Bank Holiday

Oh my. I’ve just paid the rent.

Yes, it’s late, but there is an explanation: I lost my bank card.

Some time ago, my Belgian bank changed its security solution. Nowadays, you need to feed your ordinary bank card into a little thingy, where you punch in codes hither and thither and get other codes back and forth to access your Internet bank account, and eventually, after pressing every button at least twice, you’re in. It’s all very clever and much better than the variant they used to have – and so complex it’s probably foolproof – so I’m not complaining at all.

However, it does require that you have your bank card. And there’s where the fools may prove the foolproof permeable.

Last Friday, I was going to take care of the rent and a few other things. (Yes, that was late too, but there are reasons for that as well, involving transfer of funds between different banks in different countries that I have to do every month.) However, one of those “other things” was to pay my eldest son’s football club fee,

I realised late Friday afternoon – no, it’s more correct to say that it struck me full force very late Friday afternoon – that I would have to pay the fee during that same day, or else he would not be able to play the next  match, for insurance reasons. As I had promised he would. There are some things you just can’t explain to a six-year-old, so I had to dash off to the bank before closing time.

I just about made it, storming into the bank, fumbling all over their enhanced cash dispensers (ATMs) with payment capacity, where you also have to insert your card to pay your bills. On spaghetti legs, I slunk out of the bank, thinking that I’d pay the rent over the Internet when I came home, and drove off to do some other errands.

But when I got to the shop around the corner from where we live, I realised that my bank card was missing. I left my wife and kids there and sped off back to the bank, hoping to catch some staff or other even after closing time, probably breaking every known traffic rule on the way.

I caught the staff just as they were on their way home.

“Sorry, Sir, the machine has probably eaten your card if you forgot to take it, and we can’t access it because of the time lock. Come back on Monday morning at 9 am.”

Nobody had found my card anywhere else in the bank and handed it in, so there was a 90 per cent chance it was safely tucked away in the machine’s belly. But what if someone had indeed found it and was going to have a merry weekend on my expense?

I called the Card Stop number that every cash dispenser has posted. In the middle of my call, my cell phone credit dried up.

And I was cut off.

Back into the car, speeding back the same way I came, probably breaking every leftover traffic rule that I’d forgotten to violate last time. Quick rush up the stairs, to throw myself on the phone, to the amusement of my neighbour who happened to walk by just as I darted in from the car with my hair on end and sweat spurting out of every pore.

I managed to block the card, and eventually reunited with my wife and kids, who were reaching boiling point at the shop. And after a nail-biting weekend, my card sure enough turned up safe and sound at the bank on Monday morning. Without having been raided. Now all I had to do was to wait for a new one, so I could access my bank account and pay my rent.

“It will probably be sent to you by Wednesday”, the bank people told me. OK, a bit late, but fair enough.

Wednesday came. No card. Thursday came. Still no card. Friday came. No card in sight.

On Friday afternoon, I passed by the bank to ask. Sure enough, the card had arrived – mailed to the bank.

As I finaly logged into my bank account – remember, only able to do so by having my new card – I saw that there was a message from my bank. It read:

“Your KBC Bank Card XXX-XXXXXXX-XX XXXX in the name of JONATHAN NEWTON and linked to account XXX-XXXXXXX-XX can be collected from your KBC BANK NEGENMANNEKE bank branch from 12/10/2007 on. You can either collect the card yourself at the bank branch or autorize someone else who already has power of attorney over your account to do so, using the form of attorney. (see annex to account statements) Ask for it the next time you stop in at the KBC bank branch because the card you have now will not work as of 19/12/2007. If you have already collected your card, please disregard this message.”

Thank you very much, bank. Now let me ask you how you expect me to read this message without that very card, which I need to log on to the account where the message is posted.

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