Friday, November 18, 2005

Miss Information is annoyed by the bank

...or is it the grocery store? Naw, definitely the bank.

Once upon a time, Miss Information used to go into the bank, wait in a line, be served by an actual human being who would give her money, process her payments and tell her to "have a nice day". A few years ago she began to notice that some of the thousands of branches of her bank were either closing or reducing their hours. Still she resisted the ATM option. She enjoyed the bank; it smells like money, after all and sometimes there were cookies.

She remembers the exact moment it all changed. She took her cheque (this was when they still paid her by cheque) on her lunch-hour (this was when a lunch hour actually lasted, you know, an hour) to a bank branch near the library. She waited in a stupidly long line for one of the two tellers to serve her. Finally it was her turn. She told the teller what she wanted--some cash, a VISA payment and to deposit the rest of the money into the Junior Millionaire savings account she got when she was eight.

Now, suddenly Miss Information found herself surrounded by tellers. The teller serving her insisted that she give the bank machine a try. The other teller at the counter actually abandoned her customer (ignoring the now even longer line up) and began to share stories of the convenience and many wonders of getting money from a little machine. Other bank staff members, who had been non-existent up to this point, magically appeared to urge Miss Information to join the modern world and stop coming into the bank and bothering them. One of them offered to give her a pen as incentive to try the ATM.

(Miss Information must point out that although she is prone to exaggeration at times, the above story is absolutely accurate. It was astonishing.)

At the time, Miss Information thought she was actually helping these people hold on to their jobs, by allowing them to do the hard bank stuff, but apparently they had better things to do and she started using the machines.

She got into a nice habit of visiting the branch in person exactly once a year--the last day she could make a deposit into her retirement fund and still get a tax credit. Then one year, Bank Guy took pity on her. He told her that if she made tiny little deposits over the course of a year the total amount would be the same, however Miss Information would be about a billion dollars richer at retirement time than she would be making one bulk deposit. She doesn't understand it--some kind of wizard related magic she assumes. Still, she wants that billion--think of the shoes that would buy. In addition, Bank Guy promised her that he would automatically take those funds out of her account so she would never have to think about it.

As a result, Miss Information never goes to the bank anymore. She never even uses the bank machine at the bank. Her bank had a lovely, convenient ATM in the local grocery store. At this machine, Miss Information could take care of almost all her banking--mostly withdrawals and bill paying, what else is there? On those rare occasions when she had to pay a parking ticket or deposit a cheque she had to go to a machine that was attached to an actual bank, but it wasn't that inconvenient.

It was a good system. It worked. Miss Information bought food, did her bank stuff. Very handy.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, she went to do the buying-food-getting-money thing and noticed that the ATM had been replaced by a new machine, which, although identical to the old one, was now some generic one that was going to charge her a gigantic service fee and would no longer let her pay her VISA bill. Well, fine. Miss Information decided not to use the new machine. Her Scottish ancestors' thrifty DNA courses through her veins and will not allow her to pay service fees. So, basically, Miss Information has been wandering around with no cash at all for most of the past month. Suddenly she realizes all the bank branches have closed, except for the stupidly designed ones where you have to park miles away and walk up to the building. Plus it hasn't helped that everytime she planned to go to the bank God decided to send a torrent of rain, snow or icy wind. On top of that, it is the big charity fundraising time at work, and everytime Miss Information pokes her head into the staff room, somebody asks for money--raffles, bingo tickets, whatever.

And then there's her usual expenses--you know, expensive coffee, yoga classes--and she's been reduced to scrounging around for small change under the couch cushions. She found herself counting out nickels and dimes for her Wednesday night yoga class--the parks and rec people now think she's homeless or a street musician or something.

She's really tempted to find an ATM that won't charge a service fee, withdraw all her money and put it in her sock drawer where at least she'll be able to get it when she needs it.


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