Death, taxes, and banks

Banks are like death. No one likes them, but we’re all stuck with them and know more about them than we’d ever hope.

Two years ago Loblaws came out with something that very few grocery stores have. Banking services! President’s Choice Financial (PCF) had everything going for it: No service fees at all except for rarely used things like money orders and such. That on its own is an eye-opener! I decided to give it a try.

Within a few months I had my first problem. An attempt to withdraw $350 from a PCF bank machine failed. The next attempt succeeded, but unfortunately both succeeded as far as the bank was concerned. I was disappointed in how long it took to get it straightened out, but I figured that everyone is entitled to a mistake.

Things went okay for almost two years but in the first four weeks of 2000 all hell broke loose. My transaction report informed me that I’d paid a $153 to Toronto Water. Of course I don’t pay a water bill, and I sure as heck don’t live in Toronto! What really gave me pause was that a week after reporting the problem (and being assured it would be taken care of within a day or two), I was told that the money wasn’t returned to me because Toronto Water hadn’t reimbursed the bank. The way I see it, I didn’t screw up so that money should be returned to me in the time that it took to update my account. It took three weeks. For frig’s sakes!

At the same time, $100 with withdrawn from my account with no explanation or notification other than that it was a “debit memo.” A week later it reappeared as a “credit memo” with just as little explanation.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was that my January rent cheque was returned NSF even though the funds were in the account. I was told that I made bank machine deposits, the first $300 was available immediately and the remainder took five days to clear. What I found was that even though I made two deposits in one day, only $300 of the total was available to me. I could get no explanation for why what I was told was different than what I found in practice. That cost me an extra $36 in interest and NSF charges so I decided that the lack of service charges in no way made up for the complete lack of confidence I had in PCF.

I’ve since returned to the Royal Bank and paying for a $9.50/month service package that serves my needs is such a relief. I dealt with the Royal Bank for about six years before switching to PCF and the Royal Bank has never made any mistakes as bad as even PCF’s most minor slip ups.

Just say no to President’s Choice Financial. You sometimes do get what you pay for.


Last Thursday I journeyed out to the wilds of Dunrobin to visit my former housemates, Gord, Kelly, and Jamie (the latter pictured above). They shared their house with me for four years…except for Jamie since she joined the household two years after I did. You’d think that would give me bathroom priority but it didn’t always work out that way!

Since Jamie was 2½ when I moved out two years ago, she has no memory of my living in what today serves as her playroom and mom’s sewing room. I took it upon myself to make sure that she doesn’t forget me again by calling more often and bugging them to let me visit. I think my efforts have met with uneven results to this point. Though she couldn’t remember my name when I arrived, I think she recognised me from my last visit. I knew that more work was required on my part when as she said grace before dinner, she stopped, gestured toward me, and quietly asked her mom, “Mommy, what’s his name again?” But that’s okay by me, two or three weeks are a long time to the young.

I’m not a girl so Jamie took it upon herself to let me in on some of the secrets that have been denied me all these years. I hope she doesn’t get in trouble for it! As I sat quietly and listened (and held the nail polish bottle) she explained to me that she had to put on some nail polish and lipstick because I was there. She explained that one must look nice when company comes calling and also when going out to parties in the evening. She also applied some pretty stickers to the back of her hands! After she was all gussied up, she vogued for a bit (see above) and by then it was time to start dinner.

Dinner, as tradition often dictates when I visit, was tacos. They’re especially good at Chez Greig because rather than simply baking the shells and then making the tacos to eat, Gord goes to the trouble of loading the tacos with meat and cheese, then broiling them to ready the shells and melt the cheese at the same time. It results in a less brittle shell and there’s nothing better than having the cheese melted. I rarely go to the extra trouble myself, but many hands make for light work. I’m in charge of the meat preparation and while the cheese isn’t assigned to any one person, it just gets done anyway. Even though Kelly doesn’t like tacos, she sometimes grates the cheese … she thinks we don’t know it’s merely a ploy to get near the cheese without suspicion so she can eat some! This time however, Jamie seems to have taken after mother.

Afterwards it was bedtime and Jamie asked if I would read her bedtime story. I was happy to do so and enjoyed the tale of Knight George and how he defeated the evil dragon. It seems that even knights are a little more sensitive and politically correct these days as there was no swordplay or blasts of flame. George used guile and a bit of magic to defeat, but not slay, the dragon. Afterwards Jamie told me that I absolutely could not give her a kiss goodnight. Taking advantage of George’s lesson, I planted a stealthy peck on her cheek and made a quick escape, wishing her a good night.

You don’t live with someone unless you think they’re at least decent people, and after four years I found that Kelly and Gord far exceed mere decency. I don’t see them as often as I like, but they remain very good friends of mine. And of course that applies to Jamie and her soon-to-be sibling!

A Single Step

All right, I’m going to be straight with you right from the start. I’ve never written a journal so you might be subjected to some seriously rough going at the start. Consider yourself warned. If you later regret not having run away, it’s your own damn fault!

I can’t remember when I started thinking about doing a journal but it was quite some time ago. It always fascinated me that in the past, some journals were used in historical research. Someone far in the past set their thoughts to paper, and a century or more later we’re reading it and not only know their thoughts, but we know more about the time and place they lived in because we’re seeing it through their eyes! I wonder what they’d think if they knew. I know I’d be very pleased.

You won’t find me aspiring to such a grandiose goal. It’s just not likely because current events are better documented today, and who’d want to read my journal? Certainly other people are more interesting than I am. Besides, it’s just too weird to be writing to some person in the future that I don’t know. That’s especially true when it won’t likely be read by anyone that far in the future anyway.

I actually did start writing a journal about five years ago. I started by introducing myself and after just a few lines, I felt so goofy. I deleted it and did nothing further until today. I think that one must find the one’s ‘audience’ before starting or one will get nowhere in a big hurry. That’s been my experience anyway. Take it for what it’s worth.

This later effort is a lot more focused and I actually have a better picture of an audience (of people I know!) and what I might like to say. In the early 90s I put together a few issues of a print newsletter that I used (poorly) to let friends know what was up with me without resorting to a form-letter. I see this journal as partly serving that purpose as well, but time will tell if it serves it better. There’s little doubt that it will be far more personal so the URL won’t be publicly posted as I’ll be giving it only to a few closer friends. Because of the way the world-wide web works, it’s possible for the address to be discovered unless the viewer doesn’t jump to another site directly from this one. In other words, you’d have to close the browser before leaving. I don’t even trust myself to do that regularly so I’m certainly not expecting others to do so. What I’ll do instead is change the URL periodically and e-mail out the new one to the people I want to have it. It’s not a perfect solution, but I think it’s a reasonable compromise between security and ease of use.

What I’ve come to realise between my last journal failure and this start is that despite having an audience in mind, one must write for themselves. It may sound selfish, but it’s the heart of self-expression.

I wonder how this will turn out.