The stuffer that came in my final bank statement of 1980 told me that in 1981 I would stop going to the bank. This may be old stuff out in the more enlightened precincts, but here in Maine it is the latest effort to get people and banks apart. Well, when I was a boy, Gimlet-Eye Coolidge was president of our local bank, and everything he did was in the other direction. That his left eye shot out toward right field was a cosmetic fault, but it hampered with not in finding investments. His roader did carry a high checkrein and his buggy had patent leather and rubber tires, not improper for a man of Gimlet- Eye's success , but he was folksy and called everybody by a first name. I describe him thus much merely to show that we all saw a chance, and then he would stop in a door- yard and speak in this vein: "Mornin' Zeb, great air! I see your shed needs shingles. Whyn't you come in and I'll let you have the price of a new roof?" In this way the bank prospered, the community was tidy, and Mr. Coolidge was a benefactor. Today I wouldn't know the president of my bank from a hole in the ground, and he is telling me to stay home.
The stuffer says I will get an InstaCard,m which will let me do my banking at grocery stores, filling stations, and just about any place except a bank. Well, I haven't been to my bank, really, in a long, long time. My bank is in Portland , and my only rapport for years has been the regular computerized statements, about as personal as a hemlock clapboard, and the tiresome repetition that it is a member of the FDIC -- the FDIC being a scheme to spare me a loss if said bank turns out to be a crook. It's a way of saying that I needn't worry if they steal my money. I don't go to my bank; I go to a branch of my bank, where Mrs. Monroe is the last faint trace of the personalized friendship that Gimlet-Eye Coolidge fostered. Mrs. Monroe smiles and has a cheerful word, and checks my faulty addition, and I put in or take out in her gracious presence with one last , lingering delusion that my bank has that much heart left. Now, Mrs. Monroe must go her way. I shall miss her. I'm sure the boy who inflates my tires, or the tchick-tchick girl at the Helpy-Selfy Cash Register, will not, truly, take her place. With a bulletproof window between us, Mrs. Monroe and I have had the last fiscal romance before banking goes supermarket.
In addition to an InstaCard,m the stuffer says, I will have a PIN, which turns out to mean Personal Identification Number, which only I and the bank will know. Only I and the bank and the world, because I have to give it to the tradesmen who do my banking. Norm Matheny was saying just lately that now he has to give his SS number if he attends a Capitol flag raising, and it is even so. When social security began (I was there) we had the assurance that our numbers would forever be a secret 'twixt us and Uncle Sam. Not even other departments of the government would know. Since then a Social Security Number is about a secret as a thunderstorm at midnight, and the girl asked me for mine the other afternoon when I bought a pint at flat black enamel and charged it. The passion for numbers peaked when the State o' Maine put them on our driver's licenses. Maine driver licenses never had a number. Just a name and description (mine still says brown, but my head has been gray for years), and we drove all over the place in numerical freedom.
The rent-a-car trade ruined that. Somebody from Maine would go to the airport in Chicago and rent an automobile, and he would have to show his driver's license. Then the girl had a place on the blank to fill in the number of his license. He didn't have any. Gracious! Every other state and nation had numbers! Some boob in our motor vehicle registry fixed that, and now we have numbers. Mine is 3525043, and if I ever get an InstaCardm from my unattended bank, I expect my secret PIN will be no more betwixt me and my bank than the morning weather report on the radio.
Next time I got to my bank, I'm going to tell Mrs. Monroe that I'm on her side, and shall resist the InstaCardm as long as I can. I hope this pleases her, because she has pleased me for sometime. I can't truthfully say the same for my bank.