Techno-Not

Mom doesn’t get ATMs.  I’m not criticizing, just stating fact.  And, I suppose, at 86, it’s understandable.  She was born in the midst of prohibition, lived her childhood through the Great Depression and saw the invention of modern marvels that include the TV remote control, microwave ovens, birth control pills, the commercial jet liner, the Telstar satellite, industrial-strength and then home computers, video games, and smoke detectors.

So, to her, a technological wonder is the in-door icemaker on the refrigerator.  Or the garage door opener.  She thinks the internet has something to do with electricity and our computers are plugged into it so that they’ll work.  She believes that the satellite TV’s on-screen guide is the equivalent of a test pattern.  And she won’t keep her digital picture frame turned on because she’s afraid it will wear out the tape that the pictures are on.  So the fact that she doesn’t get ATMs is certainly understandable.

For three years now, whenever Mom’s monthly prescriptions are ready to be picked up, Bill and I go to the drug store, pay with our debit card, and take the pills and the receipt home to Mom.  She then writes us a check, usually for slightly more than the cost of the prescription so she can have some “mad money” in her wallet.  We get back in our car and drive to her bank to cash the check.  Then, we drive to our bank where we deposit our share and bring her the balance.

This routine happens several times a month because the pharmacy can’t seem to sync up her four prescriptions so we only have to make one trip.  The last time we had to make a prescription run, I finally went tilt.  Supposedly, two of her high blood pressure medicines were ready at the same time, but once we got to the store, the clerk said the second one wouldn’t be ready for another 5 or 6 days.  Since I’m on Mom’s checking account, I decided to get an ATM card to use to pay for her medication.  No more checks to cash, miles to waste, gas to replace and stress to deal with.  Easy peasy, right?  Wrong!

When we got home, I told Mom we’d picked up one of her prescriptions, gave her the receipt and told her to deduct the amount from her checkbook.

“You mean write you a check,” she said.

“No, just subtract the amount from your balance.  It’s already paid for.”

“So, write you a check,” she repeated.

“No, Mom.  I used a debit card for your checking account to pay for it, so you just have to deduct it in your check register.”

“Well how did you do that?” she asked.

“With an ATM card.  I’ve got one to use to pay for your prescriptions so you don’t have to write us a check and we don’t have to waste gas going to the bank to cash it.”

“So I have to write you a check?” she asked.

“No, just deduct the amount from checking.”

“Well how will I pay you back?”

“You don’t have to,” I said with a sigh.  “It’s already been paid for out of your checking account.  I used an ATM card and it was deducted electronically.”

“Oh.  So I need to put the money back into my account?”

I took a deep breath and responded with a soft, but slightly explosive “No!” before I continued more calmly.  “I paid for the prescription with an ATM card that takes the money out of your checking account and pays the drug store for the pills.  You don’t owe anyone anything.”

“Well, I’m not sure about that,” she said with a worried scowl and a shake of her head.

“You don’t know about what?” I asked, trying to remain patient while casting furtive glances at the liquor cabinet in the corner.

“I don’t think I like the idea of the drug store being able to take money out of my checking account.  That’s just not right.”

“They can’t take money out of your checking account, Mom.  Only I can when I use the ATM card.  And I’m only going to use it to pay for your prescriptions.”

“Well, if you say so,” she conceded grudgingly.  “But the next time you pick up my pills, I’ll just write you a check.  It’ll be easier and less confusing for you that way.”

What the hell – it’s five-o’clock somewhere, right?

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One Comment on “Techno-Not”

  1. That’s funny. I probably would have lost my patience but you can’t blame them, things were so different then. Yikes, I would hate to have to write checks for everything!


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