Monday, September 22, 2008


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?

Sewing machine?


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


  1. Why banks have made it so difficult to spend our money is beyond me, but $10 for a bank check? That's just ridiculous.

    My parents never raked in a free appliance from a bank. They may have robbed a bank once, but no bank ever gave them anything for free.

  2. Our bank decides on a regular basis to take double mortgage payments out of hubby's payroll deposit and then thinks we won't find out that a few thousand bucks are missing from our checking account. Thieves. By the way, you know I love you but I am pretty sure it's C-heboygan, MI and S-heboygan, WI. Not that it matters, but I did attend a horrible high school in Sheboygan, (the Wisconsin one) many, many moons ago. Must go get a life now...

  3. IT is 15 for one at my local slaughter house...i meant bank. I dont understand it either. All you do is take a peice of paper and type on it for like 30 seconds. How does that equal 15 bucks?? Is it on some special paper from the special forest on a cloud? I is from the smurfs...that has got to be it.
    Just to add my 2 cents into it...I hate the Yankkees. Those asses are going to charge way to much for some seats just so they can get booed.

  4. I absolutely LOVED going to the green stamp store! Hauling all of our soda bottles back for the nickel? Not so much.


    Did you actually use this phrase:

    "Honey, wha'cha thinkin' 'bout?"


    Did you, a man, as a woman what she was thinking?!?!

    Because if you did, I'm telling you RIGHT NOW that I will take off my charm bracelet, foresake building that house of cards, and tell you to rush right out and buy that damn canoe in hopes that you'll sail away in the milky moonlight with me.

  6. (also if you were a man AS a woman, we should rethink this canoe ride....)

  7. I mean, I'd still go with you and whatever, but the making out would probably be considerably shorter.


  8. This had me laughing out loud! Bank people are a different breed. I guess callousness helps them deal with the crazies that walk in. I once nearly broke down, baby on hip and toddler in tow, because the account number I was giving them wasn't working... Figured out 30 seconds later - in front of the additional staff members called over to help solve this problem that I was in the WRONG bank...

  9. Oh my goodness, I remember those stamp books! I used to be the one who got to stick them into the booklet, and it was such a treat. Yeah, sad. I have no recollection of what we redeemed them for, but I'm sure it was a banner day for me (I was an easily amused child).

    Banks are a pain in the keister (kiester? keester?) - they don't provide service with a smile any more - now it's service with a fee. Sigh.

    Heh...I would have liked to see the expression on that teller's face...

    Shade and Sweetwater,

  10. my grandmother was an avid greenstamp collector. she would save them until i came to visit and we would fill up her books. i think my tongue tasted like the back of those stamps the whole time i was at her house. i don't ever remember what she redeemed them for...just the licking and sticking part. yum!

  11. I like that you were off to get your cargo shorts-- you are I are the same kind of practical.

    Cargo shorts/pants = A man's purse

  12. I'm surprised that they didn't tack on an extra charge for making you be insulted by an actual person instead of over the phone.

  13. Seriously Mama is right about Cheboygan. You are very funny. Randy Newman = coolest guy in the world. Really. I've met him and spent some time with the dude. Buy his stuff.

  14. My father-in-law would get the banks -- who were giving away prizes to NEW customers -- to give HIM the prize. He figured he earned it. You should have had HIM (rest his soul) with you yesterday.

  15. Ahhh, S&H Green Stamps. I still remember watching the conveyor belt bring out the card table and chairs. It was so exciting! (Of course, this was before "Pong")

  16. I sucked at math all the way up to college. Probably why I work in accounting now. Although really, I love wearing my IT hat more. There's something to be said for being the network admin. *cough* randomly kicking people I don't like off the server *cough*

  17. AMR - I got some pink/purple crockware once for opening an account. Still defrost my frozen veggie in them.

    SERIOUSLY - I stand corrected.

    MARYO - The checks should at least have Smurfs printed on them.

    SHANIA - My first job was sorting the bottles people brought back to the grocery store. I hope you rinsed well.

    FADKOG - My masculinity does get called into question at times ... but never in certain venues, my dearest.

    JENNY - The way banks keep changing names/being bought, I'm not surprised it happened.

    KYD/NATALIE - Stamp glue actually comes from the same plant source as tapioca pudding, so if you are starving you can subsistant on it until your tongue becomes permanantly affixed to the roof of your mouth.

    LITERALDAN - I can't do the cargo pants, though. They make me look to hippy.

    MANAGER MILF - Let me see ... crap! They did!

    MAW - I need to hear the Randy Newman story in detail. He is truly cooly uncool.

    ELLIE - Genius.

    MOM o' 2 - We also spent a lot of time picking stuff up we ordered from the Sears catalog. Now that blew.

    LEX - I've worked in your company before, haven't I?

  18. I remember going to cash in green stamps with my mother. Great memories indeed.

    Hope you got your money!

  19. I love your stories. So glad you decided to forego the accounting business. My husband is an accountant, and for good reason. He wouldn't be able to spin a yarn that good if he had a loom.

  20. I'm not allowed to handle Money @ Home, Inc. I just brew the Beer. Speaking of....I'm gonna have to put the ESB in a Secondary. It's way too cloudy. I can see "chill-haze" and I won't stand for that.

  21. I remember helping my mom paste those damn little stamps in books. I think it would have been cheaper to buy the damn toaster after all the hours of labor were tallied.

  22. i don't have time to read all these comments, but i'm sure someone already touched on the cargo shorts part. that's the best. and i gave you a little shout out today on my blog .. fyi.

  23. My mother was thrilled by the most hideous set of plates EVER from a bank. She's easily amused.

    Should you have to go back to said bank, feel free to make checks out to ANISSA MAYHEW. Anytime.

  24. Well you are a very good story teller! I can't think of the last time I needed a bank check, I think it was when we bought our house 7 years ago, but that $10 sounds like a lot even taking into account the time.

  25. I don't know how many times I have had to remind band tellers, doctors and other such folks that they work for me! In the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson, "Don't take any guff from those swine!"

  26. Kudos to the scoring higher on your math than verbal on SATs. Ditto to that one for me, Miss-Double-Major-in-Creative-Writing-and-Journalism-and-doesn't-have-to-take-any-math-classes-in-college-ever. Write on, dude! :)

  27. "it's only $7 up the street."

    Awesome. I never have a good comeback inside a bank, partly because I think the bank is like the airport: no joking allowed.

  28. I hate that Banks make money on transactions, you think they would get enough w/ interest.

    I hate banks...

    I used to love putting the stamps in the books! I'd lick them til my tongue was numb..then I would use the spongue.

  29. I hate Skank of America and I refuse to bank with them!! Hate!

  30. First of all I LOVE freaking Randy Newman. Secondly, I've decided that YOU are ADD - just like me. ALthough I'm not a doctor, my BAZILLION years in kindergarten have given me the uncanny ability to spot these things a MILE away.

    Lastly, I'm glad you are finally back on my bookmarks bar. I must have deleted you by accident in drunken stupor one night. ooops.

  31. Man, you brought back some memories with those Green Stamps. My Mom was ruthlessly frugal and would put us to work cutting coupons and licking and sticking those damn stamps. I can't remember a damn thing we got with them, though.


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