June 25, 2022

This cashless thing isn’t making sense

Several months ago I wrote a column explaining my concern and frustration of people at businesses who struggle counting back change. The younger the employee, the more likely they won’t know how.

But what I experienced earlier this month, which was a reminder of last fall, I’m fearing we will have the day where a portion of the math part of our brain will blow away like dandelion spores. We won’t need that skill.

A friend of mine was visiting another in Kansas City and we had the idea of attending a Royals baseball game. I had not been to a Kansas City game in years as I tried for at least one a season before COVID hit. Before leaving town, a stop at the ATM for cash for parking was worthless. When we arrived at the stadium parking lot, I had the window rolled down with a $20 bill in hand. The attendant politely said it’s “pay by card only.”

Producing a credit card to pay wasn’t a problem. But it was only the beginning of a plastic day.

About the third inning, it was time to visit the concession stand. Wife Jennifer knew I was there to watch the game so she offered to go get us some treats. She had our ATM cash. She came back with the treats and told me she had to use a card.

“It also happened at the Iowa game, but I didn’t tell you,” she said about our Hawkeye football game last season.

I don’t mind having a few bucks cash with me. When filling up the truck with gasoline, I may want a pop or cup of iced tea afterward. Coffee and a doughnut, paid with the same cash, have started many days for me. Something is needed for the house and one of the kids offers to go get it, hand them the cash. It was great to drop a few bucks into the poppy donation bucket during Memorial Day weekend. You get the idea or may do the same.

Cash, knowing how often it can be passed on from person to person, was suspected as being a way COVID was being passed to others. Moving to a card payment prevents as customers typically insert their own card into the reader.

I’m hoping with the bulk of COVID behind us, cash will make a comeback. Checks are becoming fewer since stores don’t want to take the risk of accepting a bad check. (Interesting to see stores where they have posted names of people who attempted to use bad checks.)

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Is the following idea nuts or genius? Who would use it and how often?

It’s a right of passage in Creston to get stopped by a train on Elm Street. But what if we knew when a train was at Elm even if we were not there?

What would it take to create a smartphone app to notify if a train is at Elm Street? Say you are at Southwestern Community College and you need to get to the post office and your route was Sumner to Adams to Elm. When you are at the college, you would check the app to see if a train is at Elm. If there is one, you would probably go under the overpass on South Sumner and take a left on Fremont to get to the post office.

The app could also include New York Avenue as I have been stopped there coming back to the office from Stalker, McDonald’s or Pizza Ranch.

I’ve been informed if the emergency services, specifically fire, is called to the post office, for example, the first volunteer responder who arrives at the site by way of Elm is to radio others if there was a train at that moment.

For the app to work, there would obviously have to be some link to train traffic in both directions. Or a camera strategically focused on the tracks that would link to the app. Maybe the app sends a notification when the crossing guard arm is activated?

Creating that app sounds like a lot for a middle school science fair, but if someone pulled that off, I’d be the first one to sign up.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.