You will shortly write your last cheque

***

A young friend asked me to advise her as she wrote her very first cheque. I told her to just sign her name like she’d sign a letter. In the signature space, she wrote: “Lots of love, Jessie xoxo”.

***

Cheque-writing as a skill is dying out. Pity.

Cheques are an important Asian invention, first appearing in India circa 300 BC when Western bank managers were still evolving from jelly-like invertebrates in warm ponds.

*** Westerners first copied the idea in the 1st century AD, with Romans calling them praescriptiones. When buying togas from the “New Arrivals” section at Zara, the conversation would go like this.

“I’ve only got MXXIIV in cash, may I pay by praescriptione?”

“That’ll do nicely, pro-consul, but I’ll have to add a surcharge of XIV denarii.”

***

Cheques dominated world finance from the 1700s onwards, but started a long decline from the 1990s, I learned from a report about the new Museum of Accountancy in India.

The cheques best worth saving are checks (that’s how they spell it) from the United States—because US banks leave a space in the bottom left called the Check Memo.

Bank computers don’t bother to read that part, so you can write anything you like there.

I am happy to report that over the years, many of my American friends have used this little space exercise their creativity.

For instance, you can write “FOR BRIBE” in that space, or “HUSH MONEY” or “HERE’S YOUR BLACKMAIL MONEY, YOU EVIL @#$%.”

Other good ones are “TO HELP WITH YOUR GAMBLING DEBT” and “FINAL PAYMENT FOR SUCCESSUL HIT CONTRACT”.

I knew someone who worked really hard to embarrass people with checks. For men, he wrote: “DONATION TO SEX CHANGE FUND” and for women, “LAPDANCE TRAINING FEE”.

Although this was meant for fun, there was sometimes an unexpected bonus. The payee often didn’t cash the check, preferring to keep it for its humorous value, or because it would be too embarrassing (see pic).

***

The one place you must NEVER be non-serious about cheques is Japan.

If you bounce a cheque twice in that country, your company is automatically suspended from stock market trading, a run is triggered on the Nikkei Index, a global stock crash follows, the world falls into economic crisis from which it never emerges, and billions of people die.

That sort of thing can spoil your morning.

***

But I think we should encourage our children to keep using cheques to keep the flow of funny real-life stories going.

For example, Reader's Digest printed a report about a man named Jones whose first name was RB—and the two letters didn’t stand for anything.

Everyone just called him RB.

When he got his first job, he filled in his staff form as R (only) B (only) Jones. At the end of the month, he got a paycheck made out to “Mr Ronly Bonly Jones”.

He was surely as surprised as someone this week who is going to get a cheque signed: “Lots of love, Jessie xoxo.”