Saturday, March 21, 2015

Here's What You Might've Been Missing

Hey kids. It's been a while, I know. I've done a couple book reviews, but it's been a while since I posted those, too. Remember how I said I was starting a new blog somewhere else? Well, it wasn't a lie. Since the beginning of the year, I've been blogging pretty regularly at The Confusing Middle. I won't rehash everything I've done over there, but below you'll find a brief summary along with links to each of those new posts. I just don't want you, the above average Carp Dime reader to believe that I've forgotten about you. For more than 10 years, you've been there to experience my life on a probably uncomfortable level as you laugh and point at my most embarrassing moments. I can't deprive you of my most recent moments, whether or not they're embarrassing is up to you.
I know, that looks like an awful lot, but it's not every day like I once did here at the Carp Dime. Pick and choose which you'd like to read. Any and all of these posts are open for your approval. Stop by and say hello. I've missed you. Even if you're just pretending, it'd be nice to hear you miss me too. Bye for now...

Monday, February 09, 2015

Gone Girl

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Published: 2012

Sometimes, books come along and I have no interest in reading them until I found out just how popular they are. Then the peer pressure gets to me and I have to pick them up. That's how it happened for me with the Harry Potter. Book four in that series was near its release before I first picked up Sorcerer's Stone. With Gone Girl, I had barely registered its existence until the movie was made. The trailers and Jimmy Fallon made me want to see it, but I always like to read the book before seeing a movie, so I can be properly disappointed.

As I write my thoughts on the novel, I can guarantee that there will be spoilers. For those who care to know my spoiler-free thoughts, know that I found Gone Girl to be a good read overall. It was wildly disturbing in a number of parts. Also, I was a little disappointed. To find out why I was disappointed, venture lower into the spoiler-filled review.

This is your last chance...

If you haven't read or seen Gone Girl, you're about to come across some pretty severe plot points...

Are you sure you don't want to go back and check out my review of a much happier book?

Okay... you were warned...

Once a book becomes popular, or when a book is made into a movie, it's hard to avoid hearing or reading about what people think of it, even if they give no specific spoilers. So going into Gone Girl, I knew there would be a huge twist. I was looking for it as I read. And then, about a quarter of the way in, before it was actually revealed, I figured it out.

Amy, the Gone Girl, had done it all herself.

The first part of the book alternates between Nick's narration and Amy's diary entries, which span the course of her relationship and marriage with Nick. But between these two forms of conveying the story, something doesn't quite add up. Amy's diary entries don't match up with the picture Nick's been painting of their relationship. And we quickly discover that Nick isn't being completely honest with the story he tells.

I had to assume that, despite the narrator's tendency to hid the whole truth, he was at least being honest about his innocence. He was made to look guilty by his seeming inability to show emotion. I can sort of relate to that. Not that I found myself feeling sorry for the guy. Nick, we find, doesn't have a lot of redeeming qualities.

That said, I also figured out, pretty quickly, that Amy's diary entries weren't entirely honest either. I have no doubt that two people in a relationship will have different perspectives about how events play out. But Amy's diary read like a work of fiction within the fiction of this story. So what do you do when you can't trust either of your narrators?

I picked the lesser of two evils. I went with Nick, assuming that he genuinely had no clue what happened to Amy. I hope that doesn't make me a misogynist, but it's where my gut went. At about the book's midpoint, I was proven right. Amazing Amy was alive and well, watching her husband's fall from grace as it played out on national television. I'd really love to say I figured this out through brilliant deductive reasoning, but I don't think I'm that smart. I was just prepared for a twist that a lot of people didn't see coming. I asked myself, how could this whodunit be different from all the other formulaic thrillers on the market? I guess that's why I was disappointed. I was just clever enough to figure out the truth before the truth was revealed. Personally, I'd really like to read a book that was just so unpredictable that I had no chance of predicting what would happen.

I was not, however prepared for just how serious a sociopath that Amy would turn out to be. She meticulously planned every move she made. While she couldn't plan for every single contingency, she was pretty spot on with most of it. And in the eyes of her fictional public, she got away with it. It's disturbing to think that there are real people in the world who can think the way she did. At times, I wonder what it says about the authors who create characters like this, planning out every scheme that takes place in the pages of their books.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


Title: Christine
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1983

I've mentioned a number of times that one of my bucket list items is to read every novel written by Stephen King. I've been reading my way through his works based on the order of their publication. This has brought me to one I actually was not looking forward to reading.

I remember seeing the John Carpenter directed film version of Christine back when I was a kid. I was never impressed by the movie, no offense to Mr. Carpenter or the other folks behind the making of the picture. If I'm completely honest, I'm not a big fan of most of John Carpenter's work, except for the original Halloween.

Another reason, I think, that I wasn't in a hurry to read Christine was simply because I'm not a car guy. It's probably a disservice to myself that I don't know more about cars and what makes them run, but it's information I never learned. A lot of guys grow up working on cars with their dads, or maybe that's just a suburban stereotype. But that's just not something I shared with my old man. He wasn't a car guy either. And I think that's probably the first time I've ever referred to him as my old man.

I'd like to say that I loved the book, despite my hesitation in picking it up. As novels go, it wasn't horrible. But as Stephen King novels go, I thought it was kind of weak. Maybe it's because it was about a haunted car. Maybe it's because it didn't take place in Maine, the setting for most of King's work. But The Shining wasn't set in Maine and that book was spectacular. Whatever it was, I just remember wishing that it was already over as I made my way through it.

I have experienced some strange things in my own vehicle since finishing Christine. For more on those bizarre occurrences, check out what I wrote over at The Confusing Middle.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Starting Over

Hey gang. Here's the thing... I've started a new blog.

Now, don't look at me that way. Please, this is hard enough for me. I don't know if I can handle the guilt trip in your eyes. It's not you. It's me...

It really is me. This new blog can be found over at The Confusing Middle. As of this posting, there is only one post to the site. But if you'll stick with me and this slight change of address, you'll still get a great deal of the same sort of content you've come to expect from Carp Dime.

I know that there are 60 of you who are official followers of the blog. And there are 91 people who have taken the time to click the like button on the Carp Dime Facebook page. I don't want you to think that I don't appreciate your attention and comments and likes over the years. Because I do. That being said, Carp Dime won't be going away. At least, not entirely.

You won't find the same regular content that you've found in the past. If you want to keep up with my life and the hilarious anecdotes that I like to occasionally share, then please head over to The Confusing Middle and bookmark the new address. But you can keep coming back here if you want to know my thoughts about books and movies. And if you've enjoyed my attempts at fiction in the past, this is where I'll continue to spin those yarns. No telling how often that will happen, but that's the current plan.

So stick with me. The last 10 years have been fun. The next 10 should be too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ten Years Ago...

Ladies. Gentlemen. Carp Dimers of all ages. Welcome to my tenth anniversary blog post.

Ten years ago today, I wrote my very first blog post on what used to be called "The Single Guy." That very first blog post was called Self-Titled Debut and it was about my life at that point, as a single man at age 24. I guess, in the last decade, not much has changed. Then again, maybe a lot has changed.

I'm not sure how to go about writing this anniversary post. In fact, as sporadic as my blogging has been in recent months, I almost missed it. I've known all year that December would represent 10 years of blogging, but I didn't realize the exact date until I happened to look yesterday when I went on a rant after a difficult day at work.

So I ask you to forgive me for not knowing how to properly celebrate 10 years as a completely non-famous internet personality. 10 years in review could get monotonous and boring. Making plans for the future of Carp Dime would probably be filled with empty promises that I might not keep. And giveaways could become expensive. Maybe I could cover all the bases...

Like I said, not much has changed. I'm still single. And if you're a long-time reader, you probably know why. If you're a long-time reader and are at all insightful, it's possible you know better than I do why I'm still single. I'd almost like to say that I've loved and lost, but we all know that's not the truth. But a lot is different, too. My dad passed away. I moved to North Carolina. I began and dropped out of seminary. I worked for a bank in a job that I hated with the fiery vengeance of a thousand suns. I dropped out of church. I moved back to Virginia. I found a job that I could actually love that I ended up hating. I found a job that I had no idea I could love as much as I do. I dropped back into church. I've been to weddings. I've witnessed divorces. I've attended funerals. I've seen friends become parents. If my life were written into a novel, I could question my character's growth over time, but I certainly can't say that I haven't experienced a lot in the last decade.

Ah, yes... promises I don't intend to keep. I've done it before. "I'll blog every single day!" Well, I did keep that promise for a while. For maybe a year or two, I blogged each day. It wasn't always literary awesomeness, but it was at least something. Lately, I'm not sure I could follow through with posting something once a week if I made that claim. "I'm gonna start a video blog!" Yeah, that never happened. I thought it would be a good idea to utilize the webcam on my laptop and start making videos for the blog. I went so far as to buy some decent editing software which, as it turned out, was not compatible with recordings made on a webcam. Should've read the fine print on that one. So that idea fizzled. Just another YouTube channel with nothing on. "I'm gonna move my blog from Blogger to WordPress." Okay, that might still happen at some point. Jeff has been trying to get me to make that switch for as long as he's known I had this blog. There's really no reason for me not to do it, other than just taking the time to do it. I'll have some time off during Christmas, so maybe that's something I can finally get around to. No promises. But if I were to do such a thing, I think I might just start a new blog. I'd keep the old Carp Dime running, maybe get back to writing some of that fiction that I used to enjoy. And I'd probably use the new blog to rehash some of the old things I've written about on here. I don't know, we'll see.

I look at that word and almost think, What's the point? The last giveaway I did had hardly any real participation from people. I think a handful of readers actually made an effort to get involved with the contest. Which is usually the case when I try to do something fun like that. I'm lucky if I can have 10 people take part in something on the blog. Usually it's more like 5. Or less. And since one of my friends is the one that actually won that last giveaway, I've completely slacked on getting his prizes to him. Not that he's mentioned it, even though I've seen him twice since he won. Though I was really thinking it could be fun to have a 10 Year Anniversary Giveaway. The prizes would be things from 10 years ago. Shrek 2 was the highest grossing film that year, I could give that away on DVD or Bluray. In music, Usher had a big year, spending 28 out of 52 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, I could give away his "Confessions" CD, assuming anyone still has a device with which they can play a CD. Likewise, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code spent 28 weeks at the top of the New York Times Best-Seller List in 2004, I could give away a copy of that. Maybe I could give away all three to one lucky individual. Anyone interested in that? Tell you what, if 10 people leave comments on this page, not Facebook or Google+, but tacked to the bottom of this very blog post, letting me know that you want me to do a giveaway like this, then I'll do it. Otherwise, we'll let the tenth anniversary go by as if it was just another day.

So here's to 10 years. Feel free to peruse any of my 2,067 previous posts at your leisure. Stay tuned for more to come in the next 10 years. Maybe not on a daily basis, but you'll still get some stuff every now and then.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Rant Against Can't

I think that the word "can't" may be one of the most damaging words in the English language.* Every single day, while I'm wearing my counselor hat, I find myself surrounded by small children who make the claim that they can't do something. 99.9% of the time, the issue isn't that they can't. It's that they don't want to.

Say there's a math review worksheet that an entire class has completed, save for one kid. The operative word there is review. That means it's something that's not only been taught, but it's something that these kids have practiced repeatedly for weeks. And then that one kid claims he can't do the work. He keeps up the act so long that he misses out on his recess time, then he pouts because all his friends are having fun but he's not. Yet he still refuses to finish his review, still claiming he can't do it.

Can't should be removed from our vocabulary. So many times people state unequivocally that they can't do something when they don't even try. Not trying could stem from a number of things. Could be laziness. Could be boredom with the task. Could simply be that they just don't care. Whatever the case, don't tell me you can't do it. Tell me you don't want to do it. That, at least, would be honest.

I know that can't is a very helpful descriptor of things we aren't allowed to do. "You can't play in the middle of the road!" "You can't fly if you jump off the balcony!" "You can't watch TV for 24 hours straight!" Parents use it all the time and with good reason. They want to teach their children what is acceptable behavior. But in using the contraction of cannot, those kids are learning a quick and easy way to get out of doing things they don't want to do.

I suggest a simple rewording. "Sure, you can play in the middle of the road. If you want to get hit by a car." "You can jump off the balcony if you want to get hurt, but human flight without machinery is physically impossible." "Look, you aren't allowed to watch TV for 24 hours straight. Because I said so, that's why."

On the flip side, I've known parents who tell kids they can't do something because they blatantly want to hold them back from experiencing something profound. I'm not saying that a parent that does this is either a good parent or a bad parent. But I present you with a line from Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness: "Don't ever let somebody tell you you can't do something... You got a dream, you've gotta protect it. People can't do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want something, go get it. Period."

We can't simply remove can't from our language. It's not that easy. It's just a frustrating thing to deal with day after day when potentially brilliant children stifle themselves by claiming that they can't do things. I say potentially because there's no way of knowing exactly how brilliant these kids are if they aren't willing to do anything in the first place. If you're a parent or have a job having anything to do with children on a regular basis, please, do not allow them to hold themselves back with can't. And do not allow others to hold them back with can't either.

*I'll admit that there are possibly a great many other words in the English language that are as bad or worse than "can't," but I'm kind of angry about it right now, so that's what we're dealing with. Deal with it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

New Tales from Old Navy: A Missed Opportunity

If you've ever worked retail, you've probably had that fantasy of telling a particularly difficult customer exactly what you were thinking. In real life and in civilized society, it just isn't logical to let fly all of our honest opinions. The person at the cash register often needs to hold his or her tongue in favor of holding down a job. But there are rare occasions where one has the opportunity to say what needs to be said without fear of retaliation or job loss.

A few weeks ago, I got a message from one of my former managers at Old Navy. She was asking if I would be willing to come around and help out on Black Friday. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last 20 years, Black Friday is the annual sales event that takes place the day after Thanksgiving. It's that magical day where stores slash prices and people become the absolute worst versions of themselves in order to get a good deal. Its origins are mythic. No one truly knows when Black Friday first began. My theory is that it began when a panicked single mother beat a frantic father of three with the last Tickle Me Elmo in existence.

Anyway, Black Friday is, traditionally, a crazy busy day in retail. Everyone who forgot that you can still walk into buildings and buy things comes out of the woodwork and decides to spend money. Old Navy is not immune to this phenomenon. I don't want to say that my former employers were desperate for extra help, but they made it difficult for me to say no. "We won't make you go back through orientation," they said. "You can have whatever shift you want," they said. "You can do whatever job you want while you're here," they said. "If you just want to stand around and sing Christmas carols, you can," they said. Who could turn that down?

The way I figured, there wasn't a whole lot going on for my personal Thanksgiving weekend. Now, I had entertained the notion of doing nothing on Black Friday for the first time in years. After all, I quit working at Old Navy back in May. That meant I was no longer in retail. But they seemed to think I did a decent job when I was working there and I seem to have been missed. I had no plans for Friday, so I thought, why not? It's nine hours of my day and I'll get some extra money out of it. Oh, and the powers that be provided free food and beverage for the break times. Not too shabby.

I woke up early Friday morning and got ready to head over to the mall area. I wasn't due in until 9am, but figured I should leave earlier than necessary, what with the Black Friday traffic and all. Turns out that was an unnecessary precaution. All those early bird shoppers must have gotten started on Thursday evening, which is apparently when Black Friday officially begins these days. I assumed I would need to park pretty far away from Old Navy's main entrance. Turns out I was able to park in the same place I used to park on a usual evening of work.

When I walked into the store, I looked around and questioned if it was even Black Friday. It was no busier in there than it would be on a typical Saturday. Granted, it was Friday, so it was busy for a Friday morning at 8:30. But it was atypical for Black Friday. I found out that there were a lot of customers when the store opened Thursday evening, but was fairly dead overnight. I would later find out that the people would come in waves.

I spent my day moving between the sales floor and the cash register. Mostly, it seemed that I was there to cover lunch breaks for people at the registers. At first I was a little nervous that I wouldn't remember everything I needed to know to work the system. Turns out it was like falling off a bike. While I certainly didn't mind running a register from time to time throughout the day (constantly checking people out made the time fly), I was a little surprised I wasn't put in the fitting room. In my Old Navy days, I was the King of the Fitting Room. I know, I gave myself that title, but that doesn't mean it wasn't true.

You come across some interesting people when you're working a cash register on Black Friday. And remember how I mentioned at the start of this post that it would be nice to say what you're really thinking to customers as you're working retail? Well, I'd like to tell you that I unbridled my tongue and spewed forth my brand of brutal honesty. It would have been a perfect opportunity, right? Could I have been fired for offending a couple of customers when I was only hired to work one day? Probably, but would it have really mattered? The way I saw it, they came to me about working on Friday. Sure seemed like they needed me more than I needed them.

Sidebar: I say that, but I really do like the people I worked for and with at Old Navy. Which is probably why I didn't offer my honest opinion to the few customers that may have deserved a dose of truth.

I made small talk with a woman who talked about starting her shopping on Thursday evening. Then she complained about stores opening on Thanksgiving. "I hate that you all open on Thanksgiving now!" The response in my mind: "Then why do you go shopping on Thanksgiving?! If you morons would stop showing up at the stores that open on Thanksgiving, guess what? They'd stop opening on Thanksgiving! Supply and demand!" I smiled and nodded while ringing up her jeans.

Then there was the elderly man who was making several returns. I thought it odd that he wasn't buying anything. He just made a special trip to Old Navy on Black Friday to return two shirts and a pair of slacks. So picture it, he waited in a long line, just to return these clothes. When he finally got to the front of the line, he was lucky enough to find me without a customer. Maybe I was the lucky one. He was ill prepared for anything that was going on. He handed me a bag with the items to be returned. Also in the bag was an invoice for an online purchase... from another store. Meanwhile, he's digging through an envelope full of various receipts. He finally hands me a receipt and it doesn't contain any of the three items he's brought to return. He raises his voice and begins telling me that he bought these things around the same time that he bought what was on the receipt. Also, he used his Old Navy credit card, so the account number should be on the receipt too. He must not be aware that account numbers are blocked out, aside from the last four numbers, for the customer's financial protection. But knowing how irate he was becoming, I thought it best not to point out his stupidity.

I called a manager over to help me out with the situation. I knew I could look up his credit card information and I even remembered how to do this after all these months. I guess I just wanted a witness to make sure I wasn't doing anything that would be construed as inappropriate when it comes to customer service. It's best to have witnesses when dealing with difficult customers. Anyway, we asked this old-timer to input his social security number so we could look up his account. He typed it in wrong. We asked again, politely, failing to mention that the number he previously entered was invalid, and he yelled that he already did. He finally figured out how to work the keypad and we got everything figured out for him. He left in a huff with the money back on his credit card and the clothes in our possession. I don't know why he was so angry. Maybe he was mad because he forgot it was Black Friday. Maybe he was mad because he had to wait in line too long and his adult diaper was full because he crapped in his pants. Maybe his ancient status had nothing to do with it because some people are jerks from childhood on. Who knows? The point is, I again held my tongue. I was polite to this guy, but I pointed out to the manager that I really didn't have to be. And I'm sure she was thinking a lot of the same unpleasant thoughts that I was thinking.

I could go on and on about the Black Friday customers. But this post has already become a lot longer than I intended for it to be. Guess I'm making up for not writing anything on here for the last month. I end with this advice: be kind to your customer service representatives, no matter what they call themselves or what store they work for. I can almost guarantee that, if you're not, they'll be thinking some not so nice things and talking about you behind your back once you're gone.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Title: Cujo 
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1981

Judging by the last time I used the "Read Anything Good Lately" tag on the blog, one would assume I had not picked up a book since December of 2012. Maybe I figured, if the Mayans were right about the end of the world, why read anymore?

Let me assure you, I have continued to read. I'm still literate. There are many books that I've read in the last two years that I just haven't chosen to share on the blog. Not that I'm ashamed of having read those books. Except maybe for Pride & Prejudice. Try as I might, I can't erase that one from my memory. You can keep your Jane Austen.

I was willing to continue keeping my thoughts to myself when it comes to what I've read. But then I came across the Cujo book. As I've mentioned before, one of my bucket list items is to read everything written by Stephen King. Kind of a tall order since the guy's written about 90 thousand books. And he's not stopping. People have talked a lot about Under the Dome, which was published just a few years ago. Keep your pants on, people! I'm still a long way from that one. Because my plan is to read his novels in publication order.

So anyway, Cujo... Being first published in 1981, it's a little dated. For those of you who are unaware, the book is about a dog who is bitten by a rabid bat and, therefore, becomes rabid himself. Due to a series of unfortunate events, Cujo goes on something of a mad killing spree. There are a lot of tiny little coincidences that seem to happen which place the main characters, Donna Trenton and her son Tad, in a stalled car in Cujo's front yard. They end up trapped there for several of the hottest days on record while Cujo waits for them to exit their nonworking vehicle.

As I made my way through the book, I couldn't help but wonder, could something like this still happen? Now, I'm not aware of anything like this actually happening in real life. I don't recall ever hearing any news stories growing up about a rabid dog that killed several people while leaving a mother and child to starve and dehydrate in their car. But that doesn't mean that Stephen King did not paint a realistic picture of a monstrous St. Bernard and the circumstances which allowed for Donna and Tad to be trapped in the summer of 1981. But could King write the same story set in a modern world?

Here we are, 33 years later, and a lot has changed. Cars still have problems. That's not something that's likely to ever change. In 1981, Vic, Donna's husband, suggested taking the car to a local guy who could fix the carburetor for a reasonable price. Joe Camber lived just outside of town, not too far away when compared to the dealership that was the next town over. In 2014, I have no doubt that there are still guys like that. Guys that set up shop in their own personal garages outside the town limits and cut deals with people to fix up their cars for them. So, yeah, that could still happen.

In 1981, Vic left his wife and son to go on an emergency business trip. He was traveling from their home in Maine down to Boston and then to New York City to try and save his small advertising firm when their one big account has some serious PR issues. In 2014, emergency business trips come up all the time, I'm sure. But back then, Vic had to worry about long distance charges when he wanted to call and check up on his family. And when you're worried that your business is about to go under, you're watching every dime you spend. These days, no one deals with long distance, unless you're talking about calling another country. In the book, when Vic waited a few days to call Donna, it was understandable. In 2014, he'd have called as soon as his plane touched down, just to let her know he arrived in Boston all right.

That brings me to another advance in technology: cell phones. Everyone's got one now. I'm sure 4-year-old Tad would even have one, if only to play Angry Birds to keep him occupied once in a while. But even in 2014, you can't always find a signal for your phone. If Donna takes her car out to some guy's personal garage, there's no guarantee she'll have good reception. And then, once her car is completely dead, she has no way to recharge her phone once the battery dies.

You don't often hear about cases of rabies these days. But when they occur, it's usually serious enough to make the local news. I think the events of Cujo would be less likely to happen at this point in the 21st century than they were in the early 80s, but they could still happen. The only real difference would be the long distance thing. Vic would have called and become somewhat panicked a little sooner. He would have gotten the police involved more quickly and it's very likely that Tad wouldn't have died of dehydration. I'm kidding, Stephen King wouldn't kill off a 4-year-old kid. Or would he?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Legends of the Bank Customer

Before I get into the meat of this here blog post, I'd like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to the corporate powers that be at Bank of America. You have proven the ability to run your business like a great lot of morons.

Look, I've been out of the banking game for a few years now. I am extremely grateful for that turn of events, by the way. That said, I'm not completely sure just how things are going with the larger banks in America. Sure, I watch the news, but I kind of tune out when they talk about financial things. The economy kind of sucks. That's about all I feel I need to know about it.

I've been a customer of Bank of America for nearly 10 years. When I left Bluefield after college, I decided it would be a good idea to have my accounts with a bank that could be found just about anywhere in the country. After all, at the time, I had no idea where I would land on my feet. At the time, I was in Roanoke, but I was fairly certain that's not where I would plant my roots. Here we are, all these years later, and I'm still not sure where those roots will take root.

I seem to recall the Bank of America taking a government bailout back when all those other ginormous corporations were taking bailouts. It was a trendy thing to do toward the end of the last decade. Or was it the beginning of this decade? I can't keep up. The economy sucks. It's sucked for a while. That's about all I feel I need to know about it.

From what I gather, Bank of America isn't doing so swell these days. Locally, they sold off many of their branches to other, smaller banks. On the plus side, they made this move to save the jobs of countless tellers and branch managers, probably all over the country. It's good that these hardworking people are not forced to find new jobs. If they enjoy their banking positions, I hope they continue to enjoy them with their new employers and that their transition is smooth.

But there hasn't been much of a plus side for me. The switch from a large, national bank to a smallish, community bank has been rocky at best. I want to be optimistic, I really do. But voluntarily switching banks is a pain. Doing it involuntarily is more so.

Several weeks ago, I was provided with information letting me know that yesterday would be the final day for me to use my Bank of America account. To my understanding, this meant that October 24 would be the end of online banking, debit card, checking account, and savings account as I knew them. And then, a few days ago, I received more information letting me know that I would have full access to the new bank's online system on Monday, October 27. So what do I do in the meantime? Well, it's a safe bet that I won't have to worry about any fluctuations in my account balances during this weekend, because I have no access to my money.

Earlier this week, I received my new debit card in the mail. In a separate envelope, I received my new PIN. Yesterday, knowing that my Bank of America account would no longer exist, I thought it would be a good idea to activate my new card, in the hopes that I would still have access to my money, in case I needed it for frivolous purchases like gas or food. But then I noticed the sticker on the card. You know, the one that usually has a number to call for activation? Yeah, it informed me that I needed to use the ATM and enter my new PIN in order to activate my new card. No big deal, right? I just planned to go by the newly rebranded local branch to use the newly rebranded ATM. But as I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that a number of very official men were busy installing those newly rebranded ATMs.

So much for activating my new card to have access to my money. Then I thought I'd just go inside the branch to see if I could make a withdrawal. If I can't use my card, maybe I can just have some extra cash on hand for frivolous purchases like gas or food. As I parked the car, I noticed the hand written sign that said they would reopen on Monday at 9. Awesome.

As of this afternoon, I had not cut up my old debit card yet. I thought it would be worth a shot to see if I could still use the old thing. Just in case I needed to access my money for frivolous purchases like gas or food. But I quickly discovered in the self checkout line at the Kroger that my card is no longer active. So I drove home empty handed, with no gas or food.

On a different day than the arrival of my brand new, useless debit card, I received a very large package full of personal checks. Like a lot of people of my generation, I very rarely write a check. On a regular basis, I write two checks per month. My new bank sent me approximately 3,262 checks with name and current address in the upper left hand corner. I never asked for these checks, but I assume they were free. I'll never use them all, but here they are. I assumed that a personal check would be my last good chance at having access to the money that's lost in some limbo between two banks.

I grabbed the first of my 3,262 checks and went back to Kroger. I waited in line at the customer service desk and finally got my chance to ask if I could cash a personal check. "I'm sorry," said the customer service lady, "We can only cash preprinted payroll checks." Again... awesome. And if my experience working in retail is any indicator, a lot of places don't accept personal checks anymore anyway. So why try?

Are you keeping track of this epic banking failure? I cannot access online banking. I cannot use my debit card to make purchases. I cannot activate my new debit card because the new ATM at my new bank is not yet working. I cannot cash a personal check. I'm not broke, but I'm kind of broke. Until Monday at 9am.

I'm so glad I'm able to embark on this banking adventure. I'm hoping the excitement will continue with some random emails from companies that normally receive regular payments that come automatically from my checking account letting me know that they did not receive their regular payments this month and that I'll be expected to give them a little extra because I missed my payments. A bonus would be if I have to call those companies to let them know I still can't access my accounts via the internet, debit card, or personal check.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Three Shades of Gray

I guess I need to come up with new aliases for my friends when I write about them on the blog. The Charlatan hasn't lived in Charlotte for years. Subway hasn't actually been a sandwich artist for will over a decade. And, as of this past weekend, the Other Single Guy isn't single anymore

Mark married Peyton in the sanctuary of Second Baptist Church on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Candles were lit, songs were sung, vows were spoken... spake? Spoken... yeah. The happy couple got hitched without a hitch. The only obvious hiccup involved several suits worn by the groomsmen.

All the suits fit just fine, so that's probably the most important thing. However, mine was two shades darker than Mark's. Andy's was somewhere in the middle. I'm not sure what the big deal about having multiple shades of gray is. Maybe it's more exciting when you have fifty instead of just three.

Thankfully, it turned out to be not so big a deal. None of the guests laughed or made inappropriate comments when the groomsmen walked in. The bride didn't call off the whole thing when she saw darker suits thrown in amongst the guys.

No, it was a beautiful ceremony and I only nearly passed out twice. I knew not to lock my knees, but that didn't stop me from swaying. I'm sure the swaying wasn't too noticeable, but I felt like a skyscraper moving back and forth in strong sustained winds. If I'm ever in another wedding, remind me not to wear brand new shoes. By the time the groom was given permission to kiss the bride, I had so many multiple blisters.

"You know, it's gonna be coming at you from all sides now," said Andy as we drove around Richmond the morning before the wedding. He was referring to the increased possibility that my friends would try to set me up with a plethora of single women. This is the obvious result of being the last remaining single guy among our circle of friends. Personally, I'm banking on the fact that these guys have been all talk over the last ten years and have still not attempted to start playing "Have You Met Aaron?"

Mark, Brandon, and Andy all collectively talked to me about the virtues of one of Peyton's bridesmaids. I'm not a big fan of the set up, so I tried to talk them down. Knowing my friends' tenacity once they've made up their minds, I was prepared for some clever move on their part. Yet I find it interesting that none of them so much as introduced me to the woman in question. See? All talk.

I'm okay with that. I can't lie and say that the thought of being the last single guy didn't loom over my thoughts a bit throughout the weekend. But here's the thing, I keep busy. I may not see these fellow Bluefield alumni as often as I'd like, but that doesn't mean I don't have other friends. Shocking, I know. I have two jobs that keep me pretty well occupied and am about to start taking classes toward becoming a teacher. So maybe dating just shouldn't be an option right now.

Aw... who am I kidding?