Friday, December 18, 2015

Day 12.262 Banking Karma in Tahoe

Pathetically packing a paltry sack of groceries, I run into an old friend. We cross paths in front of the pharmacy, where I say hello tentatively, using her first name and a smile. I hope to avoid the embarrassment of her not remembering me after passage of the two decades since our last communication.

She does not disappoint and we segue to the obligatory what have you been doing exchange.

They have sold their waterfront home, downscaled with the graduation from college of their two kids, she has been retired for two years and hubby has transitioned to senior consultant for his law firm, a position to which he commutes every day via what we used to call the bankers boat, a cushy mid-morning sailing on a Washington State Ferry to Seattle.

Barbara used to be the VP/Manager of the local branch of the bank with which I do business. Somewhere around 1981 I was in an eerily similar financial position as I am today. Back in those days hand written checks were the official legal tender du jour. On one particularly difficult occasion I bounced a series of checks in a classic example of negative trickle down theory. I was involved in a vehicular accident and couldn't work for a couple of weeks. No paycheck = no cash. No cash = no ability to write checks. By the time that this scenario had settled the bank overdraft fees were more than the original amounts.

I was in a pickle.

After returning to work, my first stop was to the bank to clear things up. I was fully prepared to close my account, walk away and engage in a cash economy until some type of financial stasis returned.

Playing the part of the prodigal son, I pulled a chair in front of Barbara's desk and told the sad story. She listened with interest the sincerity of which was either honest or well-rehearsed, but what she did after checking her computer was to look at me and smile.

She said not to worry about the overdraft fees, and if I could bring my balance up to date she would erase the penalties.


Yes. Deposit your check and stay healthy she said standing and extending her right hand.

She has been my favorite banker ever since. The one thing I needed that day was a simple act of kindness, a sympathetic gesture of understanding and compassion, things I never expected from a person in an industry of  corporate capitalization of other people's capitol.

Thirty years later we were on the subject of health care standing in front of the Safeway pharmacy. I told her my story, and she shared hers. Something is wrong with our system of health care system I said, citing the obscene profits that accrue from our pedestrian pockets.

Yes, she agreed, and along with those gigantic profits comes a moral and societal responsibility to give back and for them to help the very people that contribute to their bottom line.

I carefully consider this as I pay for my bagel and yogurt using a debit card that carries the logo of her former employer.

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