The Future Is Nigh: Plastic Money Is Taking Over
Paper or plastic? Wait, no, that's what they ask about supermarket bagging. How about, "Cash or plastic?" We've maybe heard that phrase before or something along those lines. Well now residents of Britain will no longer have to make that choice. Britain announced on Wednesday that it would begin phasing out paper money in favor of plastic-based currency. The plastic money, or rather polymer, will start to hit the streets of England in 2016 and they will begin with the £5 and £10 notes (that's what they call money in England, FYI). England will not be the first to make such a switch, Canada and Australia, as well as several other countries have already moved from paper currency to plastic.
Photo by Evan Bench.
There are many reasons to move to this polymer cash. For one it is much more difficult to counterfeit. According to the New York Times report:
The new Canadian bills have a transparent window that contains large, color-shifting images of Parliament buildings and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth, Canada's formal head of state, or famous Canadian politicians. Small metallic details, including the note's denomination, also swirl around in the window.
That's not something that you can do with paper cash. Additionally, the plastic bills also hold up much better than paper ones, eliminating ripping and washing machine accidents.
Plus, some Canadians suspected that the government had lined the plastic bills with maple syrup scent, so there's that too.
When they were first released in Canada, people grumbled. The bills stuck together, they were slippery, you couldn't fold them, but the Bank of England did some recon and after letting real folks give the cash a good feel, "87 percent of people" were on board.
I am all for change, and plastic money falls right into my vision of a future where robots control the planet and dogs are forced to clean up people poop, but there are a few issues that are sure to arise with this new currency.
My first question, which was addressed in the New York Times article without being answered: can you fold it into your wallet? According to an article put out on Canada's CTV News, the bills are foldable but "unfurl immediately." So, OK, you can put them in a wallet but they will make life more difficult when attempting to shove the bill in your pocket.
In thinking about money in pockets, will we never again experience the magical occasion of finding a random fiver in an old pair of jeans? It may only be five bucks or a dollar even, but the feeling of success and life-affirmation associated with "found" money is a glorious one. What will happen to this if our dollars can no longer be crumpled into tiny balls?
Furthermore, if you can't squash the bills without them unfolding themselves, what will happen to those antiquated parking lot boxes that should have been torn down sometime in the mid-1970s? It is already difficult enough to get your dollars folded small enough to maneuver them into those unnecessarily small slots, what will we do with plastic?
And, hey, while we are thinking about it, what the hell is going to happen to vending machines? On the one hand, maybe plastic bills will make vending machines easier; no more rejected bills being spit out over and over again no matter what you do, no more rubbing it against the side of the machine to try and get it flattened out. But obviously all vending machines will have to be re-equipped to handle this newfangled dinero, and that's just a pain in the ass.
There are other implications worth noting that I really hope the Bank of England has thought of - strippers. Where will they put these plastic notes? I can't imagine they will fit into any G-string, male or female. Male strippers, in particular, will have a lot of problems dancing with hard plastic pieces in their itty-bitty undies. As it is, many of them currently have hard plastic pieces filling their pants. For the lady strippers, I would imagine, it would be very difficult to give a lap dance when you are worrying that your plastic dollars are going to slip out of your panties. And "ouch" for the guys being lap danced upon.
Origami nerds will never be able to show off their skills at inopportune moments by turning their friend's twenties into cranes. There is an entire Dollar Bill Origami society that will have to find a new hobby. What will they do to impress people in bars? Plus, what will happen to magicians who pretend to make a dollar disappear by sliding it between their forefingers (sorry for giving the trick away)? Sure, they can still pull a coin out of an ear, but the dollar trick is so much better. And what will become of grifters who put dollars under cups and slide them quickly around and bet you that you can't guess where the dollar is when it really isn't under any cup at all? What the hell will those people do for a living? These new dollars are now taking away people's livelihoods.
You can't do this with plastic.
Furthermore, snorting coke is going to be very difficult.