It was a Sunday night. My wife needed cash for her hairdresser appointment early Monday morning. Either her bank doesn’t have an ATM, or she never bothered to get a card; I suspect the latter.
Conversely, I use the ATM of my bank, two blocks away, all of the time. As I’ve mentioned, during the pandemic, my bank figured out that its machines could be programmed to dispense not only $20s, which it did forever but also $10s and $5s. They must have decided that the investment in tweaking their money dispensers was better than having customers coming into the bank to break a $20.
My wife said, “I need two $5s, three $10s…” Wait a minute.. she’s giving it to me from the bottom up, not the top down? This confused me! To be fair to me, she said she would give me a check for $150 to deposit, and she’s already asked me for $40 back so far. No, she decided she only needed $100 in cash, so three $20s. Got it. Still, the ATM asks from the top denomination down, and my mind wants to do the same.
One useful thing
When I first moved to the Albany/Schenectady, NY, area, the first job I got was as a teller at the Albany Savings Bank in downtown Albany. I didn’t love it, and I quit in a month to take a job as a bookkeeper for the Schenectady Arts Council’s program. Not only was I making more money – $8200 instead of $6000 per year, but the latter job was far more interesting.
Still, there was one thing I learned at the bank. All the bills in the drawer should be in value order, from left to right. And the bills should all be face up and pointed the same way.
As the person who most often counted the drawer and made the bank deposits at FantaCo, the Albany comic book store I worked at from 1980 to 1988, I tried to enforce that one thing. It was easier to impose this on people who started at the store after me than those who started before, let’s just say.
When I buy things at most chain stores or restaurants, I usually use my DISCOVER card for the cashback bonus. For small mom-and-pop operations, though, I prefer giving them cash because it helps with their profit margins. But the amount matters, too, because I rarely have more than $100 in cash on me.
John Bolton, Nikki Haley, Rudy Giuliani, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Tiffany Trump, Melania Trump Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Glenn Beck, Dick Morris, Lou Dobbs, Steve Doocy, Laura Ingraham, Brian Kilmeade, Ann Coulter, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Eberle, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Newsmax, OAN Jim Jordan, Elise Stefanik, Louis Gohmert, Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, Ted Yoho, Steve Scalise, Steve King, Doug Lamborn, Michael McCaul, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn Lindsay Graham, Rick Scott, Susan Collins, John Kennedy, Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst, Rand Paul, Thom Tillis, Martha McSally, Josh Hawley
Kellyanne Conway, Larry Kudlow, Mick Mulvaney, Michael Caputo Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Stephen Miller, Jason Miller Scott Atlas, Mike Pence, Emily Murphy Kayleigh McEnany, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Sean Spicer Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell Jr., Paula White Ghislaine Maxwell
QAnon believers, COVID deniers, Proud Boys, white supremacists, so-called militias
I know there are many others.
Oh, and of course, IMPOTUS, who has undermined every institution he interacts with, including, but certainly not limited to, the election process, international relations, the Justice Department, the intelligence apparatus, the postal service, the Census, the CDC, the EPA…
Where did most of your money go?
I’m not sure. Quite possibly non-physical stuff: charities and political contributions. We have a line of credit to do work on the house, but we haven’t utilized it yet.
What did you get really excited about?
I’ve ordered some music and books. The opening of the packages, heck the anticipation of getting the mail. Seeing my Census checks get automatically deposited in my checking account. This doesn’t sound really exciting.
OK, we had a few people over, socially distanced on our front porch, starting in August. THAT was a nice change of pace.
Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
Almost certainly sadder. It’s not just COVID and the restrictions thereof. It’s my condition. I actually started to “see” a shrink, remotely. It didn’t “take”, and it might have if I had established a relationship in person beforehand. Ever feel it’s all gaining on you?
In fact, I’m not yet sold on telemedicine. More to the point, none of the things I needed to do – everything from getting scans to having my teeth cleaned – can be done remotely.
Thinner or fatter?
Thinner by at least ten pounds, due almost entirely to riding my bicycle while doing the Census. Not incidentally, I find some people’s tendency to say, “Hey, you’re almost down to” the next round number totally unhelpful.
Richer or poorer?
Arguably richer because I don’t spend very much comparatively. And richer than I was four years ago, yet I didn’t vote GOP.
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Watching movies. We have some movie channels, but I find it difficult to sit down and watch them as though I were at the cinema.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Talking/writing about race. It was necessary to engage. It’s important. I remain in utter shock that white people started finally getting it. But I’ve always found the discussion exhausting. Yet I will do it again, most likely. Still, there are a couple of people I haven’t talked with for half a year as a result. That kind of sucks.
How did you spend Christmas?
My wife and I watched church on Facebook as I peered through the window seeing the snow melt away. Zoom meeting with my in-laws. Watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas; too many commercials, NBC, but a great story.
Did you fall in love in 2020?
I HAD to, just to survive.
How many one-night stands?
Even if I were so inclined, which I’m not, it’s not the kind of behavior consistent with a pandemic, now is it?
What was your favorite TV program?
I just can’t get much into watching television, and there are plenty of shows to watch. CBS Sunday Morning, JEOPARDY, 60 Minutes. Maybe in 2021.
Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
This question gets more difficult every year. Let’s just say there is a massive, unprecedented for me, level of increased disdain that I have for at least one person.
Since I need to give thanks in 2020, I have to figure out how I should frame it. Usually, at the beginning of the following year, I address a series of questions. I thought I would try one of them right now.
Are you richer or poorer?
The answer is yes. On one hand, I/we are quite grateful that my wife managed to keep her job during the pandemic, no small thing since her husband is retired. She didn’t get laid off then rehired as a full-time substitute, which reportedly happened in a local school district.
On the other hand, we have taken on additional debt. We got a new car. Plus we took out a home equity loan to fix the back porch. This is not an aesthetic decision, either. The inside of the porch roof is falling down and, when it rains, the stairs are like an ice rink.
Still, it was nice to discover that the assessed value of our house is greater. The improvements we made in the past decade, replacing the front porch, redoing the bathroom, and even replacing the shed proved to be worthwhile investments. In fact, we could have borrowed more money; we chose not to.
I made some extra cash working the Census. This meant that when the batteries on the lawnmower died, it was not a source of distress. I could just get more. In fact, the Census was good because it forced me to get dressed and leave the house. Because none of us were going out much in the spring, we saved on clothes. We also didn’t go out to eat as often, even when we tried to make up for it with takeout from the local restaurants.
With a full year on Medicare and supplemental insurance under my belt, so far, so good. I didn’t know whether the money I get from my former employer would be adequate to cover the costs. Since my wife and daughter are still under my insurance, even though I am not, this works out well, too. Even though I was inarguably underpaid, the benefits have proven to be good.
I also got unexpected money, from my local newspaper’s contests more than once to $150 from Wells Fargo.
It occurs to me that I’m not really thinking of this year over year. I’m surely better off since I got married. We were really broke when we got hitched. My bride decided to quit her decent-paying but soul-sucking job. Buying anything seemed ill-advised.
Now, I can indulge in what a friend of mine called crisis consumerism. I’d pretty much swore off buying any more music when I retired. THAT’S off the boards. An Elvis Costello reissue on eBay. Linda Ronstadt from a dealer on Amazon in the UK. Graham Nash and Lucinda Williams from a library sale for $1 each. And more Rhiannon Giddens.
I’m thankful for more than filthy lucre and what it can buy me. I am quite thankful for people, even if it’s mostly on ZOOM or some such. I’m sure I’ll get more into it in a few weeks.
It shows just how times have changed. A dozen years ago, people were shocked by the false rumor that Obamacare mandated that no one over 75 be given major medical procedures unless approved by an ethics panel. “You can’t kill Grandma!” they cried. (Yes, it was a political lie, but some were genuinely fooled by it.)
The argument then was that good Christian people must protect the right to life of octogenarians. One could understand that premise, even if it were based on a false premise. This new twist boggles the mind.
Moreover, the “call to reopen the economy would put a premature end to the nationwide social isolation efforts underway to quell the spread of the coronavirus, and could cause the entire health care system — and in turn the economy — to collapse under the weight of a crush of critically ill people.”
Incidentally, some folks I came across online are convinced that the medical establishment in Italy is sacrificing old people because of socialized medicine. The Italians are using triage because there are too many sick and dying at the same time. Seeing page after page of obituaries in their newspapers is awful to see.
And that could be California or Washington state or New York State soon. Or Louisiana or West Virginia, which was the last state with a confirmed COVID-19 case, not much later. Or somewhere not yet on the radar a month from now.
Of course, I know the stock market is mostly sinking. I’ve been studiously avoiding taking a look. My position is that assiduously tracking the Dow Jones will change nothing.
Earlier in the week, my wife called across the room that the stock market was down again. I yelled back, “DON’T CARE!” It’s not that I’m unconcerned. But worrying about it will just give me agita.
I will get a quarterly statement in early April. I will open it, look at the bottom line, scream, throw it in a drawer, and forget about it until early July, when I will likely repeat the process if necessary. Mentally, the pessimist in me had always budgeted for a drop; I will survive.
Stimulating the economy
That said, I’ve gotten in the past two weeks at least six books, a DVD set, a couple of compact discs and some other items online. While some were purchased on a gift card, the rest was my money. I have this desire to do my part to buy what I can from small to medium-sized businesses.
I purchased three Marvel Masterworks from Mile High Comics just before it was announced that Diamond Comic Distributors is no longer taking in new comics for a time. This could be the death knell of the vast majority of comic book stores, especially those reliant on sales of the latest issue of the four-color publications.
I went to the store last week, during the old people’s early hours. And though I didn’t really NEED toilet paper, I bought some, a four-roll pack.
That afternoon, one of our young neighbors, who actually talks with us, sighed that they only had one roll of TP in the house. I went inside, got the 4-back, and tossed a perfect spiral to the young person. (Social distancing, don’t you know?) Obviously, I DID need to purchase it. I just didn’t know why before then.
This happened, six or seven years ago. I was riding on my Trek bicycle that I had purchased a few months earlier. I happened to stop outside of my current church.
A person who I did not know told me that I ought not to have had the bike I owned because I was “too fat and poor.” Yow.
I was too stunned to come up with a treppenwitz response. I’ll own the fat part. But poor? What’s that about? Underpaid, yes. Did he think that because I was overweight, I must also be impoverished? Is there a racial component? I dunno.
This happened last summer. I went to a Friends of the Albany Public Library book discussion by an author. During the Q & A, I asked what I thought were some cogent questions. Afterward, I pulled out a $20 bill to buy his first book. He asked if I sure I could afford it. He then also gave me his third book for nothing.
Also last summer, my wife went to see our financial planner. It’s REALLY boring stuff for me. He sounds like the adults on any Charlie Brown TV special, and I’ve told him so. Still, what he said was that we had a 99% of having a “successful” retirement, based on the money that we – mostly my wife – have saved.
I actually had some extra money in my checking account because I started collecting Social Security a few months before I retired. The teller at my bank recommended I talk to one of their financial people. As it turns out, after meeting two different people, unless I had $15,000 to invest – I did not – the best rate I could get was 0.1% interest.
The next day, I took out $5000 and put it into a 9-month CD at my credit union at 2.13%, not great, but it’s something. I guess I’m NOT “too poor” to buy that book or even that bicycle. So THERE.
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