Check this! Check that! Checking out!

At a time in my life when I could use a little extra financial stability, a check arrived in the mail.

Any time you get a check and not a bill, that’s a bonus, especially during these troubled times. What was it, a stock dividend? A gift from a rich relative? An inheritance perhaps?

I ripped opened the envelope and fell to the chair. Were my eyes deceiving me or was this some company’s idea of a joke?

It was sent from a communications firm in Pittsburgh represented by Bank of New York Mellon, payable in U.S. dollars. Total amount—26 cents.

According to my calculations, it must have cost this company hundreds of dollars to send out this check, considering all the paperwork from high-salaried employees still left on the rolls. The postage alone was greater than the remittance.

Now here’s my dilemma. Do I rush down to the bank to cash this? Or do I stick it in a drawer and wait ‘til it draws interest before making a move?

I recall once getting a check for two cents from some investment company and taking it to the bank. As I approached the teller’s window, a smirk crossed my face.

“I hope you have enough to cover this check,” I said. “If not, I’ll take an IOU.” I slipped my two-cent check across the counter and saw the woman do a double take. She came back with a neat rebuttal as the customer behind me waited patiently.

“Would you like that in large bills or will pennies do?”

“I’ll take the pennies.” And out came two shiny Lincolns like they were newly-minted c-notes.
Back in my grandmother’s day, of course, two cents would buy you a pocketful of candy. You could weigh yourself with a penny and get your fortune told. A penny for your thoughts, and all that jazz. Today, of course, it wouldn’t buy the holes in Swiss cheese.

The 26 cents would come in handy. I could always give it to my grandson for a birthday gift next week. He turns one and hasn’t quite grasped denominations just yet.

Or I could throw it into the money jug located on my closet floor for all the grandchildren. Whenever they visit my home, they know the scoop. Before leaving, each one sticks a hand into the container and pulls out a fistful. Even the baby has caught on.

I have funds invested like a lot of other people who are in a nervous state right now. When I decided to close out a small account, I figured it would be relatively simple.

My broker indicated he would take care of the paperwork and that a statement would be arriving in the mail. A monthlater, I received an invoice, showing a balance of $5.34 in the account.

What it was doing there, I had no idea. A call to my broker revealed a transition error and that the matter would be resolved right away.

A month later, back came another statement, this time for $5.42. We made a profit. Another call to my broker revealed a sense of disgust.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with those people,” he said. “I’ll remind them again to close out the account.”

This went on for six months until finally I read him the riot act. “Take that money and stick it somewhere,” I told him. “I don’t need this aggravation.”

What did it cost this particular firm to send out these five-page monthly reports to show how my five dollars were doing?

Stand in line at a donut shop and see the pennies come forward. I only wish vendors would round off the amount and not give you an influx of copper. Then go outside and see them strewed along the way. It’s worth the stoop because every once in awhile, there’s a nickel in the mix.

My Aunt Alice, God bless her soul, was a millionairess living in Boston. She roamed the streets with a haggard appearance and slept on a sofa. Alice was a woman of very simple means who spent next to nothing. Instead, she hoarded her money.

Knowing her wealth and solitude, I should have been more attached to the woman and invited her to the house for Thanksgiving. Instead, we kept a distance.

When her will was read, I wasn’t surprised. She had left the million to charities, saving me to the bitter end.

“And to my nephew Thomas, I bequest the sum of one dollar.”

The buck stopped right there. To this day, I never received my share, puny as it was. I wonder what happened to it. Maybe it’s in a bank claiming interest somewhere. Good thing, too. The last thing I need is another nagging statement.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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