Slices of Brain

“This card was declined.” He said it quietly, professionally, his tone a mixture of sympathy and inquiry, inquiry to suggest the face-saving possibility that there was some mistake and sympathy because we both know there wasn’t. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this.

I have never been truly financially straightened, but from some muddled circumstances I was not perceptive of as they transpired I have gotten credit far below my means and have passed the meager limits on certain cards. I’ve overdrawn my checking; I’ve missed bill payments. I don’t think of myself as being one of those people; in principle I believe in paying bills in full, on time, from my savings. I have the savings. I don’t scheme to pay bills as late as possible. But I don’t behave the way I believe.

I tried to pay for my routine dental work using my credit-debit card (underwritten by a major credit agency, provided by a bank, arranged by a health care company contracted by my employer) but the card was declined. The card I am supposed to be using now was sitting on my desk in the envelop–activation not permitted when the card actually arrived, and thus set aside for later.

Meanwhile, I also got a form letter from a previous health care provider, contracted by the same employer, inquiring about a check not cashed that was written out to me two years ago. I definitely remember cashing a check of that value, but as far as my records show I had two claims for the same value within six months, and only one deposit. I can’t find any checks amidst my layers of accumulated paperwork, but all I have to do is agree with them that it is still owed.

I still feel like a shmuck for not knowing what is going on.

And that, hour by hour, day by day, is how I feel at my job. You fumble the glass and it tumbles toward the floor–alarm, dread, resignation, a desperate attempt. Telling yourself it doesn’t really matter. Getting angry anyway. The glass, at least, breaks quickly.