Monday, September 29, 2008

Stripe towards me? Or stripe towards you?

Once more I stand at the checkout counter, indecisive. My bank card poised, aloft. The little black box on the countertop presents its inscrutable icon, my insurmountable interpretive obstacle: stripe facing in? or stripe facing out? I don't know. The little dimensionalized drawing of a bank card meant to guide me is completely incomprehensible. If I understand it correctly--and obviously I don't--it seems to me that the stripe should face up into the air, not making contact with the reading mechanism at all.

My card-bearing hand hovers somewhere near shoulder height and I stare hard at the little machine. I think. I reason. I tilt my head. I swipe.

I swipe, incorrectly as it turns out. Damn it! Wrong again! How many times is this damn box going to outwit me, I wonder?

Quickly, I flip the card around and swipe again: my aim is to do it so fast that no one notices I did it wrong the first time.

In a flash it hits me: it would actually be faster and less stressful--more efficient by any means of reckoning--if I just swiped randomly, every time. Faster because a mindless swipe has a fifty percent chance of being the correct orientation. Faster because a second reswipe would still happen more quickly than my first, overly deliberate, mentally laborious swipe of current brain-busting practice.

Sometimes it's easier just to make an attempt, fail, and then correct it. Sometimes it's more effective, even better, than trying to puzzle out a first move so that it will be my only move, and then disappointing myself by being wrong. If you expect to have a chance to be wrong, you're pleasantly surprised to be right; if you take all the buildup out of a decision, you don't get so invested in it.

So now, at the checkout, when I take my bank card out of my wallet, I ensure that the magnetic stripe is poised to contact some part of the card reading machine and I blindly, confidently, swipe at random. Sometimes it works--at least just as often as it did when I stared at the machine and tried to figure it out--only now I don't have to think about it at all. I just do.

There's got to be a life lesson in there somewhere, don't you think?


Kyla said...

Thinking less! I think it is a novel concept for most of us in the blogosphere. ;)

As I agonize over the decision we've made about KayTar's g-button, this speaks volumes to me. Think less, just do. Sounds like a good strategy.

Bea said...

My problem is that even when the stripe is facing the right way it still takes me several swipes before it will "take." You're right, though - when I don't know which way to swipe, I just randomly swipe it this way and that until it works, but today at Starbucks when the cashier said "swipe towards me" and I took that to mean "swipe towards me" I just kept reswiping it wrong until the machine timed out and I had to get the cashier to ring it through again. So yeah - embarrassed surreptitious second swipes? Not for me - if I get it on the second swipe I feel like a superstar.

Omaha Mama said...

My strengths are in the linear reasoning area, so maybe I can describe it for you? Whichever side the smaller rectangle within the mini picture of the card is on is the way the magnetic strip should face. If it's on the right side, face it right. And so on. I wish I could draw you a picture.
Although, sometimes I still get it wrong so why the heck am I trying to describe it at all? Just give it your best guess and go for it? Better yet, ask the cashier to swipe it for you. They've all got the little swipe machines at their post too.
Good luck!
(And...I've missed you.)

Beck said...

You need to move to my town, where the friendly sales clerks will quickly learn to remember if you can never figure out which way to swipe it and just pre-emptively do it FOR you. SO easy!

kittenpie said...

I can never figure those diagrams out, either, so I just figure the body of the machine must hold the reading device, and go that way.

But more importantly - welcome back!

Bon said...

i just washed my damn bank card and now it doesn't seem to matter which way i swipe...because neither work.

No Mother Earth said...

I can NEVER get that stripe thing right. I'm a little tired of the cashiers looking at me like I'm an idiot. (I am. But still!)

Jenifer said...

Random swipes...I like it!

Patti said...

Mimi, I swiped confidently and blindly the other day, in honour of you.