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
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.