One of my teenage daughters called me at work in a mild panic. Her mother had left a blank check for the daughter to bring to her hair appointment, and she had not a clue how to fill in the blanks.
I had to think about it for a minute myself.
I’m not sure when I last wrote a check for something. Probably two years ago while my wife, Sharon, and I were building our house. We served as general contractors, and the bank had supplied a giant checkbook for paying the various vendors and subcontractors.
Despite the size of the checkbook, I sometimes had to write out the amounts in tiny letters just to fit them all in. It’s amazing what it costs to build a house.
Check writing is still with us, but I’d say it’s hanging on by a thread. Most people have made the leap to debit cards and other electronic or online transfers of funds. Cash payments are increasingly rare.
Kids today don’t even lend each other money in cash. If a friend owes one of my daughters $10, he simply uses an online app that deposits the funds into a personal account in minutes.
In my daughter’s defense, I probably had not written any checks at her age. But I knew how to do it because I’d seen it practiced many times — on “The Price Is Right.”
Kids don’t watch “The Price Is Right” anymore. If they did, they’d have an idea how to write a check, even if the Check Game itself is a mystery.
There’s a fuzzy old video from 2005 on YouTube with Bob Barker lamenting to a “Price Is Right” contestant about the Check Game.
“We have played this game probably 20 years,” he said, “and yet no one ever knows how to play.”
He then asks the woman to repeat, “Bob, I know how to play the Check Game.” And right on cue, she says, “Bob, I know how to write a check,” to howls of laughter.
The game is confusing because it involves writing the check for an amount to be added to a prize value, with the sum landing between two other amounts. Win or lose, however, the check usually ends up written in line with standard check-writing protocol.
“Have you never seen the Check Game on ‘The Price Is Right?’ I asked said daughter.
She had not. So I decided to have some fun with her.
“OK, first of all you’re going to need to write the check using your right hand,” I said. (My daughter is left-handed.)
“Because your mother has a right-handed checkbook.”
“Dad,” she said, flatly. “I don’t know how to write a check, but I’m not stupid.”
I told her not to worry about the “pay-to-the-order-of” line. All she needed to do is write the number amount and then write the payment amount in words, followed by “00/100” because it’s an even-dollar amount.
I told her all of that, but it did not come out as succinctly as it is written here. In my defense, Bob Barker always struggled with it, too.
“Never mind,” daughter said. “I’ll just look up an image of a written check.”
With five more minutes, I believe I could have come up with that.