Before I begin my sorry shaggy-dog story, needs must that I provide a little background biography of the main protagonist, namely, me. Perhaps a little background psychology is more appropriate.
Now, I am not someone who likes to be in debt. I have friends who permanently max their credit cards; others who will remortgage their house to make a spontaneous, rash purchase; those that buy everything on the never-never. I am not one of these people. I like to know that I have the money to pay for things I want and, if I don’t, I do without.
However, I do have a credit card. But, I make it a point of honour to pay off the full balance of my credit card every month, and so incur no interest charges.
Now, I pay off my credit card by writing a monthly cheque to my card provider. Slightly last century, you might say, but it is what I have always done and I am a firm believer in the adage: if it ain’t broke, don’ fix it.
And so it was this month. My credit card statement received; my cheque duly dispatched in a timely fashion. Except… My cheque is not cashed.
A week passes; ten days; almost a fortnight and, still, the cheque to pay off my debt has not been presented to my bank. I go into my bank; review my account: no transactions, either current or pending. That same evening, I ring my credit card provider and query the missing cheque.
“Oh, no, sir. We’ve not received your cheque.”
The words chill me with fear. The spectre of debt suddenly circles and surrounds me. I feel trapped in its invidious, gossamer grip. There and then, I settle my debt by paying off the outstanding balance of my credit card with a debit card transaction over the phone.
“Oh, and sir, remember to cancel your cheque tomorrow morning,” says my credit card provider. “It must have got lost in the post.”
Sage advice, which I determine to act upon at the first instant.
The following morning sees me bright and early at my bank. I check my account. A payment has been credited to my credit card provider. What a relief. Except… When I look more closely, the payment that has been credited is not the debit card payment I made over the phone the previous evening, but the original cheque, which yesterday no one had seen neither hide nor hair of. Now I am faced with the prospect of both my cheque and my debit card being charged to me and so exceeding my bank overdraft limit. Once again the prospect of debt cast its pall shadow across my conscience.
I speak to the counter-staff in the bank.
“Nothing we can do, I’m afraid, sir. You’ll have to ring up telephone banking.”
Am I in Earth, in heaven, or in hell? Sleeping or waking, mad, or well-advised? I head for home at the double. The long tendrils of debt clasping at my heels as I run.
First, I ring my credit card company to confirm that they have now banked my original cheque.
“Oh, yes, sir. First thing this morning.”
I want to say that last night you said that you had no record of it, but I don’t waste my breath. I to the world am like a drop of water, that in the ocean seeks another drop. Instead, I ring my bank to see if they can stop the cheque.
“I’m not sure, sir. Not now that it’s been presented.”
Until I know this sure uncertainty, I’ll entertain the offered fallacy.
“Well, can you stop the debit card payment.”
“Oh, no, sir. We can’t stop that.”
“But if both payment are made I will go overdrawn.”
“Oh, yes, sir. I can see your account has just gone overdrawn now.”
I ring off. I can see that I am not going to receive any help from either my bank or my credit card company to save me from my creditors’ clutches. Since mine own doors refuse to entertain me, I’ll knock elsewhere, to see if they’ll disdain me. If I am going to save myself from a life of arrears, I must take positive action myself.
Lunchtime finds me back in my local High Street. This time I am at my building society, waiting in line to see an adviser. I am led into a small office.
“What can I do for you, sir.”
“Is it possible to make a transfer from my building society account to my bank account?”
“Oh, yes, sir.”
“And how long will it take to be credited?”
I am saved. The building society transfer clears my overdraft at my bank; my debit card and cheque payment more than clears my debt with my credit card company; I am so relieved that I can’t even feel annoyed at having wasted practically an entire day, the result of which is that I have paid my credit card company twice as much as I actually owe them. And thereupon these errors are arose. But, at least, I can breathe the fresh air of solvency once again. And it feels good.
In conclusion, and if I may be permitted to mash up my Shakespearean quotes, I intend to return to a life following Polonius’ counsel: Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.
© Simon Turner-Tree
PS: There is a postscript to this already long story. I have just received my new credit card statement, only to discover that I am being charged interest because of the late payment against my previous statement. La lucha continúa.
Simon Turner-Tree can’t decide whether his life is a comedy or a tragedy.