Daddy, what’s money?

You’ve heard all of the COVID-19 conspiracy stories. I don’t need to relate them here. But there is a conspiracy you may not have heard of. The conspiracy to get rid of money.

Once we traded things, deciding their relative values. Then we traded precious metals for goods. We melted metals and formed them into coins. The metals became more valuable than the coins so we switched to cheaper metals. Quarters, instead of silver, are made of copper and nickel. Nickels are mostly copper, not nickel. Pennies are now mostly zinc, not copper. We developed paper money, symbolic of those metals – cheaper yet. US dollars used to be “silver certificates” and promised that the US held silver equal to its value to guarantee it. Then we made the dollar wholly symbolic, with the US government’s trustworthiness the only guarantee of its value.

Banks started making it harder to go inside. Cash came only from ATMs – once you could get $5 bills from them, then only twenties. Bills became harder to find. I rarely see a ten any more. The banks wanted you to use plastic cards instead of money. It cost them more to handle actual cash than virtual transactions. Then the virtual transactions became more virtual, with phone apps. And if they could charge you a service fee for doing it the way that was cheaper for them, so much the better.

Gas stations put card readers outside and didn’t want you to come in and use money any more. Just swipe a plastic card. The pandemic came and my neighborhood grocery store no longer accepted money. Soon the only place I could still use cash was the hospital cafeteria. Then they wanted me to use exact change, saying there was a coin shortage. And now, the one cashier who still took real money quietly told me that, starting tomorrow, I would no longer be able to use cash. I could use a phone app, a payroll deduction, or a credit/debit card. Is the money in my pocket about to become obsolete?

Time was, when someone opened a store, they would frame their first dollar. How soon will it be that storekeepers frame their last dollar? As U. Utah Phillips (The Golden Voice of the Great Southwest) wondered aloud 50 years ago about a child wondering what a train is after they disappeared, I now wonder if my son’s child will one day ask, “Daddy, what’s money?”

Favorite Ride

It was sunny, hot, and humid when I left work. A light wind; a great day for a ride.

I arrived early at the meetup point. Someone said there was a thunderstorm in Dodgeville headed straight toward us. As I waited for my friends to arrive, I checked the radar. A thunderstorm cell was headed our way and looked like it would arrive just as we were to start. The air turned cool. The wind died. The sky turned dark. The wind picked up. A few raindrops fell.

The rain stopped. I checked the radar. The storm cell had changed from a yellow to a green spot and had veered south. It would be raining on the roads we were to ride, but would probably move east ahead of us. We saddled up and hit the road.

I had forgotten to bring a cue sheet, but these were roads I know well. I rode the 30+ mile route from memory. We rode on some slightly damp roads but never felt more than a few drops, just enough to cool us down a bit.

As we rode along Dougherty Creek, we came upon a steep and deeply verdant hillside with a small herd of Brown Swiss cattle. I imagined this is what Switzerland looks like and why the Swiss settled here and called it New Glarus.

The ridgetop vistas were stunning, as usual. The corn is probably neck-high. The short and steep climb from Dougherty Creek to the ridge seemed easier than usual. The broad sweeping curves we carved at 35+ mph on the descent into town brought ear-to-ear grins to our faces. Pizza and beer closed out the evening.

After darkness fell, one high cloud still caught the sun.
I learned a new use for Coban/vet wrap this week. (Note stegosaurus listening in the background.)
Dividing Ridge Road

I raced a train to work today. As I approached the tracks that I would parallel, I heard the crossing bells. I didn’t hear a train horn so I figured the engine was not nearby. Rounding a bend I saw hopper cars going my way. It was time to guess – if I was near the end of the train I could head for the nearest crossing and wait; if I was near the head of the train I could try to outrun it and cross up ahead.

I figured action beats inaction so I continued parallel to the tracks, and upped my speed. Approaching Brearly Street I heard the train horn. I was gaining, and knew I’d made the right choice. Approaching Paterson I saw the engine and knew I could pass it. I had three more chances to cross before I would have to revise my route. Approaching Livingston I heard the crossing bells come on and knew I couldn’t make it there. I found a reserve and went faster. As I approached Blount Street I knew I could make it. I heard the engineer back off the throttle a bit for the upcoming curve. Just then, the warning bells started. I had the train by more than a block, it was moving at 12 mph, and I could go just a bit faster than I was already. The crossing was a new one with rubber at the tracks so it was a smooth crossing. After I crossed, I backed off. As I turned on Main Street I saw the engine cross Blount. I felt the burn in my lungs from a hard effort. I still had 4.5 miles to cool down before I got to work.

Taking it easy, I made the turn to Carroll Street. The walk light at Johnson was on, which meant I knew I could make that crossing. It started to blink “Don’t Walk”, which meant I could make it as long as I didn’t dilly dally; my light would turn yellow on the 11th blink. I made the crossing and now I could sit up and take it easy the rest of the way. I could get to the wooded lakeshore path and enjoy the beauty of a cool and crisp morning – a morning that required a jacket. I could watch the dappled sunlight filtered through the trees. I could look out over the sailboats gently swaying on their moorings. I could wave to the early morning runners. And I could arrive at work way earlier than I planned, thanks to that early morning sprint.

AM commute, though not today.
Three years ago today. Dubois, WY.