Back in 1980, when the world was turning to morning in America, and I first began to understand what inflation was and why I couldn't afford an apartment in Los Angeles, there was a small
miracle called MICR.
MICR (magnetic ink character recognition) is a technology used to verify the legitimacy or originality of paper documents, especially checks. Special ink, which is sensitive to magnetic fields, is used in the printing of certain characters on the original documents.
What I learned in the anti-fraud part of my teller training was that banks used to leave MICR machines out in the lobby for their customers' use. If you forgot your deposit slip, you could take a blank one from the kiosk and use the MICR machine to put your account number on it. The teller would take your deposit and all would be sunny. Except for the time when some clever cad pre-stamped all of the blank deposit slips with his own account number and left a pile of them at the kiosk. No more MICR machines in the lobby.
Nevertheless, checks still have your account number on them. What they don't have is the amount of the check you write. So it was somebody's job at the bank to eyeball every check amount and MICR that bad boy so it could be processed. It was an interesting period in our time, when paperwork of a certain type ultimately ended up in a computer database that did tallying. Tally is a word you don't hear much any longer. This was the job of the Proofer. In my rounds of bank operations between 80 and 82, I excelled most at TCDs. It got me a desk. But I also had to do customer service and proof. If I were to be an operations manager, I had to know all aspects including teller, vault teller, and wire transfer. I never got to do wire transfer and when it came to proof, I stank. Even though I had my ten key skills, (by touch), I could not compete with that thin Eastern European girl who was the regular.
While I'm reminiscing, I might as well name names. The branch was Pershing Square and the branch manager was Tom Caballero. The operations manager was Tom Hamilton and the assistant manager was a lively Mexican girl with wavy mid-length hair. I want to say that her name was Gonzales, but it doesn't seem quite right. She was the backup for the proof girl. The vault teller was a severe and gorgeous black girl and her best friend was head teller. She was slim and had a nasally voice. The senior teller was Anna Mena who later moved out to a branch in Van Nuys. The kid I hated was an emancipated minor whose Beverly Hills parents couldn't get rid of him fast enough. He actually knew the French lyrics to Blondie's Rapture song. I had something of a crush on Sarah Farren, but she was already married to Bob. The wire transfer girl was Marnita Jackson. She had her own apartment in Hollywood and didn't trust me for jack. There were a couple of loan officers down on the first floor including Piccolini who drove a Mercedes 280 but didn't get a lot of respect in the bank. The SVP, Ken Allen, offered me a spot in the management trainee program so I could learn credit. I told him I really wanted to do computers. The macher of the joint was Marvin Schwartz who looked like an evil Dr. Katz. His word was law. Every Christmas all of the businessmen who owed him money brought large cans of gourmet popcorn.
People say that they are afraid of AI. Some people probably should be, but they are the same people who don't get the respect of the big bosses of the world anyway. If I decide to replace you with a machine, what exactly am I doing? Well, in the case of City National Bank, you are saving me the headache of being a modern day Bartleby. Me working proof would have been a nightmare for all parties concerned. We want labor saving devices. Some of that, obviously, is a consequence of us being peasants living in the fictional, idiot proof city. We have bullshit jobs because we actually don't know how to live any other way, and necessity isn't quite the mother it needs to be to reduce our body fat ratios. It's rather sad how far our society has gone to sexualize our relationships one to the other, but if there's any comfort in that perversion, at least AIs won't be sexual. Except in the movies where they are.
I expect and hold out eternal hope that people, being people, will ultimately desire to be around and work honestly with people. That is the satisfaction core to our being as social animals and we won't evolve out of that necessity. But technology will march on while there is money to be made in it, and so every once in a while slim East European women's' daughters will invent something better than proof machines in memory of their mothers' toil. MICR be damned, we now have ATMs that read checks, but debit cards first existed around 1995. That didn't take very long.
I think there is something magical about cooking with friends. I've never had the job, but I've done enough barbecues and enough banking piecework to meld the two together in my mind. So what Wendy's is proposing, kiosks instead of cashiers, might work out well. After all, how hard is it to order up a supersized #4 with Sprite? I tell you this, it's a no brainer to build a fast food ordering app. It's already done. I say it's just a matter of time until all fast food restaurants take on a new profile where it's all about the kitchen. And the security staff in the dining part. But the esprit de corps of the fast food joint is something I don't quite have my finger on. A diner, on the other hand, is something we all remember.
Hasn't it always been about saving money?