But like many a family empires preceding and surely many to come, discontentment with what they had seeped in and they began to overreach, growing careless and casual in their dealings. As a result, weakness was found within their house and soon they too fell to outsiders from a distant land.
And because of this I found myself having another change forced upon me late in life. My bank, The Bank, where I had served for many years, until they unceremoniously cast me overboard a decade ago, had fallen under a shadow that wouldn't pass. Instead it only grew darker, until they had no choice but to abandon ship. I now faced a transition of not only my financial services, but my pension as well. Do not think I did not worry.
As fickle fate would have it, the Great Conversion fell on the dates Ms Irene choose to make an impression upon our little state. Just on the eve of when the new rulers of my money were about to rip off the bags over their new signs, Irene ripped down our electric wires and our cable services. Now just as I must call and activate my new access cards, because on that Friday my old had become deactivated, I had no phones. Now when I had to switch my on-line banking service, I had no internet and with no internet and no new on-line banking service, I could not see if my accounts safely made the transition and more importantly, would my pension deposit be deposited.
I've been through many conversions in my life. I have seen few (make that none) without a glitch, hiccup, speed bump or worse. It did not help that over the many months of anticipation as this conversion slowly, but inexorably moved toward completion, my peace of mind when The President said he could not guarantee Social Security Checks would be sent and my job seemed shaky. Amidst these my mind wondered would my pension get lost in translation?
Of course, the politicians made moot the Social Security question in their usual cowardly way. They simply kicked that can of worms down the street for some future gutless politicians to contend with. My shaky job soon collapsed over an abyss and fell from sight on the eve of both the great bank conversion and the hurricane. This left only the banking questions to be resolved.
After the winds blew by and the creeks rose and the power returned and the cable connected I opened a new on-line account at my new bank. Not too difficult to create, but not much to look at once I opened it. I have three accounts and all were supposed to make the trip. I see one, I see two, I see...I see...
I see one and I see two is what I see. Where is three? I look around the screen. I scroll up and down. I click on a few links, maybe it is hidden behind one of these. I do not find account number three. This is not a good thing. This is not a comfort. If they lost a whole account, one in which I OWE them money, what will they do with my pension where THEY owe me money?
I will have to wait a few more days to know the latter answer, but for now my concern is my missing number three. I see a link that says "Add an Account". Perhaps I have to add this one. After all, this one was a credit card and they not only converted banks, they switched credit card companies on me. Maybe that is why this one requires more from me here.
I click the "Add an Account" and begin filling out a form asking for account name and number and vital statistics, but I pause. At the end it has a fill-in blank labeled, "Pay this Amount". Hmmm! This isn't adding an account, this is adding a payee for Bill Pay. I don't want to pay any amount right now. In fact, if my pension deposit doesn't show up a few days hence, I won't be able to pay any amount to account number three, even if I do find it. If I don't see my pension deposit in a few days hence, maybe it'd be better if account number three stay lost. I cancel the form and return to my somewhat skimpy home page.
Then I notice near the bottom, "To add an account call 1-800-And-Wait." (That's not the real number. Don't call that number. There is no number 1-800-And-Wait. It is not a number, it is what you are going to do when you reach the real number.)
It lists the times of day you may call. I have to wait for the proper hour and when the clock strikes the time, I dial. A mechanical female voice answers with a greeting, a welcome, followed by, "All our circuits are tied up at the moment. Please call back later." Hoo ha!
High tide in the anxiety pool.
There's that word again, wait. I must wait until later and later I call again, around four in the afternoon.
Our cheery little mechanical greeter is there with another welcome and instructions: If you want this thing, press 1; if that thing, press 2; if another thing, press three and so on and so forth until, "If you haven't pressed anything because you are so overwhelmed by our 87 choices, then press 88 and we will start all over again. Just for your convenience. This time pay attention and press something."
Fortunately my dozing was interrupted at frequent intervals, about every other minute, by our digital hostess announcing the lines were still tied in knots, but "our first available representative will be with you shortly." Of course, "shortly" is a relative thing and it obviously was no relative of the bank's. After numerous "short-lies", a man answered.
He introduced himself. "Hi, my name is Peggy." And I introduced myself, "Hi, my name is confused." We were going to get along great. I begin to explain my missing number three account when I hear a click and nothing.
"Hello, is anyone out there?" followed by "did this guy HANG UP ON ME!" followed by my wife walking in the room announcing, "The cable is out."
Oh yes indeed, the cable was once again kerput. Along with my lost number three account was lost TV, lost internet and lost phones. I didn't lose everything. I still retained my sense of futility and frustration.
Our cable service didn't return until later that evening, too late now to call back. In the morning I decided to go to the nearest branch, track down my AWOL account face to face, Mano y Mano or Womano y Womano. Why does optimism ever ring in my heart? I drive to the bank, park my car and amble across the lot then do a U-turn back to car, to road, to home, to phone. Why did I not know the bank branch would be full. It just converted and I was probably not the only owner of a stray account or transaction about town.
I call the 800 number and our computer-generated Matron'd answers. Apparently they are firing on all circuits this morning, so she goes right into the laundry list of press-worthy buttons. They have still not added my particular problem to the menu and I still do not know an appropriate one to select. I choose to select a different one than I did the day before.
"We are experiencing a higher than usual call volume. Please stay on the line and our first available representative will be with you shortly."
I am back with the sleepy-time music and the constant notifications to stay tuned for the next available representative. And eventually the next available representative answers.
"Hi, my name is Peggy."
Wait a minute, this is the same available representative I got yesterday after pushing a different button. No wonder all their circuits are tied up, what do they have -- ONE! I mean, I was kidding about his name being Peggy, but now I'm not so sure, maybe this is Peggy. Or maybe I have entered the Twilight Zone or worse, this is Groundhog Day repeating itself over and over.
I don't want to disparage the man or imply he was anything like "Peggy". He was very nice and turned out to be quiet helpful, but in the beginning as confused about my missing account number three as I was. He also was having some computer glitches of his own. He asked me for some info on my on-line banking screen and I fumbled about seeking it, explaining that I was using a new computer and going through a learning curve.
"I'm going through a learning curve myself," he said. "I'm actually a former Wilmington Trust employee learning this new system."
He then asked if I minded going on hold while he asked his supervisor some questions. Ah, sweet dreamland.
After a couple snores my nap was cut short by the guy. "I'd like to ask you to do something," he says.
"Sign out of your on-line banking."
I did so.
"Now log back in again."
"You should see your credit card account now."
Yes, I see it, I see it, it has come home. I thanked him for solving my problem and now all I needed to wait on was whether my pension check would show up in a couple of days.
A couple of days later I went back to my on-line banking account full of fear and trepidation. The accounts popped up, all three, and yes, my pension deposit was there. I was so happy, so relieved, that I even made a payment to the credit card.