to go: 454.25
did something today
that I haven't done since 1998 ... and even though it didn't involve
vomiting or fire extinguishers or flying out-of-state to sleep with
somebody else's husband, it has nonetheless left me feeling stoopid and
anxious and vaguely ashamed of myself, all day long.
bounced a check.
least, I think
I've bounced a check. Or I'm about
to bounce a check. Or I'm in the process of bouncing a check, even as
we speak. The problem is that I'm not exactly sure which
check, just yet. Will it be the Alameda Power & Telecom bill I
paid last week? Or the electronic payment I sent to my web hosting
service? Or the check I wrote to cover my share of the office pizza
the landlord be
knocking on our apartment door tomorrow morning with malice in her
eyes and an eviction notice in her hand?
suspense is driving
came into the office
this morning, and the very first thing I did -- the very first thing
I've done, without fail, every-other-Wednesday since the ink was barely
dry on the divorce decree -- was to sit down and write my ex-husband
his twice-monthly child support check. This is one of those
onerous-but-unavoidable obligations that I try to be extremely
conscientious about, not only because I feel I owe it to my Ex, or
because Karma (and The State of Washington) happen to agree with me on
that one ... but because it actually makes me feel like A Better Person
to send my support checks on time and in full, every single month.
(Although you'd better believe I'm counting the minutes till March 21,
2004: I'm already pricing that IBM Thinkpad Notebook in my head.) As I
wrote out my ex-husband's check this morning, I remember thinking He'll
have the check by the time I get paid on Friday: that should be plenty
of time for it to clear. But
that was forty years' worth of hand-to-mouth reflex talking. It's
really not an issue. Even if my Ex did happen to cash the check earlier
than Friday -- if it somehow managed to magically land in his mailbox
in TicTac the day before payday -- I know I've usually got sufficient
funds in the bank to cover it. These days, my modest balance is nothing
to boast about, but at least negative numbers have long since become
a thing of the past.
that's when it hit
me. My bank balance.
I haven't checked it all week.
do all of my
money-related stuff on the Internet these days: shopping, bill-paying,
account management, wiring bail money to TicTac ... and 99.9% of my
personal banking. David doesn't believe in doing any of these things
online -- he's an old-fashioned, ballpoint-pen-and-calculator kind of
guy -- so I've been trying to prove to him that *my* way is just as
efficient as the way *he* does things. Because
I've got something to prove, I'm as careful about monitoring my bank
activity as I am about paying my child support. I check my balance
every morning, while I'm drying my hair and killing ants ... and then
again at night before I go to bed ... and then again before and after I
make an online purchase/use my ATM card/send off an electronic payment
to a creditor. In fact, you might say I'm slightly AR/OC about the
whole thing. (Although if you were
to say such a thing, I would kick your ass. But first I would
probably go online and check my bank balance to make sure I can afford
to send you flowers afterward.) Somehow, though -- perhaps in the midst
of all the dental misery and fifty-mile bike rides and office nonsense
of the past week -- I'd forgotten all about keeping an eye on my money.
I wrote my child
support check, then, I went to my bank's website and called up my
checking account balance.
Secra! it screamed accusingly. Whut
the fudk is THIS?!
You're in the RED,
Crap crap crap
immediately scooped up
half of my piddly savings account-slash-"Christmas fund" and dumped it
into my checking account. It wasn't 9 a.m. PST yet, so there's a good
chance that I've already averted disaster. Just to be on the safe side,
though, I'll probably call the bank during my lunch hour and try to
bend the ear of a sympathetic Customer Service Rep. (Maybe I'll get all
snooty and defensive and ask her why my pricey overdraft protection
didn't automatically kick in, the way it's supposed to.) Plus I'll be
checking all of my various online accounts obsessively for the next
couple of days, looking for signs of trouble. By the time the Payroll
Fairy direct-deposits my paycheck at 12:01:00 a.m. PST on Thursday
night/Friday morning, everything will be back to normal.
... the sight of
those negative numbers has haunted me all day.
kills me about this
whole thing is that I've been so good for so long ... not only about
not bouncing checks (during The Tree House days I used to routinely
plan a couple of returned-check fees into my monthly 'budget'), but
about everything related to finances: saving, investing, paying my
bills on time, nurturing my 401k, not carrying more credit cards than
Ivanka Trump. I think what really screwed me up this time -- more than
eleven dollar shampoo, more than long-distance calls to TicTac, more
than my scary new addiction to the Amazon.Com
-- were those back-to-back dentist appointments last week. Most of it
was covered under David's dental insurance, thank god -- that means I
can probably go back again next month and have them look at the *other*
broken molar -- but I still got hit with a couple of hefty co-pays I
wasn't expecting. Plus there were cab rides to and from the dentist's
office, and a prescription for antibiotics to pay for, and all of that
unpaid time-off from work. And now there is a chance that there might
be returned-check fees, on top of everything else.
This is turning
into one hell of an expensive hole in my mouth.)
well. I realize that
everybody bounces a check, once in a while. In the grand scheme of
things, this hardly qualifies as a banner headline on the front page of
The New York Times. (Hell. It barely qualifies as a readable
*FootNotes* entry.) Still, when you've managed to get through four
without opening your mailbox and finding another snooty notice from
your bank ("What part of
'insufficient funds' don't you understand?"),
you tend to start over-estimating yourself a little. I'm
never going to bounce another check as long as I live!
you tell yourself, revelling in your vast reserves of incredible
financial grooviness ... the same way you tell yourself you'll never be
fat again, or single again, or depressed, or on welfare, or "between
jobs," or hungover and vomiting into a metal wastebasket ...
all the while
knowing, deep in your heart, that this may not always be true.
throw a rock