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My bank is a pen-just-barely-touches-the-paper kind of dot, a little, tiny bloop of black ink through a double bifocal lens, through a microscope eyepiece, the fat one, that makes the very smallest things bigger. It’s hardly half a pixel on a map of the galaxy. Some days, it seems that no money is inside that bank but mine.

None of this mattered until I moved away, because this inconsequential bank of mine is around the corner from my parent’s home. When I left the house, I could stop at the bank and no time, no effort was lost.  I just carried right on.

But, you see, the way I live now is different.  I’ve crossed state lines twice since my last trip to the bank.  I’ve eyed and ignored a dozen zip codes on my way here. What a player. Inevitably, there is no sign of my bank for miles. I have money, a few dollars I guess, but I can’t get to the bank to toss it in there.  There is one way, I found out recently–I could ask for “cash back.”

Cash back is this unfortunate situation of mental gymnastics. For one, I was once told that swiping my card at the checkout and masquerading as a credit card was preferable. Maybe it earns more points or helps my credit rating, I can never remember, nor do I care. But because of this old advice, I push cancel for credit whenever I use my quote debit card. The problem here is that when I want cash back, so I don’t have to hold onto all this money all the time like a stripper, I’m backed into a corner. I have to press credit; they make me.

Okay, so I lose a few points or I can never buy a house. No big deal. But, a minute ago my self-esteem was soaring. I came in with a list of four items, which I wrote while walking from the car to the front door of the store. I came to the checkout with seven items, but couldn’t find the hummus, so only four of which weren’t on my list. Since we’re still working with single digits, this was a successful trip. My total was somewhere around twenty-five dollars. Bonus.

But, now, because of this bank debacle, I ask for cash back. Not much, just enough in case we go out to eat this week and I want to try and function like a real-life adult, not allowing some exceedingly generous and endlessly loving family to buy my meal (again). So, I take twenty-five dollars in cash.  It seems to be enough, not too much.

My receipt prints out and the total is fifty dollars and some change. Disappointment sets in. Cash back has just ruined my shopping trip. I had done so well. Only slightly more than twenty-five dollars and I was out the door and hadn’t spent my life savings at the grocery store. But, fifty! Oh goodness, fifty!  Now, I spent fifty dollars which is at least twenty too much and I’m dragging my plastic bags behind me out the door, my cash back depression scampering close behind.

Stupid microscopic bank, messing with my self-esteem like that.

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