Wednesday, March 10, 2010

You Can Bank On It

I viewed my bank account online today and got a surprise. My chequing account was overdrawn.

An overdrawn account may not be so surprising to you, but it sure is to me. I'm one of those people who keeps meticulous track of everything to do with her $$$. I've never bounced a cheque in my life.

When I examined the details, I found that a cheque I'd deposited into the account last week had been "returned", thereby causing a cascading series of problems, as I'd since written my own cheques, which were bound to go bouncity-bounce.

The disappearing cheque was from my mother.

Now, I know she has enough money in her account to cover it. She gives me a cheque each month for her board, and to pay for any extra things I pick up for her in the stores, like her $150/month chocolate habit. The returned cheque, for example, covered her expenses, plus $100, because she had wanted the hundred back from me in cash.

In fact, I'd already given her the $100, in crisp $20's.

I called the bank in Winnipeg, where her branch is still located.

Bank: "She stopped payment on it."
Me: What?"
Bank: "It didn't bounce. It wasn't returned for an error. The payment was stopped."
Me: "WHAT?"
Bank: "Do you have a hearing problem?"

I called Anthony.

Me: "She stopped payment on it."
Anthony: "No, it must have bounced."
Me: "Do you have a hearing problem?"

We discussed the implications. Was it something I said? Was she confused about the timelines around the huge argument we'd had over two weeks ago? Because it was more than a week after that fight (wherein she'd accused me and Kathleen of criminal rudeness beyond a reasonable doubt), that she complacently handed me the trouble-making cheque with a self-satisified smile, announcing that it was payment for her expenses for the month, plus: "Please bring me $100 in cash, dear."

Then, obviously, on the sly, and with not a word to me that she for some reason regretted handing me the cheque and wanted the whole thing stopped, she called the bank and stopped payment on it. Why? And even if she wanted to stop payment, why not just tell me? Why go behind my back, causing the banking woes I now faced?

Most importantly, how could she take that 100 bucks from me, knowing she'd stopped payment?!

"Don't ask why," Anthony advised. "This is kookytown. There is no why."

I was a nervous wreck for the rest of the afternoon, trying to figure out how I'd approach her on the subject.

When I got home, I gulped a glass of wine while fixing dinner. Even that didn't give me courage.

Finally, I screwed up my backbone.

Me: "Errrrr...Ummmm....Mom?"
She: "Yes?"
Me: "Errrr, ummmm, the bank returned your monthly cheque to me. So I guess you need to write another one."

Anthony hovered behind me, making comforting sighing sounds.

She: "Well, I'll have to call them. There's more than enough money in the account."
Me: (trying not to let my mouth gape open) "So, ummmmm, you didn't know it was stopped?"
She: "What? No, I don't know what The Bay does with my account."
Me: "What?"
She: "Well, my payments to The Bay automatically come out. Don't they?"

Anthony: "Mrglllllmppphhh...."

Me: "WHAT?"

Silence.

Me: "Let's start over here." (SCREAMING TONE) "THE BANK called. The cheque you wrote to me didn't clear."
She: "What?"
Me: "YOUR CHEQUE TO ME WAS RETURNED FOR SOME REASON!!!" (enunciating every word)
She: "WHAT?"

Me: "Mrghghglllmmmpphhh...."

In the end, she understood that the cheque was returned. She radiated ignorance of having anything to do with it. No knowledge. Nada. We agreed that I'd call the bank next day to "find out" what happened.

Of course, I already know. I just can't broach it to her. So I pretended I would call to discover the truth. In the meantime, I said, whatever the reason, she needed to issue another cheque to me.

She didn't.

Later in the evening, she shuffled over to my side.

Sally: "Delia, what's the address of my bank? I want to pop over tomorrow to see them."

Now, my mother doesn't "pop over" anywhere these days. Going out for her is a laborious process of planning, scheduling, booking seniors' transit, discussing routes, discussing more details of routes, and finally, gradually, oozing out the door at a minimum of three days after first thinking of the notion of a trip.

Me: "Your branch is in Winnipeg, Mom. We never transferred it here, because it doesn't really matter. We do everything on the computer or at bank machines now."

Long pause.

Sally: "Hmmm, well, I deal with a woman by the name of Blah Blah. I call her. She's here in Kookytown, I think."

Long pause.

Me: "Oh. Well, I don't know about that. You never told me you ever called anyone here for banking. I THINK your account is still located in Winnipeg. That's all I know."

Sally: "Hmmm, yes, well, hmmmm."

We stare at each other.

She shuffles off.

So Sally's been making secret day trips to confer with her banking officials here in Kookytown. News to me.

Mindyou, a heck of a lot is news to me these days, including the reliability of the cheques that Sally writes.

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