I don't expect that many people visiting Los Angeles go with the specific intention of visiting the Wells Fargo History Museum on South Grand Avenue. I certainly didn't. It's small, and modest, and off the beaten track. I had never heard of it.
But my accommodating brother-in-law, Don, took us by during a tour of his neighborhood, and I was entranced.
Not so much with the stage coach or the gold ingots or the other romantic Old West trappings -- the saddle bags, the telegraph, the copper scales and such. Those were nice.
But I was captivated by the advertising promoting what is now commonplace: credit cards and 24-hour automated tellers, which were given women's names to make them less mechanized and forbidding.
People had to be taught how these systems worked, and reassured that their money would be safe in them. It was a long process — only recently did I stop counting the cash that an ATM spits out —what's the point? It's always correct.
Credit cards are older than I am — they showed up in the late 1950s as a benefit for business travelers. But I remember the advent of ATMs. Edie and I still smile thinking of how, more than 30 years ago, we approached the first cash machine we had to use, cautiously and not without a trace of fear, as if it might bite us. To see those twenties spitting out of a slot in a wall -- amazing!
You really don't need cash much—every fast food joint, convenience store and taxicab accepts a credit or cash card. I'd hate to try to put a date on cash falling away almost entirely: five years? Ten? Fifteen, tops? The new ads, if they are even required, might say, "Better than money."
How will our grandchildren view the shift? Like an unimaginable bother? Similar to washing clothes against a rock? Or will hard currency and coinage seem tokens from a lost, romantic past, the way we view candle-lit homes and travel on horseback? Most likely they'll never think about it at all.