I think everyone has days or hours where you have to make calls and go through prompts spoken by machine leading you to more prompts until you get a human.
I had to call a bank, or a calling center for a bank, to close a savings account which contained $27.01. To be more specific, it was for my mother’s account. To be yet more specific, for my mother who is no longer alive.
I had let the bank know when my mom died last November. I wasn’t doing anything wrong but I felt like I was.
I was officially on her account because she had pretty much lost her ability to do things like make bank transactions. Also, feed herself, remember whether or not she ate, remember who was President, what day of the week it was, hour of the day, day or night. Things like that.
I knew I would have to wait a long time to speak to someone.
It cost $5.00 a month to keep the account. But even when it goes down to zero you are charged $5.00 a month for all eternity. So I wanted to be a responsible adult and close this account properly. By the book.
When I finally got a human I said something very wrong. I said she was alive. I don’t know why I said it. Somewhere deep in my brain I thought it would speed up the process. Instead, in an instant, my computer said we had no dollars anywhere. The account was frozen. I was being transferred to a different, higher department. A department for evil children of dead parents.
I sweartogod, in that moment, I believed the police would be knocking at my door. I believed I had screwed up so mightily that if my mother were alive she would disown me. I hung up on the higher, scarier department.
I had one day to fix this. Half the day was over. I have a weekday off every other week. I also had to get a signature guaranteed for some other important thing relating to my mom no longer being alive. This same day.
I started to cry.
I called back willing myself to fix this wrong. I had to go through the same waiting process as before. As I was crying and feeling like someone should just shoot me for being so bloody stupid I did the only productive thing I could think of to do while my ear was tethered to a phone. I scrubbed the toilets. We have three. They all needed scrubbing. I scrubbed the bowls and wiped the lids on top and bottom, and dusted off the part where the innards are hidden.
Eventually someone came on the line. It seemed like the very lowest of the phone people was waiting for me because I was put right through to the scary high level department. I was still crying. I felt like the stupidest most inept person ever. I was not a fraud or a theif. I was afraid no one would believe me.
But I got the kindest woman who treated me as though I had called the suicide hotline instead of the bank. Or maybe a suicide hotline AT the bank. She kept saying “are you still with me Jess??”. She knew I was sad about mom (though in truth it has been five months since she died and mostly I feel numb) and she went on to tell me that I will remember my mom and she would be with me always.
If she knew my mom, Mona, she would know that I would be on the wrong side of a violent temper. Had Mona been able to witness this fiasco she would have called me an imbecile, a retard, an idiot. The same words she used for herself when she started to forget things. She’d rather have believed she was witless than accept that she had dementia.
At any rate, this kind woman eventually transferred me to a kind man named Scott. Scott said everything would be okay except that I had to download forms, get them notarized, scan and send them to the bank. This day.
I went to the library where I have a friend who I knew could do what I needed to do. I signed forms and got notarized and scanned and e mailed the documents. Then I went to get my signature guaranteed. I waited. In the end, I was unable to do this because I needed things I did not have. There is always something you don’t have.
I went home and looked at my mom’s accounts on my computer and saw numbers, instead of zero’s. But I was still afraid so I decided I needed to hear everything really was okay from Scott himself.
I called the bank again and I waited until I reached Scott. While I waited, hearing the same jazz like tune on a loop, I put away all the laundry, folded the towels, washed the dishes, cleaned off our counters and put away papers and tchotchkes.
Scott assured me that the documents had come through and everything wrong was righted.
I have not been okay for the past few years. I fall apart esily. But it’s good to know that when I am in panic mode, with tears falling, there is a Scott and the kind woman at Capital One and my house will end up a little cleaner.
When life is too filled with these kind of chores, the kind of chores that come in Manila envelopes when someone close to you has died, that seemed designed to trip you and make you feel small and incapable, it is good to have a scrub brush. Cleaning toilets is a chore that I can do and I know I won’t ruin it. I know I won’t hurt anyone. If I don’t scrub enough or I miss some dirt, I will get it the next time.
It gives me comfort.
The toilets are clean. I’ll soon get a check for $27.01.