TITLE: 99 Problems
DATE: 1/07/2005 10:39:00 PM
First, a disclaimer: I am fully aware that I am not an Asian tsunami victim, or broke and / or starving, or dying of some dread disease, or God fucking forbid, pregnant, and therefore have approximately zero right to complain--even if I am attempting to also be humorous in doing so.
That said, I will now complain.
P.S. This is pretty much the longest post ever, just to warn you.
Allright then. In case you are not aware that I, Beth, am the most absentminded, scatterbrained and otherwise disorganized and negligent person in the history of the known universe, allow me to give you a sampling of my typical experiences:
* I have, in the past, gotten up, gotten dressed, brushed my teeth, washed my face, put my socks, shoes and coat on, gathered up my junk, found my keys (if you know me, this is usually a process), walked out of the apartment, locked the door, walked down the stairs and opened up the outside door of the house before realizing that I had neglected to put on a bra.
* I routinely eat Wheat Thins and Coke out of the vending machines at work for breakfast, because who has time to actually eat between leaping out of bed, realizing they've slept too late to have a civilized morning again, and rushing out of the house?
* On Tuesday, after two days without having seen it, I finally bit the bullet and admitted to myself that I had managed to lose my ATM / debit card. Again.
Now usually (yes, I said usually, as in, this is a routine thing for me) what'll happen is, having performed searches of cursory to intermediate depth, I conclude that I have lost the card. I then call the bank, cancel the card, and have them send me a new one. Just in time to find the card under the front seat of my car while looking for something else, and simultaneously realizing I have no cash left. And that I had meant to buy groceries. Yesterday.
Having lost the ATM card in every way possible (or so I thought)--including under the front seat of the car, on the floor under a bookshelf where it was somehow kicked under; between bed and nightstand; in the top shelf of my dresser; behind my checkbook in my wallet (no word of a lie); in pants pockets at the bottom of a hamper, etc--I figured I am now the World's Expert on Finding Lost Bank Cards. I looked in all of the aforementioned places, as well as the pockets of every article of clothing I've worn in the last week, as well as in the hamper itself, emptying its contents onto the bathroom floor, under the bed, between bed and headboard, between desk and filing cabinet, under piles on the desk, in piles on the desk, in every nook and cranny of the kitchen and living room, in every warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse, and it was not to be found.
Then I tore apart my car. If you've ever been in my
garbage truck car, you know that this is an undertaking. Still no sign of it. Not even in that bitchy little space between the center console and the front seats. Seriously. Not even there.
So, on the way to work, I bit the bullet. I admitted to, and attempted to make peace with, the fact that my ATM card was officially gone. Then, unable to reconcile myself with this failing, I called my father to tell him about it.
His reply was something along the lines of OMG BETH WTF. And YOU BETTAH CANCEL THAT THING RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW RIGHT NOW.
My dad wasn't yelling. But he talks in bold print, all caps. Either you understand that, or you don't. Moving on.
See, so...there was another, like, problem? With that? And that problem was, um...that...I sort of...put my drivers' license? In the little card sleeve? With the debit card? So, you know...technically speaking, my, uh, heh heh...driver's license was gone, you know, also.
I also had some quarters in my wallet. That was all. After I had used fistfuls and fistfuls of the change I usually lug around with me rather than actually remembering to go to the Coinstar to buy gas, the night before when the light came on, and I first realized my ATM card wasn't on my person, but shrugged and went oh hell... and figured it was in my pants pocket at home or something.
The license I didn't realize about till later.
This was a problem mainly because it had been one of those mornings. You know, the ones that happen to me, oh...every day. And I needed some breakfast when I got to work. And the coffee was all gone at work. So I needed a Coke, too. So that was going to be $1.50 at the vending machines. And that was more than I had. I had to bum a dollar out of petty cash, and that's when I said, okay, something needs to be done here.
First order of business: the license. Because they'd probably ask for money to give me another copy of the license, and since I had no cash and no way to get cash, I'd probably have to use my checkbook, and I didn't want to screw around with my checking account as attached to my debit card before doing that.
So, I suited up to go out into the blinding slush-out on Tuesday, prepared to struggle through impassable roads under life-threatening conditions just to go to the DMV, when one of my coworkers clued me into the fact that you could do that online now, DUHH.
Unsuiting, I sat down at the computer again, went through the happy little "replace license" process, and got to the part where it asked me for $20 for its troubles. PLEASE ENTER CREDIT CARD NUMBER WE TAKE VISA MASTERCARD DISCOVER AMERICAN EXPRESS...
Ha! I know what you're thinking, but fear not. I have my debit card number memorized. Including the little numbers on the back that sometimes websites ask you for just to get tricky. As for how I can remember a string of random numbers like that and *not* remember to put the fucking thing back in the same place in my wallet every time, well, your guess is as good as mine.
So I paid the thing, and I was navigating (read: having my ass kicked by) the bank's phone system trying to find a human being hooked up to the Matrix and able to communicate with me verbally (my binary code and modem-beeping language are a little rusty just yet), the terrible, horrible, cold thought occurred to me: What was I gonna do for, you know, a license? Like if I got pulled over and stuff? Which always happens to me at the goddamndest times.
I ran to my coworker who had told me about the online system in the first place and was all like, "wuh duh fuh?" and he was all like, "Dude. They send you an email and you print it out."
So I figure that what they'll send me will be one of the black and white temporary licenses, the kind they hand out at the DMV and that you run around shoving into everyone's face who'll stand still when you're sixteen and first get your license and that's all you have to show for it yet.
Nope. Here are highlights from the email I got:
The bearer of this e-mail has successfully requested a duplicate Massachusetts license. The license is in good standing and is not currently expired, suspended, or revoked...
Federal privacy laws prohibit the RMV from printing the name, the driver's license number, or the social security number of the licensee in question on this receipt...
Wow. Just. Wow.
The cop that pulls me over is going to have a hard time...deciding whether to laugh or club me with his nightstick.
It would probably go something like this:
Officer: License and registration.
Officer: License and registration!
Me: Okay, see, I don't have? a license? But, uh...I have this email!
Officer: Clubs me while laughing
Later on, at the precinct...
Officer (To a huge group of guffawing buddies): So this dumb broad says, "No...but I have this email!"
One of the other officers, as the laughter dies down somewhat: So, you clubbed her, I'm assuming.
First officer: Oh, of course.
So then I called the bank, as soon as I know the transaction for my license had gone through, and cancelled the debit card. She had, as you can imagine, some questions.
But, with all of that resolved, I still had the whole three-nickels-to-my-name concept to deal with. No ATM card. No access to my telephone banking system without the ATM card (way to think things through, there, numbnuts!).
All of a sudden, just then, the little dusty bare lightbulb over my head flickered to sputtering life. Of course! I'll just go to a branch, because it's daytime and they're open, and write a check to myself for cash! Hello! Why didn't I think of...
Well, I figured it was worth a shot. So I went out to the car in the slush storm, which was covered in one of those goofy-looking mounds of snow over the roof and windshield(s). Gingerly, I pried open the door, and reached back to the backseat for the ice scraper.
No ice scraper.
I ducked back out, and yanked open the back door, plunging back in like Winnie the Pooh looking for honey. I tossed aside the magazines, newspapers, books, windshield washer fluid, umbrella, Metro-Boston road atlas, and mounds and mounds and mounds of empty coffee cups, cigarette packs, soda cans, water bottles...
You've gotta be kidding me!
I went around back, bowed to and apologized to the car, and then opened up the trunk, which did just what I thought it would do, which was dump in a three-ton hunk of glacial ice...
And still. No ice scraper.
Sighing, I ducked back into the back seat again. Purple stuff...Sunny D...
No gloves either!?!?!
Christ on crutches, this was getting ridiculous.
Oh wait, found one!
One. One singular, solitary glove. One glove. In the whole backseat. In the whole car, even. No more than one (1) glove.
So let's review. In the past 72 hours, some mysterious person has come into my life and stolen:
* My ATM card
* My license
* Possibly my identity
* Ice scraper
* One glove
Anyway, putting that behind me, I unearthed a bill with my name and address on it, my social security card and my car registration, amd drove clumsily through the snow / slush / sleet to the bank.
Now, here I feel compelled to make a confession, because that is just what I do.
I have $100 in my wallet. Cash.
But I wasn't going to use it.
You see, the cash in question came from my grandmother's purse.
Almost a full ten years after she died.
We found the purse swinging from the back door one day shortly after my grandfather moved out of his house and into the retirement community. Inside was some identification for my grandmother and two separate envelopes, each with $100 in it, which makes sense, since absolutely everything she ever did, she did in pairs of equal size, number or value--one for each of her granddaughters.
So it might be silly, but I feel like that money is from her, and I just can't spend it, okay? I carry it with me everywhere, and I've thought about sending it to tsunami victims or donating it to charity, but I'm callow and selfish and weird and I just can't let go of it. So I would rather go to the bank and haggle with a teller over proper I.D., and if that was not successful, go hungry, than spend any of that money.
Because I picture spending it someday for something huge, to save my life in some way, maybe by placating a would-be mugger, or to buy the last can of gasoline in the middle of a desert for a hundred miles, or something. I picture that money bailing me out when I have absolutely nowhere else to turn. Not filling in when I do something retarded and find myself without cash for a moment.
So I went to the bank.
Now, Bank of America recently bought out Fleet, making it the biggest, meanest, nastiest, most gigantic and monstrous uber-bank in the entire universe, a great blobby mass of fiduciary cannibalism after Shawmut was bought by BayBank which was bought by BankBoston which was bought by Fleet which was bought by Bank of America. Someday there will be just one bank in the entire world, and it will perch coruplently atop all the money like a nasty guardian dragon, and its logo will probably be a swastika. Seriously. This is nuts. How many more times can I change friggin' banks?
But for whatever reason, Bank of America is making virtually every attempt to ingratiate itself to its new New Englander children. Why, I can't understand--since they have a fucking monopoly in the area it's not like we have much of anyplace else to go, unless we want to go to the East Bumfuck Rubber-Boot Factory Workers' Credit Union, which has a single ATM buried deep in the woods of Groton, MA, and and up just paying BOA a fee to use their facilities anyway.
Still, though, BOA persists. Much like Comcast did when it bought out AT & T (which had previously been MediaOne...), it's deluging its unwitting, unwilling new customers in advertising, maybe in the hopes of brainwashing us into thinking we made a choice? So if you go to the Harvard Square T Stop, for example, you'll see signs, banners, flyers, costumed mascots, etc. saying "BANK OF AMERICA. HIGHER STANDARDS. EVEN BY NEW ENGLAND STANDARDS."
It's not even that I have that much of a problem with it, or at least I wouldn't if they hadn't bought up all the advertising space in the T station. And then just put the same sign, same slogan, same everything, up over and over and over. So on one wall there were four backlit posters that read BANK OF AMERICA. HIGHER STANDARDS. EVEN BY NEW ENGLAND STANDARDS BANK OF AMERICA. HIGHER STANDARDS. EVEN BY NEW ENGLAND STANDARDS BANK OF AMERICA. HIGHER STANDARDS. EVEN BY NEW ENGLAND STANDARDS BANK OF AMERICA. HIGHER STANDARDS. EVEN BY NEW ENGLAND STANDARDS
A little much, don't you think?
Well, come to find out, the service at their branches (now done over from soothing Fleet green to eyeball-assaulting BOA crimson) is in keeping with this marketing philosophy.
I walked in behind another man, who was immediatey accosted by a short woman with her hair pulled back in a bun, heavy features and a thick Eastern European Accent. And a ton of eyeshadow on. "How can I help you today!" she exclaimed, thrusting her hand out towards him.
Being a New Englander, he did what came naturally in such a situation: he totally panicked. So did I. He gingerly shook her hand like it was the muzzle of a .45 and took an emphatic step away from her.
She wouldn't let him go.
"Sir! Sir!" she shrilled, stepping in front of him. Repeating very slowly, she said again, "How...can...I...help...you?" An Orwellian smile remained on her face. Her eyes were dead. I just about screamed. The guy ahead of me didn't know what to do.
"What are you, like, the greeter, or somethin'?" was all the guy could think of to say.
This is bad enough at Wal-Mart. I don't even like the Wal-Mart greeter, because frankly, it's usually someone who is disabled or hideously deformed or both, and of course I'm all for nondiscrimination, but...okay, I guess I'm not, because who the hell wants to walk into Wal-Mart and be assaulted by an overweight 30-year old man with Down Syndrome and body odor who says, "CAN I BE YOUR FRIEND!!" Really, how does that help customer service?
Well anyway, at least there's actually some challenge to finding stuff at a sprawling store like Wal-Mart. So, theoretically, one might need to ask someone, for example, where are the paintbrushes? Because a sprawling store like Wal-Mart usually places whatever you need at the furthest back corner of the store, on the bottom shelf next to the cat food, for no discernible reason.
At the bank? Not so much.
So, in essence, BOA, which is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, is attempting to do business with New Englanders as they might in the South, which anyone with even a brain stem floating around in their skull knows is a colossally bad idea. Because while the rest of the country wants service, wants to be valued, wants friendliness and attention, New Englanders treat virtually every public place (with the exception of Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and the Esplanade on the Fourth of July) like the DMV: get in, keep your mouth shut, get the hell out. We react to being "valued" with suspicion. Friendliness with downright paranoia. Attention like it's a spotlight from a police helicopter. Giving us down-home style customer service is a recipe for disaster.
So the woman actually led the guy over to her window, and went around behind the glass and set herself up back there. Then, abandoning the guy at the window, she came over to corner me. Okay. So the greeter was a teller and she was meeting us at the door like it was her home, because I guess that's supposed to make things feel more personable and not highly bizarre. And now she was greeting me like I was the next guest at her house party and she'd just set up the last guy with the wet bar, and she'd be right back in just a minute.
It took me about ten minutes to explain my situation to her, while the other guy stood at the window, throwing his hands up in exasperation--not because she didn't understand, but because, in her eagerness to be helpful, she kept finishing my story for me.
So then, when I finally got my story out, she walked away from me to go back to the first guy, who, bless his heart, was still standing there. And went through a similar process with him, getting halfway through his transaction before looking up at him with an expression of horror on her face and saying, "Oh, no, dees ees not de bank! Dees ees Bank of America, you vant Eastern Bank!"
Can you imagine what must have gone through that guy's head?
Especially when she started insisting on signing him up for a Bank of America account, even holding the checks he had brought for deposit hostage?
At this point, I was searching wildly for a way into the other teller's line. Nothing doing. People just kept coming in and making a beeline for her window with a look toward us like: suckers.
Finally the poor man in front of me disengaged himself, and I stepped up to the window.
Where I told my story again. Yep. Allll over again.
"Vell," the woman said. "I can do eet dees time. But you are not supposed to. You do not have any kind of photo eyedee? No passport or...?"
"Um, I don't really carry my passport with me."
"Vell you haff to! Eef you haff no ozzer eyedee!"
"Like I say, I do eet dees time," she says, shuffling papers, finally lighting on my car registration and beginning to punch keys on her computer. "But...you know vat you should do. Ees." She looked me deep in the eyes, as if revealing the Ancient Secrets of the Egyptian Scarab, and said, "Call ze bank, undt hev dem canzel dee oldt cardt, undt send you a new vonn."
I stood back and just blinked at her. My response--I couldn't help it--was short and sharp. After that, she went from weird Customer Service Manual Regurgitation Robot 5000 to acting like I was holding her up at gunpoint. But she gave me some money.
This may just be me and my uptight Yankee tendencies, but seriously--it would have been much, much better to me if she'd just been completely aloof to me from the beginning--not friendly, not unfriendly, not anything--and consistently throughout our encounter, than start off all up in my grille and winding up an enraged beast. And far be it from me, but it might have been more beneficial for our mutual cardiovascular health.
Long story short (too late): fuck customer service. I've been on both sides of it, and everybody loses.
But it's not over yet.
No, because as I drove away from the bank, I remembered that before writing the $100 check for cash, I'd written two other checks that, last I heard, had not cleared yet, and now the check for cash meant one of them was going to bounce. So I called the bank again...
And finally, yesterday, everything finally all settled, with just enough money to make it through the "three to five business days" I'm waiting for my new debit card, my phone rang, and it was Kellie, newly arrived back from her trip to the West Coast, and I immediately started smacking myself in the forehead and yelling shit! shit! shit! shit! shit! like Rain Man, and then I picked up the phone and said to Kellie, "Uh, hi. Yeah. Good, and you? That's good. Um. About that Christmas present I still owe you..."
It never ends.