I wanted a loan so I visited the bank. A man greeted me at the entrance and invited me to sit at his desk that had a little lamp and a computer. It was pay day and the bank teemed with activity, a hustle-bustle organized by lines and quiet transactions, the spirit of work and reward in full view. My friend Chad was chewing on a financial slip and spitting it out in a container, furrowing his brow deep in thought, not noticing me sitting just three feet away. But I saw him. And I said to myself, Yeah, something's happening here all right. The world is changing, and this is the center of it right now... or maybe this is where the center bellies up. We, the people, shuffling along an infinite orbit...
Since the bank opened, many people in the neighborhood used their loans to install inground pools, build four-car garages, and drive fancy cars. I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was going to do with my loan, but what mattered was that I would have a loan to call my own. So I opened up my lunchbox and rearranged a few newspaper clippings, took out a quill pen and licked the tip and waited for my banker to plop down on that fancy leather chair in front of me so that we could conduct important business. I continued to wait for my banker and as I waited I thought, I wonder what I will do with the money? I was arriving at a question all together my own. That is, I was finally thinking about myself. Doing right by me. Taking care of Theodore.
My banker finally arrived. I told him my name, mentioned what beautiful weather we were having, and then we shook hands. “Theodore, pleasure to meet you. Bob’s fine,” he said, finally taking his seat. “So what can I help you with today?”
“Well, Bob, I’ve decided to take the plunge,” I replied. “I’d like to receive a loan.”
Bob sat there smiling and began to type a few words into his computer, no doubt pulling up my File. “Fantastic, Theodore. Just fantastic, just one moment please, it’ll only be a second or two more, this is just running a bit slow…” He continued typing and smiling. “Just fantastic, incredible . Now, while this loads, what’ll be the purpose of the loan?”
“Well, to be honest, I didn’t have anything specific in mind just yet.”
Suddenly his smile turned into a frown. A few storm clouds rolled in outside, followed by a deep rumbling that heralded a summer thunderclap. And then, as if by black magic, the bank became darker by several definitions. “I’m afraid that’ll be a bit of an obstacle,” he said. “It’s policy here to not only know the amount requested, but the reason for such.”
Money had always been a mystery to me. No one ever bothered to explain financial management, the New York Stock Exchange, or even how to apply for a credit card. In fact, the more I listened to Bob talk about policies and interest rates, CDs and DVDs, I learned that I didn’t even have a bank account. Someone could have at least explained to me the difference between checking and savings.
Bob became cold and remote. “No, I’m sorry Mr. Rundt, but we simply can’t help you at this time,” he said. He was miles away now, lost in the silent fury of bureaucracy. Once again, the little guy was left to stuff it.
A few men and women came in from outside, holding newspapers over their heads as shields from the rain. “It’s a pool,” I blurted out. “It’ll be inground, heated, with little waterproof lights so I can go night swimming. Nineteen dollars should cover the downpayment.”
“I don’t think you understand,” he said. “There’s really nothing I can do for you without an account. We have no record of doing business with you. Banks don’t just hand out money to people off the street.”
“If you need a character witness, I’d be happy to oblige.” I pointed my quill pen toward Chad. “There, over there is my dear friend Chad. He’ll vouch for me, perhaps even act as co-signer to any formal contracts we need to work out.” And then I gave him a wink.
Bob followed the aim of my quill pen and said, “What’s going on here?” He looked around the lobby and then back at me. We looked back toward Chad, but he was gone - vanished. There was only a paper shredder standing in his place.
“I guess I haven’t made an encouraging first impression,” I said. “But people find ways, and sometimes the strongest bonds of trust are born from nothing. I don’t know how people do it but they do. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and…” and I stopped. “What I’m suggesting isn’t some leap of faith, more like a small step for an honest man. For mankind. Like John Glenn. Think of the astronauts. I pity those cadets, always getting lost in space, and there are no loans in space, Bob. Imagine that. Worlds without loans, galaxies without cash, what a terrible prospect, and I shudder to think…”
When I got in these fits, I usually turned to Chad to bring me back to reality, but reality was now a distant country. I used to feed him paper I found off the street. He’d whinny with contentment and process the results into utter oblivion, separate the muscle from the fat, digest the data and spit out the facts - whatever it was, he grounded me.
“Are you ever coming down again?” I asked a squirrel hiding in some tree outside the bank. The rain hadn't let up. It was unforgiving. Tyrannical, even.
“Not since the moon has passed our celestial sphere,” it said. “And this is going to lead us into some very, very dire straits. The tides will all but disappear, you'll be up there with the astronauts and satellites in no time, playing ping pong with the comets."