Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Slow Road to Solvency

South Blvd. and Chicago Ave., Evanston
Originally uploaded by bridgeportseasoning.

I'm paying bills online as I write this. One of the first things I resolved to do when I started working again was to open a checking account again, as it had been years since I had one.

The last time I had one, I had to close it down as NSF fees from HotHouse paychecks were eating into the balance. I remember the first time my paycheck from HotHouse bounced. The bank sent returned the check to me in the mail and I brought it and the NSF notices to work, where I wrote a payout for the full amount from the bar receipts for payment.

The next day I come to work and Marguerite starts reading me the riot act for essentially expecting an honest wage for honest work. "It's against organizational protocols," she said.

And I could see her point, certainly. You've got to keep controls in place, otherwise everyone who had a bounced paycheck - and there were way more than should have been during my time at HotHouse - would have just grabbed theirs from the till. In my defense, at least I had the documentation to prove that I needed my pay. Then again, "organizational protocols" never stopped her from dipping her hand in the tills and taking payouts without documenting them (let me state now that I am not accusing her of impropriety in any way doing this). Her impulses made our job closing the books at night much harder than necessary.

After I finished the AIDS Ride in 2000 (and I have a Marguerite story about that for another time), I had another bounced check. My bank finally had enough and closed my account, after I paid back the fees I owed them.

Slowly, I put together a network of currency exchanges where I would stagger cashing my paychecks, since I never knew when would make like a trampoline. If one had a bad check on record, I'd head to another. This dance went on until the place closed; by then I was starting to receive freelance checks from the Sun-Times and Time Out Chicago, but those were going directly to bills. I couldn't tell you the exact amount I lost over the years to check cashing fees, money orders, and wire transfer fees for paying bills. But I'm sure it's a sizable number well into the thousands of dollars.

I guess that's why I'm sitting here enthralled that I can just go online and authorize a payment directly from my checking account now, and wishing I had done that years ago.

No comments: