September 20, 2005

There’s something wrong in the heart of man

Filed under: General Me — tomemos @ 3:53 pm

So a couple weeks ago I was feeling pretty good about money. I had just won $15 in poker, and with that burning a hole in my pocket I decided it was time to pay my credit card bill. I went over the statement one more time to make sure I knew what all the charges were, then went to my bank’s website to check my account. There, I found that there were seven dollars in my checking account, rather than the the more than two thousand that should have been there.

Well, I felt a little bit like I’d been kicked in the stomach. I looked at the transaction record, and saw that all of my money had, mostly on that very day, been withdrawn from ATMs in hotels and stores in Las Vegas. I wasn’t in Las Vegas, so I lunged for my wallet to see if my card had been stolen. It was still there, but they had gotten at my money anyway. I had, in the words of the teller who would help me file the dispute, gotten scammed, dude.

Luckily, my bank was very helpful, and the whole thing got resolved and my money restored about a week later. The interval was pretty unpleasant, though. At times, I found it difficult to process what had happened. Two thousand dollars is by a wide margin the most that’s ever been stolen from me–second place is probably my killer Magic: The Gathering deck that was stolen in 8th grade. So the sheer scale of it, plus the ethereal nature of the crime, which amounted to numbers magically changing on a webpage, sometimes made me pretty numb to the consequences.

Most of the time, though, I was able to process what had happened–I had been suddenly made broke–and it freaked me out. I had a little money left in my savings account, plus credit left on my credit card, so I wasn’t going to starve. But I couldn’t buy anything, even dinner, without feeling like I was spending money I didn’t have (which was true), and where I usually don’t keep track of credits and debits I found myself paralyzed by them. It was an unpleasant reminder of the last time I was utterly broke, at the end of my year in Oxford, through every fault of my own.

When people lose or are temporarily separated from their belongings, they often realize how inessential those belongings are to happiness. I’ve felt that myself: I sent my books and music home a week or so before I was to leave England, and for that week I felt lighter and more free. But what applies to belongings doesn’t apply to money, at least not for me. With money, I feel comfortable and breezy; without it, I’m tense and nervous all the time. I’d love to have learned that money isn’t everything, but what getting cleaned out actually reminded me is that being broke is miserable and must be avoided at all costs.

(Yes, I know my last entry was a plea for compassion to the truly poor. I should be less dependent on money, but I may not be able to pass through the eye of that needle just yet.)



  1. Tom,

    Your penultimate paragraph reminded me of the old traveling advice: pack everything you think you need, then take half of that and twice the money with you on your trip. Whenever I’ve been on the road, I’ve rarely felt angry that I didn’t bring something, but have often felt hemmed in and nervous and downright tense when I felt I didn’t have enough money to do something.

    Glad you got your money back.

    Comment by Matt — September 20, 2005 @ 9:02 pm

  2. how on earth should you be less dependent on money? we are all very dependent on it. you can be less dependent on expensive things or luxuries but last i checked, food, water, and shelter all cost money. luckily air is still free. πŸ™‚

    there is nothing wrong with money and nothing wrong with wanting to have it. money just gets a bad rap because of all the evil things people will do to get it. but that makes the people evil, not the money. somehow, i don’t see you in danger of staring a sweatshop, breaking up unions, robbing the pension fund, or in any other way obtaining your income in immmorally. so go ahead and rely on money and feel safer when you have it. cause i don’t think there are a lot of poor people out there saying “gee i’m glad i’m broke.”

    Comment by ariela — September 21, 2005 @ 4:23 am

  3. I agree with Ariela. You *can’t* be less dependent on money, because basic survival in civilization depends on it. Having difficulty getting by for a week with $7 doesn’t make you a bad person. As for passing through the eye of the needle, there’s a pretty wide margin between being rich and being completely destitute – I think you’re doing fine. (Besides, it’s the camel that does it, not the rich man. The camel, Tom.)

    Comment by julie — September 21, 2005 @ 7:47 am

  4. or maybe the issue is that you had X dollars, and then didn’t, due to no fault of your own.

    That is stressful. when you work and plan and are careful with your money, and nontheless loose it because some jackass decided to steal from your bank account.

    The injustice of it all gets me. I’m glad your bank was willing to work with you. Not all are.

    Comment by AM — September 21, 2005 @ 3:10 pm

  5. Know what’s awesome? Money.

    Comment by Bret — September 27, 2005 @ 8:43 am

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