Lum: Keeping up in the fast lane

Su Lum

“When are you going to join the 21st century?” The Aspen Times’ customers would grumble when we didn’t have a fax machine yet.

“Welcome to the 21st century,” the Comcast man said after installing my brand-new modem.

I’m pedaling as fast as I can, but I’m still a decade or two behind when it comes to things like smartphones or even dumb cellphones, but I recently made a big leap into the 21st century that I think I’m going to love. I am now an online banker.

When I retired from my ad job at the Times a couple of years ago, one of my big adjustments was the mail. I have a post office box, but I got most of my mail at the newspaper, and I could use Aspen Times envelopes for my outgoing mail and buy special mailers upstairs at Carl’s next door and leave the money with Dottie in the front office.

Fast forward: The Times moves into The Mother Lode building, I will have to send all my correspondents my new address or — or — maybe it was time to join the 21st century and get my very own home mailbox and stop being dependent on my ex-employer (ex except for this column, which, money-wise, is not a real job).

I could detach myself and change my address in, as my father would have said, “one swell foop.”

So I had a nifty mailbox installed and, at first, had a sense of delight getting my bills, writing my checks and putting the stamped envelopes into my mailbox. The one drawback was that I had to write my return address on every thumping bill because I could no longer use the Aspen Times stamp or an Aspen Times envelope. Another drawback was having to go to the post office to buy postage.

Of course, I could have easily ordered an address stamp on the Internet (a fast lane I can relate to), but my daughter Skye had been lobbying me to try Internet banking and had even demonstrated to me, on her laptop, how easy it was to pay her bills.

I was so impressed that it only took six or eight months for me to go down to Alpine Bank and pick up a sheet of paper that basically said to go to and follow directions.

A few months after that, Skye came over and together we set up my account — a process requiring, I am happy to report, several phone calls to the bank to get us through the tricky spots.

Unfortunately, I had just paid all of my bills, so we couldn’t practice, but Skye entered the information for Visa, Carl’s and the city of Aspen to get me started when the new bills came in.

The bills came in and sat on my kitchen table. OK. Either I was going to do this, or I was going to pay all those bills the old check-and-return-address way — late at that. No! I plunged forward (into the you-know-what century) and paid three bills in less than three minutes.

I ran into some snags when I tried to add other accounts. I considered waiting until Skye’s next visit, but what was I, some kind of a wuss? Like a guy afraid to ask directions? I called the bank and a friendly lady named Sue, who was probably in charge of codger accounts and whose sister used to babysit my daughters, cheerfully and quickly walked me through it. In minutes, all my bills were paid.

Here’s the thing. You get a bill, go to your bank account on the computer and put in your secret ID words, click on, say, Comcast, insert the amount to pay and you’re done. The money is deducted from your checking account. You can pay all or part. You can even post-date the payment — I’m not advanced enough for that.

If the company you’re paying hasn’t yet joined the 21st century, the bank will — I am not kidding — send them a check and they even pay for the postage.

No check writing, no forgetting the date or what year it is, no writing return addresses, no stamps — the banks give this gift to you so they don’t have to mess with your old checking accounts. I say don’t look it in the mouth, just learn how to do it.

Su Lum is a longtime local who knows you can do it if she can. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at


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