Paul knew I’d had a busy day today, full of running errands and catching up from our long weekend, and since he was going to be out with the guys tonight, he suggested we stop for fast food on the way home to relieve me of the chore of cooking dinner. I was easily persuaded.
We swung up to the McDonald’s drive-through, ordered our food, and pulled forward to pay for it. A couple of seconds after I had handed my debit card through the window to the smiling octogenarian at the register she handed it back to me, lowering her voice to tell me in embarrassed tones that it had been declined. Puzzled, we tried Paul’s card. Declined. Already my stomach was clenching with the panicky feeling I get whenever money matters go awry. We apologized, canceled our order, and turned toward home.
“I don’t understand!” I started in as we drove away, a note of hysteria creeping into my voice. “The checkbook register says we have plenty in our account! Could there be a problem with the actual cards? Maybe they were flagged for unusual activity or something? I bet we forgot to write something down! How could I have done that? Oh, man…”
My pitch and my agitation climbed in equal measure until Paul, with his customary calm, reminded me that we didn’t know anything yet, and told me not to worry–that he would look at our online account records when we got home to search out the problem.
“Don’t worry.” Ha! And again I say it: ha! I have a long track record of falling apart in the face of financial adversity. Like Chicken Little, I am convinced that the sky is falling at the least little pecuniary hiccup. Bounced check? Shrinking tax return? More month than money? Leave it to me to blow it up into a dark, foreboding future of living out of our car and scraping up nickels and dimes on the street to feed our starving children. That’s why, even though I pay the bills, when something goes wrong, Paul takes over. He’s the only one who can unravel a bank statement without moaning under his breath and beating his head on the table.
Anyway, despite my sepulchral warnings that we were never, ever going to resolve this mystery, the problem became clear within minutes of Paul opening our account records. Every month, I transfer 550 dollars from our savings account to our checking account, and then turn around and send a payment for that amount from our checking account to our student loan company. This month, the transfer didn’t go through, but the check did, and the result was several overdrafts.
With accompanying fees.
Chicken Little kicked it up a notch.
Bookkeeping error! Wasted money! Careless! Costly!
I went on speaking in exclamation points for a while, until Paul reached out for me, mid-rant, and pulled me close. Inside me, all went quiet. Then, touching his forehead to mine, he whispered, “This place doesn’t run on money, you know.”
And you know what? I do know.
But Chicken Little might need a reminder now and then.