Monday, October 21, 2013

My mother's irrational fear of ATM cards...

First thing's first.  Facebook seems to be fucked up this morning, so I can't waste time with that right now.  I may blog a few times today and even get some housework done.

A comment I made on Alexis's blog yesterday brought yet another memory from the past flooding back.  It was the fall of 1990 and I was a freshman at what is now Longwood University.  My mom and dad had helped me move into my dorm and my mom took me into downtown Farmville (which you could easily walk to from campus) to set up my very first checking account.  Though I'd had jobs when I was in high school, I never had a checking account until I was in college.  In fact, I never had a savings account, either.  My mom, bless her heart,  couldn't be bothered to nag me to get one and being a dumb teen, it never occurred to me.

At 18, I was blissfully uneducated about finance, though I was ultimately pretty good about not overdrawing my account.  My mom, having come of age at a time when all banking was done in person, did not know anything about automatic teller machines.  In fact, I doubt she has EVER used one, even today.  Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time I used one, either; but that's beside the point.

Anyway, there we were sitting at a desk at the bank and the lady asked me about whether or not I wanted an ATM card.  My mom, apparently thinking that an ATM card is the same thing as a credit card, piped up that she didn't want me to have an ATM card.  The lady who was helping us didn't bother to correct her and I was too dumb to comment, so we left the bank with a checking account and no ATM card.

For some reason, I never bothered to get an ATM card the whole four years I was in school.  Consequently, whenever I needed cash, I had to get it at a local convenience store called Par-Bil's.  Par-Bil's has since gone out of business, but for many years, it was THE place Longwood students went for beer, candy, and disgusting hot dogs (which I never tasted but heard were deadly).  It was located just across the street from campus, next to Pino's Italian restaurant and, I think, a laundromat.  The years have clouded my memory somewhat.

Par-Bil's would let you write a check for over the amount of your purchase.  Of course, I'd always end up buying crap I didn't need and that ultimately became like an outrageous ATM fee that gave me a bigger ass.  It was usually candy or soda I was buying, not useful stuff...  not that Par-Bil's actually sold a lot of useful stuff.

The guy that ran the store was quite a character.  He used to banter with the students and yes, a lot of them got into trouble for bouncing checks at his store, which sold lots of beer and horrible, cheap wine like Cisco and Mad Dog 20/20... or other *odd* drinks like Purple Passion or Crazy Horse Malt Liquor. On a Friday or Saturday night, it was a sure bet that Par-Bil's was doing brisk business selling alcohol... sometimes to minors.  There were times when I wondered if the guy wasn't drunk or high on something, but he was always friendly and his store, nasty as it was, had character.  It remains quite the colorful memory of my college days.

I took voice lessons when I was in college and always had to pay my accompanists in cash.  I'm sure they were paid in cash for several reasons...  college students were notoriously bad about bouncing checks and if you are just an accompanist, it's hard to charge a returned check fee...  Getting paid in cash made it harder to trace income, which meant a cheaper tax bill...  Getting paid in cash meant less trips to the bank.  So every month, I would trudge over to Par-Bil's to get money for my piano player.  I would also go there when I had a midnight snack attack... or when I wanted money to play video games in the student union.  Who uses checks anymore, though?  I mean, I probably write one or two a year when I used to go through a whole box of them.

I remember in those days, I also didn't have a car...  not until my senior year, anyway.  So I usually had to walk to most places.  Fortunately, Farmville is a very compact place and walking to many places was very doable.  They also had a bus that we college students referred to as the FART (Farmville Area Rapid Transit).  I finally got a Discover credit card toward the last couple of months of college.  I didn't keep it for long, though, because it was a ripoff.

Looking back, I realize it was a simpler time.  I cherish those memories now, though I did sort of stay naive longer because I went to school there.  Had I gone to a school in a bigger town, I probably would have gotten an ATM card and a car... and, for that matter, a JOB!  And I probably wouldn't have lived in a dormitory for four years.  However, I also probably wouldn't be Facebooking with former professors, either... including one who used to be my accompanist and for whom I had to visit Par-Bil's in order to get cash.  So, I guess those memories are worth it, even if it would have been cheaper, easier, and much more convenient to get an ATM card, despite my mother's irrational fears.  

Every time I think of Par-Bil's, I think of this song...


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