PR Niblets

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"My Wallet, or my Cellphone?"

On Friday, in my rush to make a 7 a.m. train from Chappaqua to Manhattan for a partner breakfast meeting, I left my wallet in my car.

I didn't know I was "naked" until we neared Hawthorne and I heard the conductor coming down the aisle asking for tickets. As I reached for my monthly pass (housed in a special pocket in my wallet), I instantly realized what I had done. Terror set in. No train pass. No cash to buy a ticket on board. No credit card. No business card or any form of ID to offer the conductor as "collateral" of my good faith.

The conductor came to my seating group. When he looked at me, I said "I don't know what we're going to do with me... but my wallet is in my car...together with my credit cards, cash and ID."

I held my breath. My heartbeat sped up.

He looked at me and simply said, "okay," before moving on.

Crisis averted. And then I thought ahead to what the absence of my wallet meant. How to pay for breakfast. How to enter my office building. Who's paying for today's staff lunch. How to get home tonight. I thought about exiting at White Plains, grabbing a northbound local and starting all over again. After all, that's what I did a couple of years ago when I left my BlackBerry in my car.

On that occasion, I had similary weighed my options. Client calls? They'd go unanswered. Family calls and emergencies... no answer. Text messages...forgetaboutit! Facebook..LinkedIn...Twitter...other apps... no... too scary... I couldn't make it through the day. Back to the parking lot to get my phone. Not even a second thought.

Yet here, in 2011, I knew I could get by without my wallet. An email to Christa and Savannah, my work colleagues, produced two offers of we'll meet you at the restaurant to bail you out. And with that, I knew I could make it through the day.

Breakfast with Lito Bunag, of the Phillipines, went off as scheduled. When Christa walked to our booth, and discretely slid $80 and her gold AMEX to me, I noted the puzzled look on Lito's face. I explained my morning's angst and he smiled and said, "I was paying for breakfast anyway."

The security guards at 245 Park Ave. were sympathic but officially needed someone to vouch for me. But then, they noted that my staff had guest-signed me into the building. They produced a temporary paper badget. I was in!
I made it through the day without any other surprises. Lunch -- no sweat. New client meeting -- positive. Christa's micro-cash loan worked fine to buy my one-way ticket back to Westchester. My son picked me up with my car and I was finally reunited with my wallet.

So, in my own modern version of Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady, or the Tiger," my cellphone wins. I can make it through the day -- with a little bit of help from my friends -- without a wallet. But touch my cellphone? We need to have a serious conversation about that!


  1. If you really lacked clothing, but had your wallet and cellphone, where would you keep them? Would you not feel naked?

  2. I also had a similar experience. I had no money and my credit card reached its credit limit, so my wallet was truly worthless. Good thing my friends treated me to a meal that day. Clearly, some cellphones are taking the roles of wallets these days.

  3. I thought you would touch on the advent of mobile payments.

  4. But just one question keeps haunting our minds, is handling money transactions through mobile really safe? And if you are one of those already dealing with money through your mobile, surely you will have it on your mind if there is any way to make mobile payments safe.
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