A few weeks ago, I received a remarkably large check for a magazine piece I had recently sold. I stood there silently, in shock, and stared at it for hours. Until I looked like I was auditioning for the lead role in the musical, "Tommy." I finally roused myself and thought, 'You shouldn't be so stunned. You've gotten checks this big before. How could you possibly forget last St. Swithins Day?'
Putting on my jacket, I made my way to the bank. Upon entering, I ignored the ignored the laughter and the pointing and made my way to a cashier.
"I'd like to make a deposit," I said to the woman behind the glass.
More Laughter, followed by the question, "Okay, what are you really here for?"
Finally, the check was put in my account and I went home.
Cut to a week later. I receive a letter from my bank saying that there's doubt as to whether the check will clear. The official reason? The bank the check is drawn on, says this cold, pitiless document, may not have sufficient funds to cover it. Waiting three days, and living on a diet of Spagettios and Valvoline, I finally called the bank and insisted they release my money. They said that very thing was happening that day. And why, I wondered, did it take so long to get my dough? The automaton on the other end said, "We're sorry sir, but this was an unsually large check for you to deposit. We had to make sure there were no irregularities."
I hung up and it hit me like a scud bomb. This was one of the glorious results from the still vibrant Patriot Act. It doesn't matter that I've been banking at the same place for two years. Or that my people came over on the Mayflower. Well, alright, they used a Mayflower van. My large check meant only one thing. I was planning to buy some explosive materials and hit the USA in the place where it deficits. Hi everybody. My name is Peter Gerstenzang. And I'm a domestic terrorist.
Somewhat upset by this cruel and unusual treatment, I asked a few other folks if they'd experienced anything like it. My mom told me, that when she was recently re-financing her house, the process took forever. Why? Her bankers insisted that two checks she'd received from her brother in Montreal be fully-accounted for. This guy, my uncle, doesn't own a computer and has only recently heard rumors of something called a "fax machine." So, you can imagine how long this verification took. My friend Rich had a songwriting royalty inspected, like it was a ransom note. And so on down the line.
Maybe it's time we undid this monumentally sweeping and, I imagine, totally ineffectual piece of legislation? I mean, seriously, when was the last time you turned on your Tv and heard that Sheik Mohammed Somebody was arrested because the government was troubled by his unusual banking practices? Right, on the 12th of Never! Meanwhile, all us schnooks who are just trying to put money in the bank, so we can eat more Spagettios, are bringing down the scrutiny of the whole governmental apparatus, each time we make a deposit. All because of The Patriot Act.
Guys, listen. As much as I sometimes disagree with it, I love my country. Are there certain officials and vicious radio programmers I'd like to bomb? Yes. Especially the guy who decided that "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," should be played every hour. However, I don't plan to hit them, or anyone else, anytime soon. The main reason is simple: I failed chemistry two years running. Therefore, the chances are slim that I could ever assemble a bomb. I think two hundred terrorist monkeys, working with fertilizer, fuses and...bananas, will get there first. Also, I do not believe that violence is the way to solve anything. Forget that arrest on my police record. A year ago, I punched a local deejay, blaming him for the endless playing of that Elton John and Kiki Dee duet. I've since apologized and moved on.
So, can we? As shocking as it is, some of us still have a few bucks to put away in these scurrilous times. We're only waiting for them to clear, so we can do zany stuff like paying the rent or get our saxophone out of hock. Maybe it's a good idea to start checking on people you've been watching for a while. You know, the folks moving around HIUGE sums of money, and who keep getting and sending money to their relatives in Pakistan. It probably won't yield much in the way of results, but who knows?
In the meantime, then, let me make it easier for you. I, Peter Gerstenzang, domestic terrorist, will be heading to my branch of The Chase Bank at 1 pm tomorrow afternoon. I'm going to be putting in a whopping load of cash. At least 600 dollars. If you want to find me, that's where I'll be. I'm the one that all the tellers and other bank patrons are laughing and pointing at. In other words you can't miss me.