Everyone in my immediate family is or works for an accountant. I -- not once, but twice -- scored at least 130 points higher in math than verbal on my SATs.
Naturally, I became a writer. I blame a middle-school classmate who convinced me that, just prior to our taking a career-aptitude test, no job could be better than one in which you get paid to sit around and tell stories.
(Said classmate, the son of a minister, also had a premature taste for hard-core porn magazines. He kept out them out back, right across from the church.)
Still, from time to time, My Love asks me to handle simple financial matters. Why? Beats me. She has an MBA and spends most of her day converting world currencies and dissecting international monetary bylaws so someone who lives in Cheboygan, Mich., can be paid in British sterling via Turkish lira that has be filtered through Mexican counting houses because the person once saw a Taco Bell ad in magazine while flying over the Samsun province.
(Scene: My Love, lost in the thought at the kitchen table.
ME: "Honey, wha'cha thinkin' 'bout?"
HER: "Oh, you know. Sometimes I just like to compound interest in my head.")
Last week, My Love phoned home with a mission: Go to our local Wank of America branch and have them make out a bank check to a car dealer. The check was for a tidy sum that made me gag on the store-brand peanut butter I was having for lunch.
"If we have that much in the bank, why don't I just hit the ATM?" I asked, mentally picturing such a thick stack of Jacksons. "I'll go change into some cargo shorts."
"No. I need a check made out by the bank because … (I zoned out during this part, probably as I was focusing on removing the generic Jif from my wisdom tooth) …, OK?"
"Yes, My Love."
I grabbed the checkbook she left for me on the countertop and headed out.
Hmm, if I have a checkbook why do I need a bank check?
God, this peanut butter is being feisty!
I arrived at the bank and informed the teller of my need.
"There's a $7 charge for that," she said.
Then she looked at my checkbook. The account I wanted to use was actually with another bank down the street.
Quarts of flop sweat later, my minivan pulled up to the nearby PityWank branch. As I do, it dawns on me: I was in this building many years ago … when it was an S&H Green Stamps redemption center. What did we trade our stamps in for? Blender? Mixer?
So, into the bank and another line. The teller asks for my bank card.
"Uh, I don't have one."
"You don't have a card for your account?"
"No. But I have this checkbook."
She looks exasperated. Then she asks for my Social Security number.
"It's not in the system. Do you know your wife's Social?"
"I don't know my wife's phone number at work. … But I have this checkbook. My name is printed on the checks. See. Do these checks serve any purpose at all?"
She commences banging away furiously on her keyboard. I feel like I just asked to upgrade my seat on the last chopper out of 'Nam.
Triggered by waiting impatiently and impotently at the counter, just as I did with my mom 35 years ago, The Green Stamp store flashbacks begin. Yellow linoleum floors crammed with vacuums standing under soiled throw rugs. Peeling wallpaper with crooked posters of smiling housewives in checkered aprons. Jesus, what did we get here?
Dang it, that's an old episode of the Brady Bunch.
"You know," the teller interrupted, "there will be a $10 service charge for issuing this check?"
"You know," I countered, "it's only $7 up the street."
"Pardon me, sir?"
"Hey! Do you know what?" I said in mid-epiphany. "My mom and I got a toaster over in this building once and all it cost us was a few books of sticky green paper."
Video: "It's Money that Matters," Randy Newman
My Uncool Past
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