It all began…
In that uncertain time between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent, before the juggernaut of December really takes off. A few friends and I decided to get together for a quiet drink after work. It was great, with everyone talking and laughing together and everything was going well until I decided to pay for a round. And realized my ATM card wasn’t in my wallet. Or my purse.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I occasionally misplace things, so I tried not to panic. I just paid for the drinks (using most of my cash) and excused myself to look for the card. I still didn’t panic as I researched first my wallet, then my purse, and finally my Jeep for the card. Then, I went home and searched the house while I checked my bank balance. And that’s when I hit “Red Alert”.
See, almost all the day-to-day funds in our joint checking account had disappeared. The Grocery money. The Light Bill cash. The payment on my husband’s dental bill. Entire paychecks worth of cash vanished from sight, like Brigadoon, or Judge Crater. I killed my cash card with a phone call and cried.
When I showed up, still panicked, at my bank the next day (the minute they unlocked the doors) the bankers there were sympathetic. Yes, they could make sure my missing ATM card was dead and yes, they’d help me with the identity theft claim. A teller and I pulled up all the account transactions to figure out which we’d need to dispute and that’s when I saw how my money (literally) took flight.
Where did it go??
First, there was the airline ticket. “Was that you?” the bank representative asked. No, I haven’t flown since 2016 and I haven’t bought a ticket since then. Then there was the charge for the Empire State Building Observation Deck ($102.00!) and something called Statue Cruises. And then there was an admission to MMA, which turned out to be the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met? My money went to New York?
I don’t know whether the Bank’s service representative or I was the more stunned. “Well, on the one hand, these charges obviously weren’t made by you.” the banker lady said. “You’re here in Alabama, not New York. Still…” “I know,” I said, looking at the computer screen. “Someone’s taking a cool trip through the City.
In fact, if the thief had thrown in theatre tickets, that’s a trip I would have loved to take. It’s the trip I’ve been dreaming of (and putting off) for decades because I couldn’t afford it. Along with the panic and anger, I felt, I began to get downright envious. The Empire State Building? The Museum of Modern Art? These were places I’d wanted to see. Someone out there has lousy morals, but their taste is not all that bad. The only problem was they were getting their culture with money my husband and I had earned!
I found out some things because of that theft. I learned that banks have to deal with this a lot. And that some bankers are really nice. I’ve learned that the police are careful about jurisdiction. I had to drive to four separate stations before I found the one able and willing to take my report. It’s been a royal mess getting the checking account straightened out and protecting the rest of my financial identity. But this crystallized a resolve in me.
I’m not putting off the chance to see New York anymore; I’m going there myself, and soon. No longer am I content to imagine being there while by looking at TV or Google Earth. It’s time I saw those streets for myself. There isn’t enough time or money enough to do everything. But I will see something of that fabled place, and listen to that cacophony of sound. See, I don’t mind my money going to New York. But this time, I’m taking it there.