Ding! The mother has just received a text. Getting a text message can be a joyous occasion. Friends send you texts when they want to go to the pub, but don’t want to go on their own. Parents send you messages when they are throwing a party for their child and want your offspring to come too. But this text does not mention a pint, a party, or any other kind of social gathering. It begins with “AccXXXX1267- 02JUNE 07:58.” Well hello to you too!
The text continues in the same formal tone and informs the mother that she has gone over her overdraft limit, again. Next, there is some stuff about being a responsible and sensible borrower. The message concludes by telling her that for every day she is over her limit, she will incur a five-pound charge. Well, how’s that going to bloody help thinks the mother.
Fortunately, the mother has spent a great deal of her life in debt, and so is never without solutions to financial dilemmas. She has just got to have a long think and come up with a scheme, a scam, or a venture of some kind that will get her through until payday.
Her first thought was to approach King’s College Hospital or even the Maudsley. Both hospitals were always looking for participants for research projects. Guinea pigs, if you will. They paid well, usually 30 quid for a couple of hours, and it was cash in hand. But then again, she could not guarantee she’d get selected. They usually insisted that participants were healthy and between the ages of 18 and 40, it was just embarrassing last time, she didn’t realise they were actually going to check.
Her next idea was to contact her friend Steve, he always knew people who needed people. His ‘jobs’ were usually easy money, and the only real requirement was that you had to be able to keep your mouth shut. For a moment, she thought that might be a possibility, but then she remembered the last job she did with him.
“You’ll be working through the night, and it’s dangerous, but the money’s good,” he’d told her. How exciting the mother had thought maybe she’d be involved in drug smuggling or security at an edgy nightclub. Turns out, it was removing asbestos, on the cheap from an old DSS building in Catford.
Her next idea was just to ignore the water bill, I mean forget to pay it, that would free up 40 quid. Better still take the PS4 to a pawnbroker. Doing that would earn her a bit of extra cash, and it would certainly save a lot of arguments. It’s strange, thought the mother how having no money gave you so many choices in life
Now people often use the expression, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul,” It was a favourite of her mother’s growing up. But for the mother, the saying was wholly inadequate; there was simply nowhere near enough people in the analogy. For the mother, not a day went by without her having to borrow money from Peter to pay Paul. But then she still needed to get an advance from Peggy to pay the gas bill. Which she’d already had the money for, from her dad, but she’d used it to pay the council tax, which was already overdue. She usually used the child benefit, to cover that bill, but unfortunately this month both kids’ feet had grown again, and they needed new shoes. Although her partner had said, he’d give her the money for these he had forgotten about it. She could hardly remind him, as he’d just shelled out £120 in vet bills for the cat, and she was meant to go halves on this.
Overseeing her financial affairs was practically a full-time job in itself. Her money was flying around in so many different directions; it sometimes gave her a headache. And the bank had the cheek to tell her she didn’t manage her money properly!! Christ, there were members of the Costa Nostra who didn’t possess her wizardry when it came to shifting money, bunch of bloody amateurs. She’d had enough, it was time to go and have a word with the listening bank!
She dressed smartly and arrived angry, but by the time she’d queued up for 20 minutes, she felt agitated and also a bit sweaty. By then, her white shirt was sticking to her breasts. Now there were occasions in her life when this was exactly the look she wanted, but today wasn’t one of them.
A pretty but hard-faced young woman with slick black hair asked for the mothers banking details. The lady quickly tapped them into the computer and then began looking at the mothers account on the system. As she did so, her face began to look quite sullen. Every now and then, she would stop scrolling down, look at a transaction and then suck her teeth. This was all quite unnerving, not just for the mother, but also for some of the other customers in the bank. This experience was like going to the dentist and having the probe run along your teeth. Then every time the dentist stopped on a tooth; you just knew it was bad news. The Mother explained that she would like to increase her overdraft in order to stop going over her limit, and thereby incurring all the extra bank charges.
But the mother could already tell where this was going. If she had to choose the victor, she knew who her money would be on, if she had any, that was. But she wasn’t going to give up without a fight. The lady spent another minute or two looking at the mother’s account and making tutting noises, and then she looked up. Her response was predictable, if ridiculous.
She told the mother, that at this time, the bank was unable to extend her overdraft limit as she had a poor credit history. The reason for this was that she did not have stable employment and also because she kept exceeding her limit. No shit thought the mother, that’s why I need to borrow more money. I wouldn’t be here if I had a decent fucking job, would I?
The Mother stared at the teller with a look that said, have you any idea how hard it is to bring up two children in London on intermittent bouts of employment.
The lady looked back at the mother with a look that said, it’s my lunch break in three minutes and I don’t give a shit. “I want to see the manager.” said the mother matter of factly.
“Doesn’t everyone,” replied the girl, flatly.
By the time she eventually got to see the manager, her shirt had dried out and was no longer see-through, which was a shame, as a slutty look might have come in handy now. The meeting with the manager was a brief one. It didn’t go well, but it could have been a lot worse. I mean, when he looked over her online statement, he didn’t say a word about the regular credit card payments to “The Mutual Friend,” and “The Hope.” Maybe he thought they were some kind of support group, which in a way, they were.
He spent less than a minute looking over her online bank statement and what he referred to as the “sporadic payments” going into her account. “I prefer to call them wages,” said the mother The manager then said, “Have you ever thought about getting a proper job!” How very dare you! The mother was incensed and wanted to scream at him. “Who the fuck are you, my mother!” Luckily those words did not fly from her lips, she managed to stop herself After all, she had her dignity to think of, well what was left of it at least. Instead, she came out with
“You know, when I decide to take out a mortgage, it’s not going to be with this fucking useless bank!”
Brilliant thought the mother, that was much more dignified. And they’re really going to lose sleep about that, aren’t they. In the absence of a powerful and cutting come back, she decided to make a dramatic exit instead. At least it would have been dramatic if the remote-control doors had opened more quickly.
As she left the bank, she couldn’t help but feel that her final words with the manager could have been wittier, or more sarcastic or well anything. What a stupid thing to say, I mean who was going to give her a mortgage with her credit rating, she’d be lucky to get a deposit on a four-man tent.