) but sometimes it terrifies me.
I avoid software updates like the plague, I write checks, and I still don’t quite get who Alexa is or how she works. My heart sinks with every NOTICE OF PROPOSED LAND USE ACTION that I see bolted firmly into the brick wall of an 800 square foot, one-story neighborhood shop. Those signs are like tombstones.
At what point, if any, will we regret as we look around us and realize that nothing has been preserved?
I miss answering machines and a time where if you needed a cup of sugar you knocked on your neighbor’s door instead of clicking an Amazon Fresh button. I miss the golden foiled edges of Encyclopedia pages, where information was still at your fingertips but you had to work a little bit harder to get it. Let’s face it, you didn’t have to worry about people reading a Brittanica while they were driving around or smashing your ‘Volume P’ on the sidewalk rendering it utterly useless.
Today my 3.5-year-old daughter and I went to our favorite coffee shop, Mabel. This particular spot has one of the best vinyl record collections AND their punch cards are index sized because they write down the drink you get and the date you order it, along with your name. It feels almost like a general store tab. Even though I had a million things on my to-do list, we just sat together at a table by the window for two hours, listening to records, reading books, and trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube that they keep near the register. We said hello to people as they walked in and waved goodbye to them as they left. On our way home, we slid one of my favorite Aretha Franklin cassettes into the tape deck of our Subaru, rolled down all of the windows since it wasn’t raining for the first time in months, and cranked it up as loud as it would go.
Marissa B. Niranjan is a hopeless nostalgic who wants the world to slow down a bit while she reminisces about Pogs, dELiA*s catalogs, the opening and closing door sounds on AOL Instant Messenger, and worries that kids these days are growing up without knowing the good, clean, fun of a game of M.A.S.H.
As promised, the epic hot dog bun scene.