Only Up From Here

My superpower is making really simple banking the hardest, most terrible thing in the world. For instance: The credit union account that I opened in Oregon only has two ATM locations where I can deposit checks in New York, and neither are easy to access (one requires an escort in an office building, one is in Times Square). I opened a new bank account online, but because I’ve moved so much, they wanted to verify my identity in person.

The first time I went, they were closed. The second time I went, they said that they needed proof of my New York address. I handed them a stack of mail that they had sent to my New York address. Not good enough. I handed them statements from my old bank with my New York address. Not good enough. Did I have a lease? I’m subletting, so, no I did not. Did I have a utility bill? I’m subletting, so, no I did not. Did I have an insurance card with my New York address? I’m subletting, so, no I did not. Did I have a paystub with my address on it? I’m a freelancer and get paid with straight checks, no stubs, so … no I did not. They could not verify my identity and address, and couldn’t activate my account. I needed to come back with one of those things that I don’t have. OKAY, BYE.

I got a check last week. The check had my address on it. I needed very badly to deposit the check, but even more badly I needed to verify my account so that I can stop paying $5 every time I use an ATM ($2 from the credit union, plus whatever the ATM charges). (This is incredibly stupid, I know.) (That’s why I’m changing banks.) (And also the inconvenience factor, obviously.) So with one account empty and badly needing that check to pay bills and the other account also empty but needed that check to prove my existence, I spent the weekend with no money (luckily: I also spent the weekend with good friends, who bought me things, like food, and MetroCards).

Finally, this morning was the day. The day of the banking. I prepared for the day of banking by spending the night with a friend in midtown. This sounds ridiculous, but: The banks I needed to go to were both in midtown! I thought I would conserve time. But: I didn’t factor in that the friend in midtown is staying on the west side, which is devoid of subways. And maybe that wouldn’t be a thing, except: This morning it was pouring rain. It still is pouring rain. It might pour rain for the rest of time.

I walked 30 minutes to the first bank to show my check and activate my account. The check was not technically a pay stub,and the lady didn’t know if she could take it. She got on the phone. The phone said: A paycheck is not a paystub. She asked me if I had a lease? No. Insurance card? No. Utility bill? No. She got on the phone again. This time the phone must have said, take pity on the soaking wet girl, because the woman hung up, handed me back my check, and then said that my account had been activated. I was almost happy, but mostly just … cold. And wet. I thanked her and left.

Then I walked another 20 minutes, through Times Square, The Worst Place On Earth, to a 7–11 to deposit my other check. (Why not just deposit the check in the first bank, you might ask, a great question, really. Well: They hadn’t sent me a debit card yet to go with my account, and also, all my bills are still being paid with my old account, and some of them are overdue and need to be paid now.) So I walked to the 7–11. On my walk, I thought about how walking through puddles with sandals is a lot like walking through puddles barefoot, which is disgusting and perhaps also a way to get diseases.

I finally reached the 7–11. (I was fully prepared for the ATM to be broken. Here’s how I was planning to deal with that: By crying.) But the ATM worked. I deposited the check. I took out $100, and refrained from thinking about how long that money is supposed to last me (a long time). I used the last bit of battery on my cellphone to find a bus to take me to the conference I’m attending, and then I used my Metro Card (a birthday present from my friend Lisa) to take a bus. It only took me halfway there. I walked the rest of the way. It was still raining. I’m soaking wet. But I have two bank accounts now, and one of them has money in it.

I arrived at the conference, dripping. My friend Greg greeted me (I have a lot of Gregs in my life, and they are all Straight Talkers). “It’s nice you dressed up for this networking event. Have you been planning your outfit for a long time?” I didn’t have an answer. “Also, why does it always seem that the thinnest thread is keeping everything in your life from falling apart?” That one was easy: “Because it’s true.”

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