In the United States we like to think we are quite advanced, technologically speaking. In some cases we are way behind. For example, on my recent trip to the grocery store, I was asked to insert my debit card into the card reader at the checkout register. When I did nothing happened. The clerk took my card to look and said, “Your card does not have a chip in it. We cannot use this.” Fortunately, we had adequate cash on hand to pay the bill.
As I watched another customer or two who paid with debit cards, the transaction was nearly instantaneous. No PIN entry needed. No signature verification required. Everything that was required was on that chip embedded in the card. Obviously, if someone lost a card and called it in, the network would immediately flag that card and the chip would lock the account. How cool is that? I want one of those!
The only utility we pay is for electricity. There is a USB-type key that fits into our junction box, the Scottish equivalent of an electric meter. The digital screen on the meter tells us how much money is left on the key. At any time we can remove the key and take it to any number of locations where we can add money to the account. So far, after doing a week’s worth of laundry, heating water and cooking, we have consumed £4 (about $6) worth of electricity in four days. That works out to a $40/month electric bill. Not bad. Of course, that will increase in the winter.
One thing I have not mentioned about our apartment here in Perth. We do not have a television. It is interesting that we were avid followers of our favorite shows during our layover in Los Angeles, and with the DVR, we were able to catch up on a few shows, my favorites being Burn Notice and Justified. And we both love watching The Big Bang Theory, which I now believe will rival M*A*S*H, The Tim Allen Show, and I Love Lucy as among the greatest sitcoms ever. However, we do not miss having a television. Occasionally, I will rent a DVD to watch on my laptop. It is just that reading is at least as satisfying as television, and we are quite content without the distraction, however alien that must seem.
One frustration we have had is accessing our bank funds. We opened an account with HSBC because it is an international bank, and there is an HSBC here in Perth. However, HSBC USA is not the same company as HSBC UK. That was also true in Panama, but we were able to take out cash above the limit on our debit card there. Not so here. However, the fault is ours. We have debit or credit cards for four different banks, but we lost our record of our PIN’s. Having those records would have saved us some hassles. Oh well.
Note: It has been our good fortune that the rain we have experienced this week held off until we had moved into our wonderful apartment.