Acronyms and Artifacts

Technology has a way of changing even the most mundane aspects of life. Last weekend The Wife decided to do some early spring cleaning. She started with the easy stuff: shredding. There’s something our parents didn’t have to do. Shred. Anyway, I decided to wander to the back room to see what papers of mine she might have put on the shred pile. We’ve been together twelve years–sometimes I get a sense that she’s messing with my stuff.

Sure enough. I walked in on her ripping my old checkbooks apart–the NCR copies I’d saved these past sixteen years or so, relics from my past. Not much of one for recording and keeping track of details, I tried to compensate by saving any and all paperwork I might ever need. Here, right in front of me, I had tangible, hard evidence of nearly every expenditure I made 12-16 years ago. I flipped through a few of the yellowed and curling copies, curious to see what I’d spent my money on then, such money as I had, for those were some lean years.

Clearly I lived life in a hurry then, to busy to write out full names in the days before online banking and debit cards, because I had to puzzle my way through many long forgotten acronyms: FRA (Fairhaven Red Apple), BSE (Bayside Espresso), WWUCDC (Western’s Child Development Center, aka daycare), WAMU (you remember WAMU, right?), COBRA (way, way cheaper than it is now).
Intrigued by what I found in the first couple of used checkbooks, I moved on to the others, temporarily halting the shredding. I didn’t want to so cavalierly destroy an artifact I might need now that I am writing my memoirs. Who knew what tidbits of long forgotten purchases lingered here? I discovered quickly that every set of 25 checks had pretty much the same payees: groceries, daycare, mortgage, coffee, as well as the general utilities: SSC, COB, PSE, CNG (garbage, water/sewer, electricity, and gas).
Much has changed in the past 16 years. And much hasn’t. Obviously I no longer write checks for much of anything A good chunk of money still goes toward childcare expenses more or less, since one kid is in college and one soon will be. These days I am not burdened by the process of actually writing out a check and mailing it. The kid doesn’t have to go hungry while awaiting my check. Now I simply log in to WECU and transfer funds. I still have a mortgage to pay even though WAMU imploded, and I get my coffee fix now at The Rustic in Fairhaven since BSE had to make room for condos and an audio shop.

This box of old checks may be the very last box of old checks I ever get to peruse. Technology is robbing us of these experiences. Soon no one’s attic or basement or garage or back room will yield such unexpected tangible evidence of our pasts. All the detritus of our lives will be in the cloud and possibly inaccessible, locked up by long forgotten passwords, trapped in obsolete media. I’ve been a computer user since 1983 and nothing I wrote and saved to floppy disk in those days is any longer accessible without extreme measures on my part.

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