Last week, Thursday or Friday, one of my new colleagues asked me how I was settling in with the school and with Storm Lake. I said fine, which is true, and then I went on to add* that my whole move had gone really smoothly and wasn’t that great? Smile at the new colleague, smile and pretend you remember her name.
My move has gone smoothly and it is great. Too great. So great it had to quickly become less great to teach me a lesson.
Just last night, I was paying bills and the thought occurred to me, isn’t it about time I close out my Bowling Green checking account, get the $80 that’s still there because some of my local bills still include deposits and set-up-service fees and while I’m not about to starve with my new professional paycheck and all, I’d like to keep buying the name-brand peanut butter I’ve come to love over the course of the summer and not the Jug O’ Nuts and Maybe Bugs that I had to use during grad school.
So there I was, all warm at the thought of $80 extra. Imagine** my shock, then, when I came home this very Monday afternoon and found an overdraft notice from the Bowling Green bank! No $80. Negative $19. And if we don’t get some moolah from you by Thursday, you pathetic deadbeat, negative $49. Have a nice day and we appreciate your business.
It wasn’t hard to find my error in the old checkbook. The process was facilitated by the fact that I know I suck at arithmetic and therefore did not have to deal with anger and denial. Yup. I owed the bank the $19 PLUS $7 for a check I had just sent off that morning, back when I thought I had $80 to throw around. So I pulled up the bank’s webpage and called the 800 number they so thoughtfully provide. I called it twice, in fact, because the first time, the automated so-we-can-serve-you-better-by-never
-under-any-circumstances-allowing-you-to-talk-to-a-human-being system dropped me into a black hole of press 1 for option B.
I finally got to talk to a young man who sounded about 16 years old. I explained that I’d moved and had mistakenly overdrawn my account and that I wanted to pay the bank the money I owed them and at the same time close the account. I tried to sound honest, repentant, and determined to fix the problem.*** This cut no ice with the young man. Keys taping in the background, he sternly asked me my name. My account number. My social security number. My address in BG. My phone number in BG. Date of my last deposit. My mother’s maiden name. Am I a carbon-based life form? What size diaphragm do I wear?****
Was I aware, the young man asked, that my account was overdrawn? (Um, yeah. That’s why I called. Long distance, even.) I asked the y.m. if I could send $19, plus the $7 for the new check that had yet to reach the bank, along with the required letter closing my account, and proposed that I overnight the letter and payment to avoid the extra $30 charge that would hit on Thursday according to the notice I received. Tap tap tap tappity tap. Was I aware I would owe an additional $30 if I didn’t settle the account by Thursday?
Okay, now the young man was damn lucky that I would have to drive 12 hours to hit him on the head with a two by four. And buy a two by four. Could I, I asked again, send the $19 plus the $7 and the letter required to close my account and overnight it all so it arrives before Thursday? Am I aware, the y.m. asked, of regulation 6.2.7blahblahblah that allows banks to electronically transfer money rather than handle and cancel checks, meaning that the $7 check might reach the BG bank before Thursday, causing further overdraft charges? That was his question, more or less, but his tone implied that I am in the habit of kiting checks for $7 and $19 and probably $15,000 and no doubt I had to move to Iowa a mere step ahead of the law because I had irrevocably fouled my criminal nest in Ohio and I am even now living in a meth house and hiding from the last drug dealer I screwed over, or possibly just screwed.
Yeah. Sure. Whatever. Just tell me, I asked nicely with only a hint of gritted teeth, how to send the overnight package. To what address should I send it? Would the bank prefer a check or a money order?
Oh. Um, it’s possible they’d prefer a money order, or maybe cash, said the y.m. You know, you bounced a check.
I meant a check from my new account in Iowa, I said (you know, the one that doesn’t yet know of my criminal tendencies). Okay, I’ll send a money order. Just give me your address.
Oh, said y.m. You don’t send it here. This is just the call center. You need to talk to the branch where you opened your account and explain it all to them. Would you like that number?
After penciling a trip to Bowling Green in on my calendar and making a note to buy a two-by-four, I called the branch and talked to a lovely woman named Jennifer. Jennifer sympathized about the trials of moving across several states. She said that yes, a check from my new bank would be fine. Overnighting it was an excellent idea, and if the $7 check should turn up, she would waive the additional overdraft fee. The whole call, including my explanation, took about two minutes.
Jennifer, I feel, is a kindred spirit, a woman who understands the repentant math-impaired. Jennifer knows that an overdrawn check is not the same thing as a deliberately kited check. Jennifer knows that a meth-house-living, drug-dealer-screwing-over, skip-trace-avoiding criminal mastermind would just blow off the overdraft and service charge and not try so damn hard to get the bank to take her money. Jennifer eats Rolos at her desk, I just know it.
I wonder if she’d have lunch with me next time I’m in Bowling Green? And if she has any use for a slightly dented two by four?
*Never add! Never! See where it got me? Just keep your head down, scuttle back to your office, and eat the Rolos you were buying when the whole conversation started.
**If your imagination isn’t very good, get a mule to first kick you in the stomach and then to laugh about it.
***You know, the way President Bush should have sounded about the hurricane/FEMA debacle.
****Okay, he didn’t ask about my mother’s maiden name. That would just be silly.