“You’re going to wind up like one of those people you hear about on the news,” my husband admonished. “”You know, the ones that die of starvation with millions of dollars stashed away in the bank.”
Banking, I’ll admit, is not my forte. In fact, I’m sitting right now with a heap of receipts and a mounting sense of wonder about why my financial institution seems to think that I have more money than I, myself, believe. I appreciate their confidence, but I find their glowing assessment unlikely, even though it is true that I’ve been having trouble spending money of late.
See, I ran out of checks a couple weeks ago, as well as those tickets in the back of the check book that let you take money from your account (Withdrawal forms? Subtraction slips?). I vaguely knew what to do, even though I can’t say I actually remember ever ordering checks. I seem to recall that they just kind of came along with the account. I think I picked a design from a brochure and then they just sort of showed up, and so many of them, too, that I couldn’t conceive of a time that that I’d run out. But either I reached the end of my supply or lost the box of refills—frankly either is possible—and didn’t really deal with the situation. At first, I didn’t worry much about it, because I had cash. But a week or so ago, I started getting a little nervous, because my billfold went empty and I had to dip into the reserves tucked away in the secret, hard-to-reach sector of my wallet. I then went to coins, but I’m sad to report that the sticky quarters I found swimming in a puddle of fast food runoff in the back of my van were the last of their kind.
Still, I’ve limped along pretty well with just my check card, a Visa-like magic wand that pulls funds right from my bank account, but is impractical or impossible to use in certain situations, like drive thru lemonade stops, or paying my son to clean the car. Now, folks tell me that this same card can be used to procure funds from an ATM machine, but I’m not buying it. The only time I ever attempted such a transaction, the machine sucked my card away with the speed and force of a sixth grader on a pixie stick. I had to reapply for a whole new pre-assigned pin number, which arrived along with grave instructions against storing it with my card, and no intelligence on how to change it to something I’d actually remember.
After ending up destitute in a JC Penny line inexplicably without my bank card, I finally decided that my next stop would be at the bank, to turn myself in.
Bank Teller: “Can I help you?”
Me: “ I sure hope so. See, I ran out of checks a couple weeks ago and also those papers in the back that I’m supposed to show you to get money out of my account. I ordered some more” (true story, my husband made me at some point after the pauper speech and before my last bailout.) “but they aren’t here yet and I’m not getting along very well anymore, without cash or checks.” (I skirted the issue of the bank card, as the tellers think this was solved by the new pin number they sent and I promptly lost due to their warning against storing it in the only logical place I could think of to stash it.)
Bank Teller: “Hmmm….May I see your ID? You still have that, don’t you?”
I passed my ID through the window. The teller nodded, and turned to the computer, checked with a colleague and finally handed me a little Make-Your-Own style check. I made it out for a modest amount of cash, and actually said “no,” when the teller asked me if I needed any more mocked-up checks, perhaps to pay bills. “Oh, no, this is good,” I said, for reasons that are unclear, as I gratefully clutched my cash in a manner not unlike the resourceful little old lady on It’s a Wonderful Life, as she withdrew from the floundering Savings and Loan only the $17.50 she really needed to get by.
Now, I don’t really know how long it takes for checks to get printed up and shipped off, but I can envision a full circle downward spiral if they don’t arrive in the next couple days. Immediately upon leaving the bank, I was forced to part with a full third of my funds in a drop box at the kiln. Then, my son hit me up for twenty bucks I apparently owe him for services rendered. A mere three hours out from my bank trip, and my coffers were already dangerously low. I’m roughly a dozen lemonades from an empty wallet, and I simply can’t return to the bank for more cash, as I kind of feel that this whole situation has joined the bank card in the realm of problems about which I can no longer appear at this particular financial institution.
Fortunately, my bank has 14 branches, which gives me hope that I’ll yet be able to cobble together a modicum of solvency while I await the shipment of checks.