In the abstract, I can see that contactless payment is a Good Thing. I’ve seen the adverts. You buy something like a coffee or a McDonald’s or some other such transient guilty pleasure, you wave your phone in the direction of the card-reader, the money gets debited. You walk away, all cool and time-enriched and I-didn’t-have-to-press-any-buttons. Everyone admires you as a trailblazing techno-hound with your finger on the electronic pulse. Boys want you. Girls want to be you. Et cetera.
That’s the abstract concept of contactless payment. The reality is a little less compelling. It falls out of an envelope one morning, and I am instantly filled with the consuming desire to do two things. I want to snap it out of its little plastic housing (when I get to Heaven, I will spend about eleventy million years popping bubble-wrap, tearing perforated paper and snapping little plastic things out of pre-punched casings). And then, when I’ve done that, and all the joy of its arrival has been exhausted – I want to throw it away.
Barclaycard are, quite rightly, proud of this invention. They have supplemented the little card with a whole sheaf of leaflets, perkily describing how much better and more exciting my life will be when I can do Contactless Payment By Phone. But it’s all wasted on me. I stare at the leaflets and try to make myself interested, but I can’t do it. All they convey to me is a single compelling mantra:
Throw it away. Throw it away. Throw it away. Throw it away. Throw it away. Throw it away. Throw it away. Throw it away. Throw it away. Throw it away. Do it now. Do it right now. Throw it away. Throw it away. You know you want to. Throw it away. Throw it away.
When my husband gets home, a mysterious force draws him straight to the chip, bypassing cats, catalogues, plates and other envelopes to hone in on the New Technology. “You’ve got contactless payment!” he says, in that slightly envious tone that tells me he feels that giving this technology to me, rather than him, is a bit of a waste. (He’s right; it is.) And then, “So, when are you going to put it on your phone?”
Normally when I have something my husband wants and I don’t, I simply say, “Here, you have it” and hand it over. But this doesn’t really work with something that gives him access to my credit card. So I just look guilty and say, “ I don’t want to stick that crappy bit of plastic on my beautiful shiny expensive gorgeous iPhone”. This is a pathetic excuse which he instantly sees through.
“You could stick it on your iPhone case,” he says, all eagle-eyed.
“How much was your iPhone case?”
(£1.95 from Amazon. We both know it.)
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
I can tell he is dissatisfied with my answer. He turns over the plastic chip and studies it closely, then looks at the leaflets, then looks at the plastic chip again.
“Don’t snap it out of the housing!” I beg.
Because that’s the only thing about it that I like. And as soon as it’s out of the housing I will be forced to throw it away.
“I’ll think about it, okay?” I tell him.
I make a neat little pile of leaflets with the chip on top and put them next to my computer. I hope this creates the convincing illusion that I am, indeed, thinking about it. For the next few days, I stare at the chip and wrestle with the impulse to snap it out of its frame, then throw it out. Then some more catalogues come and I forget about it.