Can't Anyone Here Balance These Books!
| When I was little, Mother sang me to sleep with a song about Jesse James. At that time, we lived two miles from Eastern State Penitentiary, from which one night Willie Sutton escaped. Jesse and Willie, I never understood what they had to do with my life until now.
Sometimes I think our Gross National Product is the sum total of paper traded in this country. Buy a house, take out a loan, and see how fast notification comes that the bastards who tied you to the rack before they gave you a dime because they were not sure they could trust you, have sold your debt to some other group of moneylenders. In my case I never had a chance to write a check to Upstate Usury Company. A month after settlement I received notification that Downstate Moneygrubbers had purchased my loan.
If your mortgage is not bought, then surely the lender will be gobbled up by some other predator, which will purchase the lending institution lock, stock and bad loan and proceed to close half the branches, lay off every person over fifty, and then send out a letter of welcome to its old customers, hoping they will return.
This summer I had completed the final tax return of a ninety-year-old immigrant who had bought shares of Citizens & Southern Bank in 1952. As late as the April 1974 night when Hank Aaron hit homerun number 715, there was a C&S sign on the wall at Fulton County Stadium, but then C&S was succeeded by Bank South, which begat Nationsbank, which finally begat Bank of America. This surely is an incomplete history. They may have begun other beguines in the interim that I missed, and sometimes I get the begatter and the begetted confused in my mind, but you get the idea.
I do my part in this paper shuffling and begetting. On Memorial Day 1996 someone in Greensboro, North Carolina charged a $437 flight to one of the credit cards in my collection. I knew something was wrong when I received a surprise statement from that bank the next month. This was my 'Credit Card For Buying Really Big Ticket Items Because The Card Carried Product Insurance' card, and I had used it once in my life to buy one of the first Pentium computers.
Naturally I protested the charge. This action brought about a chain reaction of letters couched in legal jargon. Roughly nine months later the charge was canceled, and then, by the grace of the gods that protect idiots who carry fourteen credit cards, canceled again, with the result that the credit card company now figured out it owed me $437.
This was nice! Every month I would receive a statement saying that the bank owed me $437. I was sorely tempted to tack on finance charges and late fees for failure to pay, BUT THEY DID JUST THAT! That is, they paid me. They sent me a check for $437. I called them up and explained that I had not advanced them $437, nor could I find any record of any charge made by them. I marked the check 'void' and returned it, by certified mail no less.
The statements began again. We owe you $437. Another check arrived and was returned, and nothing happened for a month or two. Then I found out why. The bank had been bought out by one of those credit card super stores, the kind that aren't happy until every home in America receives a teaser offer. They welcomed me and my outstanding credit record and informed me that they owed me $437.
In the eighteen months before this outfit ran off a financial cliff, I must give them credit for never sending me a check. Obviously they couldn't afford it. They were rescued from oblivion and the poor house by a large bank in the Northeast, which now insists that they owe me $437 and continues to send me checks every three months. I put them in a drawer. I'm not sure what to do with my collection. I suppose I could paper the bathroom wall in lieu of repainting it, but it would seem a bit tacky.
This same bank bought out another lender that had been foolish enough to give me credit, and this outfit was doubly stupid in that it permitted my late wife to sign an extra card for herself. Rather than consolidate the accounts, I now had two cards from the same source. So there were months when the one hand owed them $437, while the other hand was waiting for the next $437 check to arrive.
The bank sends me a new credit card when the old one expires. I never did call the activation number on the last one and it sat until the next one came, which I did activate. They have also increased my credit line. I wonder if I can get frequent flier miles.
I am not sure how this will end. My hope is that at some point they may try to clear the uncashed checks from their books and end up owing me $437 multiplied who knows how many times. Gresham's law does not say that bad accounting drives out good accounting, but I can pretend it does.