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I hate paying bills.

It’s not just the money flowing so freely from my bank account that bothers me. I actually hate sitting down with that stack of envelopes in front of me and hauling out the checkbook to take care of them. It’s on a par with pumping gas, but that’s another story.

A zillion years ago, when I was a new bride, I paid bills with enthusiasm, or at least as much as I could muster when the bank account had to be watched a whole lot more carefully than it does now. I can remember sitting in that tiny kitchen with a fountain pen–you do remember those, don’t you?–and using my very best penmanship to sign the checks: Mrs. Joe Blow. It was pure joy to have a new name and a new life. There was a golden glow to that new life, and the ink in my pen was peacock blue. Well, I was young.

We didn’t even have credit cards in those early years. Well, for one thing, the card companies actually wanted you to prove that you had enough income to be certain that the monthly invoices would be paid, a sound procedure which has gotten lost lately. Okay, Anita, this isn’t supposed to be a political post; stick to the subject. We paid cash for what we bought, or wrote a check on the spot to whichever store had garnered our business. The only monthly bills we got were for things like gas and electricity.

Over the years things have changed. Oh, the new life got even better, but you already know that. I haven’t seen a fountain pen in years, though, and if I did I would somehow manage to spill the ink all over myself. My lovely rounded handwriting has morphed into a spidery scribble, and the name on the signature line is just my first name and a fair portion of the last one. At least these days I can be pretty sure that the checks I write will clear without requiring a stomach-churning mad dash to the bank to make an emergency deposit.

It’s a new year. My wish for all of you is that your checks don’t bounce and your ink stays neatly confined where it’s supposed to be. As for me, one more cup of coffee and I’ll be ready to face the post-holiday greetings from Amex and their ilk.

I’ll see you again, after the commercial.

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