The Tomato Patch: Cellphone’s no replacement for cowhide

As someone who is still learning how to do a few simple tasks on his “smartphone” nearly two months after he purchased it, I was not enthused to read that industry experts expect a majority of Americans to use their smartphones and other such electronic devices as “mobile wallets” within the next decade.

Proponents of mobile wallets claim this will benefit the consumer, allowing us to save money and get a lot of swell deals simply by waving our smartphones at the checkout counter.

I suspect the profit motive and the ability to lay off more store and bank employees is the real motivating factor here, but I admit I lack the expertise to make a convincing argument. (Whenever somebody says, “This is good for you,” I automatically assume it is really good for them.)

As someone who once used “Luddite” as his password I tend to be a little resistant of change. (Some would say it’s more than a little.) I stopped using that password when I sensed that I was giving up too much information about where my sympathies lay to the computers I was using and that they crashed more frequently in retaliation.

But I remain unconvinced that my old leather wallet with some cash, a credit card, a debit card, driver’s license and insurance cards is any less mobile or secure than my new cellphone. My smartphone is larger and heavier than my older, dumber cellphone, so it is about the same size and weight as a wallet and both travel in a pants pocket.

Based on  a lifetime of experience, I don’t tend to lose or even misplace wallets and have never had one stolen.
I have only gone into panic mode over thinking that I had lost my wallet twice.

Once was in 1969 when I was on military leave in Japan and had rented a tiny 360cc Honda car to tour the countryside. As I approached a tollbooth I reached into my back pocket and found no wallet.  That was a bad feeling. “How am I going to get through the tollbooth and back to Tachikawa Air Base with neither dollars nor yen to my name?” I thought.  I swerved over to the side of the road and began searching my person and my rental car. Fortunately my wallet had slipped out of my pocket and had wedged itself under the seat in the cramped interior.

About a decade later my wallet slipped though a tear in the back pocket of my jeans as I perched on a barstool, having paused for a burger and a beer in a bistro near Old Dominion University in Norfolk. I had paid my tab and left without realizing my wallet was on the bar floor. Fortunately, an honest person found it and I was able to retrieve it the next day when I retraced my steps.

I have only owned a cellphone for five years or so and I have misplaced it countless times, having to search for it by getting people to call me while I listened for the ringtone. (Cellphones must be slipperier than wallets. They should make one out of cowhide.)

Once I was so convinced I had lost my cellphone that I replaced it. About six months later I found it jammed between the seat and transmission tunnel in my Mazda Miata.

I also left a cellphone in a pants pocket and ran it through both the washer and dryer before realizing my mistake.

The cellphone was DOA.

I’m pretty sure a wallet, plastic cards and dollar bills would have survived that ordeal.

I hope they take their time with mobile wallets..

Posted on Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 11:50 am