A thick envelope arrived today from the banking corporation that owns our house. The contents of the envelope were a Notice of Pre-Foreclosure Options, which consisted of a list of my rights, some options I might consider with my housing counselor such as a “workout” plan, short sale of the property, & cet., and a detailed description of what would happen if I did not respond within 30 days.

This was not a notice that the bank had not received payment and foreclosure was a potential result. My awareness of all that was assumed, as was my intention to default. This was a droll recital of the things I needed to know to navigate the firestorm of banking protocol that awaited me down the road. It reminded me somewhat of the swift and terrible action with which the French used to respond to perceived insubordination in its colonies and Overseas Departments. I felt like some clerk in Mayotte who had neglected to append the proper schedules to a payroll report and was now looking down the 8-inch gunbarrels of a man-o-war out in the harbor.

Boots, even now, were on the ground.

I’m glad this communication did not arrive a week ago, because I would not have had any idea what it was about and might have panicked. As it happens, a swirl of incomplete, subconscious thoughts and misgivings had been nagging at me and had coalesced a few days ago into a prickling uneasiness in my forehead centered around the twin facts that 1) I found a bunch of last month’s bills that did not have the usual scribbles on them indicating that I had paid them and 2) I had noticed that the balance in our checking account was unusually high; high, in fact, by about the amount of a month’s worth of bills.


I checked our accounts online and could find no record that I had paid those bills. Online, yes. I joined the twenty-first century — actually the twentieth century — a few months ago when we fled Chase Manhattan during the Fee Pogroms. And therein lies the root of this gross oversight, I’m sure. I used to track everything in a paper booklet called an account register, but as it became apparent how easy it was to just check balances and transactions online I gradually grew slackalaizical about the register, and also about scribbling dates on paid bills. People had always laughed at me for writing and mailing checks, but it was a system that worked. The bills were collected on the hutch in the dining room until once a month I opened them and recycled the crap ads in search of the remittance slips, wrote the checks, noted the amounts in the register, appended stamps to the envelopes, wrote PAID on the invoices, and then took them downstairs to our home-office to be filed for a few months just in case, and mailed the bills the next day. If the bills were there on the hutch, it meant they hadn’t been paid. If they’d been paid, they were gone. I never bumped into a stack of bills whose status was unknown to me. I never just forgot to pay my bills.

Actually, I had noticed the elevated balance in our account weeks ago and the thought had pinged off my scalp that “hey, I wonder if I didn’t pay the bills last month”, but, I further reasoned, what kind of a moron would you have to be to completely miss paying your monthly bills? and then, too, I would have expected to have heard something by now from one or more of my creditors. I mean, wouldn’t they be curious?

Dear Mr. F–

It is my unpleasant task to admit the embarrassing fact that we here at Stalwart Savings and Loan are unable to locate your mortgage payment for July. We have overturned our offices in search of your usual check but cannot lay our hands on it. I know you are well aware of the importance of timely remittance, which knowledge compels me to contact you immediately to make enquiry as to a possible solution to this conundrum.

Of course we assume that payment was your intention, and can only wonder if in the sleep-deprived chaos of your second child’s first year (congratulations once again, and we hope you enjoyed the preserves, which were put up by the president’s wife with fruit from their own yard) you perhaps wrote the check but forgot to mail it, or perhaps the stamped and addressed envelope slipped down behind the credenza. If you would double-check we would be most grateful.

For we know that you have been a customer in good standing for many years and, if I may put it so, “a straight ahead fellow”, and we are eager to put this matter to rest as soon as possible. Please feel free to call me or stop by the bank at your convenience if there is anything at all I can do, and in the event that some impediment to making full payments has arisen for you, I am sure that we can work out a reasonable solution satisfactory to all parties. Also, it should go without saying that if payment has been remitted you may disregard this letter and join us in considering the matter closed.

I look forward to hearing from you and remain

Yours aff’ly,

Hiram C. Honeywell
Vice President of Accounts
Stalwart Savings and Loan

P.S. On a personal note, we hope to see your brood at the Cow Chip Cookie Eating Contest and BBQ during Pioneer Days next week.

Apparently, this bank is not curious, nor does it send out letters making polite enquiry into the whereabouts of its money. It sends notices like the one I received today notifying me that my annihilation as a homeowner is imminent. The combination of my non-payment and a certain time period have reacted chemically to trigger the fiduciary equivalent of a thermonuclear event, which can now only be aborted through swift action and consultation with experts.

I miss the world of humans. I’d like to tell them that the check is in the mail, but it’s not. There is no check. I entered the amounts, including the late penalty fee, in the online form and clicked Make Payments. Funds are being transferred electronically and automatically. Sometime soon. I hope.


7 Responses to “Debankle”

  1. 1 Janet August 3, 2011 at 16:13

    I’ll double click on liking this post. I am old fashioned and wary of the electronic payment system. I hope you get everything sorted out without losing too much sleep over the debacle. And if you are awake with worry in the wee small hours maybe that missing blog will come back to you – or maybe this was it!

    • 2 Matt August 4, 2011 at 08:28

      I spent an hour on the phone with the bank yesterday, but that’s a whole post in itself. It was like being in a Kafka novel.

  2. 3 Karla August 3, 2011 at 19:26

    This sounds like a skit from Monty Python! (Especially the part about the preserves from the president’s wife. I could hear John Cleese reading your letter in my head.)
    If I received that kind of notice, I’d need a triple by-pass to recover. Hope you get a more human response in the future.

    • 4 Matt August 4, 2011 at 08:32

      I hope you never receive such a notice. Parenting is difficult enoo’ without bypass surgery. I thought the preserves would add that touch of the down-home little America that so many of us continue to believe we live in and which we really don’t.

  3. 5 Louis August 9, 2011 at 11:16

    I too pay my bills online. And I find for myself procrastination gets in the way of being punctual. As it can be so quick and easy to pay one’s bills online, I often will look at the stack on my desk and say to myself, “I can do that later…” (Whereas I was more diligent when I had to write a check and mail payment) I will repeat this ritual many times throughout the course of a couple of weeks before I actually sit down and pay the bills. This has resulted in a few small late fees, I’m ashamed to say.

    I wonder if the bank’s “grim reaper” attitude towards notifying home owners of late payments isn’t a reflection of the current economic climate where many folks are struggling to make their mortgages?….

    • 6 Matt August 9, 2011 at 20:44

      I love how your casual glance at the stack and saying you can do that later is a “ritual”. Procrastination as liturgy. I like it. Also I’m sure you’re right about the economic climate having a lot to do with the automatic generation of notices like this. They probably figure just cut to the chase. You could argue it was refreshingly candid.

  1. 1 Bubblemailed « Just Wondering Trackback on November 8, 2011 at 21:46

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