Wednesday, October 27, 2010

High-tech ATM

I have checking accounts at two banks. There’s the big institutional bank that ate the bank that ate the bank where I had an account long ago, and then there’s the little local bank where I know everybody and they know me. The little local bank gets all the business because they take really good care of me, but I kept the account open at the big bank in case of some sort of emergency like losing an ATM card overseas.

Noticing that I haven’t been doing any business with them, the big bank sent me a letter. They promised me $75 if I deposit $750 or more in three consecutive months. That sounded like an easy $75, so I went down to our local big-bank ATM a couple of days ago to deposit a check.

I was disappointed to discover that there were no deposit envelopes in the little automated ATM office. I thought I’d have to go and get an envelope somewhere else, but another customer pointed out the sign saying that the ATM’s work without envelopes. So here’s what happened:

  • I put my card into the ATM and entered my PIN.
  • The machine asked if I wanted to make a deposit or withdrawal.
  • I pressed the “deposit” button and the machine asked me to insert my check in the slot with the flashing light.
  • I inserted the check. It never asked me to enter the amount; it just read the check.
  • The machine asked me to confirm a deposit of $750.
  • I pressed “yes.”

That’s it. We were finished. Here’s the receipt with a picture of the scanned check:

Monday, October 25, 2010


I’ve written often about how much I enjoy living in Minsk, and I’ve written occasionally about how I enjoy life in Boston. I find that I experience a little sorrow when I think about leaving either place, even though I’m headed to the other.

Apparently I’m not the first to experience this angst. I had lunch last week with a friend whose mother divides her time among three homes and feels sorrow at leaving each of them. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone, but I really didn’t expect this. I figured that anticipating the joys of the next place would more than overcome any concern about flying away from the pleasures of the present. My life is indeed rich, with very dear people in both places (and elsewhere), interesting things to plan and do, and even some responsibilities. Analytically, I expect an emotional balance as I plan to leave a place I enjoy and go to a place I also enjoy. Life, however, doesn’t always follow expectations.

I think my nephew identified the problem. Not a member of what he calls “the leisure class,” I must plan my trips economically and cross the ocean infrequently. If I felt free jet back to Boston for an important event, then I imagine I would feel less concern about closing a door behind me.

The hardest thing about traveling in either direction is leaving behind people important to me. I really enjoy communication, and there is no perfect substitute for proximity. While nearly everybody remains accessible by telephone or Skype, time-zone differences and differences in personal schedule render communications difficult and at times even unlikely. In Minsk, we can easily look out the window, notice a beautiful day, and find somebody free to go out and share it with us. In Boston, we can do the same, though perhaps with a smaller circle of people likely to be free. But when it’s a beautiful day in Minsk, the best we can do with our kids is call them and tell them that we are about to enjoy a nice day, information they don’t necessarily even want at that moment.

I wonder if there is a low-cost way to mitigate this angst. I honestly don’t think the answer is social networking. While Facebook allows me to know that my cousin’s dog is in surgery and that she made wreaths with friends yesterday, it doesn’t really assure me that she is enjoying inner peace or let me know if she needs a pat on the back. Sure, social networking can be one tool in our kits, but I don’t think it’s sufficiently personal.

There’s probably some limit to the number of relationships we can maintain in a status of “really important,” and living in multiple places tempts us to extend the number of relationships we wish to maintain at that level. Perhaps that can be a good thing, but it suggests an implied responsibility. If those relationships really are important, I need to be doing a better job of writing letters and making time for phone calls. Hmm… Sounds like fun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First day on a new job

I went to bed with a fire in my belly last night, brightly aware of the 9:00-5:00 appointment in my calendar. I slept fitfully, awakened by each of Alla’s little snorts and groans. I wasn’t conscious of anything weighing heavily on my mind, but sure didn’t enjoy my usual peaceful sleep. Then, next thing I knew, I’d overslept, waking up at 7:20. I dearly wanted to be at my desk at 9:00, and this didn’t allow me much time for distractions.

I didn’t quite make it. I arrived a few minutes late with a pile of little chores in my hand. Thinking my boss could cut me a little slack, I tried to knock off one or two of the little chores, but the first one proved to be harder than I thought. (It involved converting an Excel macro to a new version of Excel.) I looked on the internet for the solution to my little problem and tried a few things before checking the clock again. Aargh! It was already 9:45 and my boss was going to be really disappointed.

Now I am “working.” I am supposed to be writing a little bit each day, and publishing some of it to my blog. Unfortunately, I haven’t written much since leaving my organized world as a student at the Minsk State Linguistic University.

This “first day on a new job” business came up as a result of eating lunch with my step daughter yesterday. Nika opined that I wasn’t very good with time, which came as a bit of a surprise since I used to consider myself highly conscious of it. But recent experience suggests that she is right. Like this morning, I had significant blocks of time disappear on the previous two mornings. *Poof!*, the hours just vanish.

Today’s calendar entry says “Work hard in Nika’s honor.” Let’s see how it goes.