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?