Monday, December 1, 2014

            Living the Zen Way, With Panic
            My friend Kathy and I lounged on the beach, mindlessly watching the waves roll in. Tide was high so the waves were literally underfoot. We each had a book open but upended on our laps.

            “I love it the way my mind goes empty while I’m on the beach like this. It is so Zen,” said Kathy.

            I took ten seconds to give her statement thought, an uncharacteristic move on my part, before I replied. “Umm hmm. Sun, surf and sand seem to have that effect. ‘Living in the moment.’ It is a state of mind we are supposed to strive to attain. It is pretty much how I’m living every day. But, Kathy, I think it sucked out all my brains.”

            Let me give you an example. Like everyone else in the modern world, I use the ATM machines to purchase pesos with my brand new convenient Debit Card from Bear Paw Credit Union. And being in Mexico so much of the year, I have gone completely paperless. Commendable, right?

            Recently, I needed to acquire a bundle of pesos. I had ordered furniture to be made for me in the little village of Concordia, a couple hours south of here. The owner of the shop, where furniture is made in the old way, runs his business in the old way—with cash.

At the ATM machine, one may withdraw only $2,000 pesos each day, about $153 USD. That is the way it is. And the machines know. Just try to exceed the limit. I mean, the machine inquires whether you want another transaction. It just doesn’t mean you may have one. A machine with a sense of humor.

            So I pulled $2,000 pesos out of my account fairly frequently to stockpile pesos to pay for my furniture. Maybe the machine keeps track of one’s pattern of activity; I don’t know. Previously I only used the machine two or three times a month. After three consecutive days the machine seized up and refused me cash. In fact, it swore at me and said I had a “hot card”, go away and don’t come back. It spit the card back into my hand as if it were dirty. How could it be hot—I held my card in my hand!

            I took my not-stolen card to the next machine, and whoo, same story. I was afraid the Policia would show up any minute so I sneaked home on the back streets. I immediately went on line to check my account, which I knew had money. There large as life, under account activity, three transactions were posted on the same date. Since confession is good for the soul, I confess I don’t check my account daily. I make sure everything balances once a month. I don’t have much to check.

            I did what most people would do; I panicked. I called my daughter and had her check with the bank to see what happened. Meanwhile I built stories in my mind of dying on the street in a foreign country with nary a peso in my pocket since I could not access cash.

But the nice woman at the bank “reset” my card, whatever that means and I was good to go. That is fine, but what about the three transactions that left my account simultaneously, without me having three bundles of money in my fist?

            My daughter said it takes time when there is a banking problem and since the problem was with the bank in Mexico that gave me the money, it might take longer than time. I calmed down, Zen again.

            A week later, I checked my account again. All was well until Tuesday when four transactions were sucked out. Repeat the above.

            Next Monday I discovered another three transactions had left my account on the same day. Computers get the job done instantaneously. Mega panic. More phone calls. I realize that you are shaking your heads in amazement. I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person. Once again my daughter is on the phone with the bank. I am on the computer with my daughter. She is trying to explain the process to me. After a few minutes of back and forth, I happen to glance at my calendar. The “ah-ha” light bulb flickers above my head, the same head which has been living in the sun-sand-surf moment, and finally, I “get” it. Monday’s posts are for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The middle weekend there was a holiday, thus explaining the four transactions. Two people and a computer could not get through to me. A simple paper calendar from my insurance company in Harlem made it clear.

            “Kathy, I think I am too Catholic to be Zen.”

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

November 6, 2014

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