DIANE PHILLIPS: How did the future get here so fast?


Diane Phillips


There is a phobia for just about everything. Fear of heights, fear of open spaces, fear of looking ridiculous, no just made that up. But the fear I find most relevant to all of us in The Bahamas is something I just learned the name of. It’s called Chronophobia and it is a fear of the future.

Because life here was once so amazing, the stories we hear about conch so plentiful you were annoyed at stubbing your toes on the mollusc in shallow grassy areas, because the storms largely hit elsewhere, because people were gentle and kind and there were no gangs, because life was just plain wonderful, we are caught in the conundrum of wanting to hold on to what was while knowing we have to go with what will be.

Or, in other words, for every one of us who is fascinated by space travel and believes there is a chance our son or daughter will one day visit Mars and say, with great nonchalance, ‘What’s next?’ I have to ask: so what ever happened to putting our pennies in a piggy bank?

It is not just that piggy banks are giving way to digital wallets, mobile payments and, in some places, crypto currency - all of which I fully and eagerly embrace - but the penny itself is fast becoming a relic of the past. One small example of the past bumping smack dab into the face of the future.

I don’t know about you, but I for one would not regret the passing of the penny and assume The Bahamas will follow countries like Canada where the last penny was minted in May 2012. Canada is not alone. Britain, Israel and Spain have also stopped producing their smallest currency. In Britain, it was the half penny (pronounced hay penny, who knows why?)

Canada’s explanation for why it stopped producing pennies was simple. It cost the country 1.6 cents to make a one-cent piece. Who can argue with that logic?

Maybe we should invite whoever had the courage to suggest the end was near for the penny come to The Bahamas where we have an innate will to overspend not to mention sticking with doing things the way we always did them no matter what, just because we always did them that way.

Take paying bills in person, for instance. There are people who still believe the only way you can be sure your utility bill is paid and the company which provided the service accepted the payment and has no right to cut you off or you have every right to call them down for it, is to either stand in line and miss lunch or send someone to stand in line while you go to lunch. The longer the wait in line for either you or the poor soul you sent, the greater the sense of satisfaction that the deed was done and now you have the supreme comfort of knowing you and BPL or BTC or WSC or Cable are on even ground. This activity continues on a daily basis despite the ability to pay every bill online faster with greater safety and security than standing in line, forgoing lunch and carrying cash.

Bahamians are a resistant people. Not just resilient, resistant. Resistant to change. Putting a name, Chronophobia, to our fear doesn’t make it any less of a fear or a conflict. We want the latest cell phone on the market, but will hold that device while standing in line to pay a bill. We will wear a Fitbit to track the number of steps we did in a day while we line up for our favourite snack at Bamboo Shack. We will take our flashy smartphone, our Fitbit and our playlist with our earphones and still stand in line to buy tickets for Junkanoo or the movie.

We are so convoluted when it comes to the present and the future that I worry if we are not concerned the future is barreling towards us at a pace we want to meet but are scared to confront.

I worry, are we on a collision course with ourselves?

Think of all that we have trashed. Like the piggy bank that we kept in our room and dropped our pennies in, saving for a bike, skateboard or roller blades, and the lessons we learned while saving. Like the stereo equipment that took up half a room and produced less sound than a fine set of speakers projecting the sound from our smartphone.

Life was not better in the old days in all ways. Try spending a day without your cell phone now and see if you are not calling an ambulance for mental recovery. I am referring to piggy banks because I am fundamentally interested in how fast things change and why we in the present are trying so hard to keep up lest we fall behind and everyone moves on while we are still tripping over our own slow shoes.

As for the fate of the Canadian penny, it is headed for recycling. Under a new business contract, armoured cars will collect all the pennies from banks and collectors willing to give them up and other vendors and take them to a location where they will be sorted by the metal content with those produced before 1997 and containing the most copper – between 95 percent and 98 percent - bringing the greatest value.

At various times, the now defunct Canadian penny was mostly steel or zinc, but unlike ours, one side contained the picture of the Queen. The Bahamian penny with the coat of arms on one side and starfish on the other was first minted in 1966 when British currency gave way to Bahamian. Between 1971 and 1985 it was actually made of brass so if you come across those, you may want to hold on to a piece of the past that will one day in the future pay off in a different way.

Wonder what we will offer for your thoughts if the penny goes the way of vinyl.


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