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“Przekrój” Magazine brings English-speaking readers some of the best journalism from across Central and Eastern Europe, in the fields of wellbeing, art, literature, science, ecology, philosophy, psychology, and more. Take a break from the speed and intensity of the daily news and join us!

Our in-house ‘coaching guru’ shares his wisdom – this week on appreciating what we already have.. ...
2021-02-07 09:00:00
Matthew Coachinger, translated by Joanna Figiel

Personal Identification Number

Personal Identification Number

Why is it that we always want more? And why is it so hard for us to appreciate what we already have?

Read in 9 minutes

I will use an example to explain what I mean by this. Well, I once had a friend who was –fortunately, only slightly – electrocuted. He passed out for a brief moment and quickly recovered. But as a result of this accident something in his body changed. His left hand acquired unusual magnetic properties. He could use it in the shops instead of a contactless bankcard.

I remember that, at first, he had some doubts. He wondered whether it was OK to shop in this way. However, I felt that these doubts were unnecessary. I assured him that since the shops receive money when he pays with his hands, everyone’s a winner and there is no need to invent problems where there are none. I convinced him easily.

And so my friend lived a good life. Humbly, he never bought anything that would cost more than 50 złotys so as not to exceed the limit set for contactless payments. He was afraid of having to type in a PIN he did not know.

Sometimes he was also afraid that someone would expose him and some government agency would lock him up in its basement in order to conduct research on the abnormal hand. But I managed to convince him that these were just paranoid delusions. After all, no government agency would be interested in a modest punter spending measly sums at a local grocery store. As long as he stayed below that amount, he’d be fine, I’d tell him.

A few months after the accident, my friend joined an online discussion group for similarly gifted people. Most of them used their magnetism with joy and without greed. Still, some were obsessed with guessing their PIN.

These PIN-seekers were individuals of all kinds. Some had great scientific and engineering knowledge, and – armed with sophisticated apparatus – installed the smartest algorithms on thick clusters of processors. Others, on the contrary, were shrouded in esotericism, delusions, omens and planetary systems.

My friend did not fall into either of these categories. But he also had no ambition to guess his PIN, because he was, as I said, a modest man with no particular needs.

And yet, one day he confessed that following that fateful accident, as he was coming to, he clearly saw four digits. He had memorized them perfectly well.

I almost dropped my cutlery when I heard the news. Doubtlessly, this had to be his PIN!

Because I knew that my friend doesn’t care for material goods, I proposed the following vision: thanks to the PIN and his magnetic hand, he’d be able to help humanity – something that’s always in demand. Since he’s such a softie, I convinced him quickly.

“First, let’s go to a bookstore,” I said. “A new edition of the etymological dictionary has just come out, we absolutely need to buy it. Just to try it out.”

So, not long after that, we stood at the till in the bookstore. I inhaled the smell of the new book while my friend paid. Skilfully, he ran his hand over the terminal. Following a beep, the cashier tore off the receipt.

“Do you need a receipt?” he asked.

“No PIN needed?” my friend double checked.

“They increased the limit for contactless payments,” the bookseller explained, and smiled under his mask. My friend beamed and they looked at each other.

A few days later, they eloped abroad where they got married. Although they returned to Poland afterwards, we lost touch. And I must admit that I have never had a friend as affectionate as him. All that’s left is this dictionary, I refer to it often, but of course it’s not the same.


Translated from the Polish by Joanna Figiel

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