Friday, January 9, 2009

A Man Of Letters

Whats In Your Wallet?

A previous blog (The Chasm Widens) got me thinking about our lives and how they are changing. As I was riding the free downtown shuttle (homeless bus) to my office this morning, it dawned on me that compared to the urban zombies seated next to me I had grabbed the brass ring. Instead of sleeping under a freeway overpass and shuffling off to the homeless shelter for a free breakfast, I was headed to my heated office with unlimited broadband access to the net.

In the old days, before the telephone and the transistor, you were known by the recommendations of others. When you traveled to a new town you went to the post office, or the bank and presented yourself based on the written recommendations of famous or well to do people that you knew. This was called 'being a man of letters'. The more impressive your collection of endorsements, the more reveered you were by your peers. Those days have been replaced with something entirely different, but at the core, they are the same.

Enclosed are pictures of my urban survival kit. My plastic Swiss Army Knife that opens doors for me in the urban jungle that many others can never enter. In the end, it appears that the sum of my life has been reduced to 3 1/4 by 2 inch plastic cards. Granted these cards are only of use in the urban setting that I dwell in (if you live on a farm, or a rural area they would be different) but they say a lot about how much I have attained and what I can do.

My Drivers License

I rarely use this anymore for it's 'intended' purpose, which is driving. It serves now as the state issued ID card so I can actually prove who I am since it has my picture and address on it. When ever I watch an episode of "Cops"....the first thing they always ask a driver for is his or her license, if they don't have one...RED FLAG. Cops seem to have a sixth sense about who has a license and who doesn't.

My Debit Card

Stop trying to read the numbers, I blurred them out. This is my primary form of currency in the modern world. It officially replaced money in my wallet about 14 months ago. I load up my savings and loan checking account each month and use this to drain it. No more funds, card no work.....that is my concept of a budget.

My YMCA Membership Card

Some might find this a bit of an odd choice, but this little card is a gold mine. In exchange for the monthly dues, I get perks that you cannot believe. A cheap place to stay in any major US city, unlimited hot water and towels, a swimming pool, a steam room, not to mention the exercise facilities. If I were to hitchhike or motorcycle across America, this is pretty much the only card I would need.

My Metro Card

This is actually one of those fancy cards with a little computer chip embedded inside of it. Since I work for a major employer in Arizona, I get one of these and it has pretty much replaced my need for a car. It gives me unlimited use of the Phoenix Bus and Light Rail system. I am charged HALF FARE (that is 50% off folks) and it is automatically deducted from my paycheck each month. So between this card and the YMCA card, I can go anywhere in town and always have a place to stay......sweet.

My Library Card

This may seem to be a pretty insignificant thing to have in this 'modern' age, however, you may not have been to a modern library recently. Besides being a WiFi hot spot where you can browse the web uninterupted by ringing phones and needy children, it is also a place where you can find limitless information (in hard copy), every Magazine ever printed, as well as DVDs and CD for any taste. Barnes & Noble and Blockbuster want to keep you out of this place at all cost. What they want you to do is buy this stuff from them for $24.99, but at the library you can get it for free.

My Benefit Options Card

The big Kahuana. The card that everyone should have but sadly, many folks don't. This is my health insurance card issued by my employer. It one of the primary reasons that I keep my job and put up with the never ending BS at work. Cheap health care. Something that becomes very important the older we get. You may not be able to see it on this image, but the co-pays on this plan are incredibly low. Something I have not used a lot in the past, but something my wife just loves. More than anything else, this card provides freedom from worry. Which is something that everyone in this country should have.

There are other cards that I own such as credit cards, passports and my Safeway Club card for food discounts, but they are either seldom used or luxuries that I can do without. The cards shown here are the 'letters' that indicate how far I have come and what I can do. When I hold them in my hand it all seems so strange that my life can be summed up in plastic. I am sure that eventually, they will all be replaced by something that fits on our fingernail.

So whats in your wallet/purse that defines your life?