b Papa Dog's Blog: A Wake for 641-0197835*

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Wake for 641-0197835*

I’ve detailed how Mama Dog set me on the road to good health and sound dental hygiene. One of the other areas she targeted for reform was pecuniary responsibility. When we first got together, I had spent much of the preceding decade very seriously off the grid for a variety of reasons, not all of which had to do with angry fathers of farmers’ daughters. I paid my taxes promptly, but I hadn’t had a credit card, a bank account, or even a phone under my own name in years. As with the unexamined crotch lump and the cavalier periodontal care, Mama Dog made it clear that this state of affairs could not last if I expected a long-term relationship with her. Grudgingly, I set about making myself once again visible to the watchful eye of The Man. I opened my first bank account in this country in seven years.

During my period of fiscal evanescence, I had the opportunity to watch firsthand as The Man gradually made it more and more difficult to have money when indigent. I remember, when I was a youngster, any bank would cash any other bank’s cheque as long as you had valid ID. Sometime during the period of my vagrancy, that stopped and if you didn’t have an account, you could only cash cheques on the banks they were drawn on. When I was temping, the bank the temp agency cheques came from introduced a new rule: you had to cash the cheque at the actually branch it was drawn on. I lived and worked in Oakland and the bank branch was in San Francisco, but I made a special trip and paid BART fare just to get it done without fuss. Then you had to have two pieces of ID. Then you had to put a thumbprint on the back of the cheque. The underlying assumption, of course, is that anybody without a bank account is a criminal. It infuriated me, but I put up with it. I jumped through every hoop required, and I lined my mattress with cash.

Then there’s the biggest scam in the Screwing the Poor racket: the cheque cashing establishments. When I lived in New Orleans, I actually went that route for a while because there were places that would cash my cheques for a flat dollar or two. In the Bay Area, though every place seemed to charge a percentage of the cheque. The amount it would have cost for me to get my own money was ludicrous, but there are people – poor people, of course – who do that every day because they think it’s the only choice available to them.

When I stopped temping and got the gig I have now, I found that the bank my payroll cheques came from – lets call it The Bank of Nice –was one of the less uptight ones. They were much later adopters of the thumbprint rule, and were always very nice to me despite my obvious shadiness. I made a mental note that if I should ever take it upon myself to have a bank account, I would use that bank. When Mama Dog made it known that time had come, that’s where I went, the B of N. in the fullness of time I opened a savings account there, too, which I used to save up for the present I gave Mama Dog for her 40th and our 5th. The B of N was always good to me, and I tried in a very old-fashioned way to be a loyal customer. We had a good run together, something like four or five years now.

You’ve probably noticed I’ve been employing the past tense. The way of the world being what it is, the B of N and I could not stay together long. When we bought our house, we financed through the horrendous Bank of Apartheid, and ended up with several accounts tied up there. This past week, Mama Dog and I have been taking the final steps to make ourselves one household, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I switched my payroll direct deposit from my little B of N chequing account to our big B of A chequing account. Since I would no longer be keeping the B of N account stocked with the necessary minimum balance to avoid service charges, it just didn’t make any sense to keep that account going. So today, I shut down poor old 641-0197835*. I did it on my lunch hour, and I can’t say I spent any time lingering or reflecting over the act, but my walk back to the office was tinged just the tiniest bit with melancholy. That account was, I guess, a symbol for me – of how well I can put my house in order if I really put my mind to it. It was never much of a bank account compared to the mortgage account with the home equity money and all – but it was a first step towards order after a prolonged traipse through the valley of the shadow of chaos. I’ll miss the bi-weekly rituals…transferring a certain amount from chequing to savings, getting that first little chunk of ready cash on payday, taking money out in increments of $15 so I’d have small bills for poker. B of A will only give it out $20 at a time. But I guess it was already well established that they don’t, didn’t, and won’t ever give a rat’s arse for the little guy.

So here’s to 641-0197835*, a great little account who stood me well and never thought the less of me.
*Not the real number.


Post a Comment

<< Home