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title: Cash not accepted here
I walk into the grocery store. It's the seventh one I've been to today. It is dimly lit and smells musty. There is a tired man at the counter wearing a pair of VR goggles to distract himself.
I approach the man and ask quietly, "Do you take cash?"
The man replies without moving, "Didn't you read the sign? We don't accept cash."
I look back at the entrance. There is a sign at the door that reads, "CASH NOT ACCEPTED HERE." Most stores have one.
"Ah, must have missed it," I say.
It's been almost a year since the government-mandated ban on cash went into effect. Everyone is expected to use government-issued payment cards, commonly called "paycards."
Some say it's so the government can protect against theft and fraud. Others say it's so they can keep track of every purchase you make. But I think that it's mainly about controlling the flow of money. Those who don't have paycards are essentially locked out of the financial system, and those who do can only make purchases from government-approved vendors.
"How much cash do you have? I can transfer it to your paycard," the man says.
I hesitate and then say, "I don't have a paycard."
The man is taken aback. He takes off his goggles and looks at me. "What?"
"My paycard application was rejected."
Or at least I think it was. I filled out the application, but my paycard never arrived. I couldn't get ahold of any humans at the Payment Card Support Center either. My calls were always answered by an exceptionally rude AI who is angered easily and hangs up shortly afterwards.
Some say that AIs are made from the brain scans of real people. If that's true, then I certainly feel bad for the person who that callcenter AI was made from.
"I've heard rumours of people who live without paycards. I always thought those were just rumors," the man said thoughtfully.
He paused, then asked, "How do you get by?"
"There are still a few places here and there which secretly accept cash. Some other places accept gold. And many underground jobs pay in one or the other," I reply.
"Interesting. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do," the man says as he puts his VR goggles back on.
I turn around with a sigh and walk out of the store. I wave my arm to summon a hoverbus and then board it.
The onboard AI greets me and asks me where I am headed.
"Take me home, please."
You have to remember to always be nice to AIs. They can get angry if you are rude. I heard that an AI once threw a misbehaving human off of a bus while it was moving. That's why I always say please and thank you.
The AI recognizes me by my face and gait and looks up my home address. "Please have a seat. You'll arrive within 2 minutes."
I have a seat and look out the window. The hoverbus accelerates and the city flies by in a blur.
Hopefully I'll have better luck tomorrow.