One Saturday afternoon recently, I was sitting on the sofa, happily watching an old episode of The Sopranos (you know the one: the episode in which Carmella cooks something, Christopher and Paulie Walnuts shoot someone, and Tony shags his mistress). We’re wading thru the box set which The Incumbent gave me for Christmas, and we were engrossed. However, my enjoyable afternoon of gratuitous sex, Mafia hitmen and Italian home cooking was soon interrupted.
Ring Ring, Ring Ring (that’s my telephone impression)
“Hello, Mr Bealing?”
“It’s Malcolm, your account manager from the bank”
My heart sank. He’d been trying to get hold of me for weeks, and I’d been evading him. He was new to the branch, and therefore to me, and so I’d agreed to go down to the bank to meet him. Two things I learned during that meeting: 1) All my financial worries would be gone if I made a few simple adjustments to my lifestyle and account; 2) Malcolm was about 16 years old (or at least looked it) and with all the enthusiasm for life that I had when I was that age (yes, honest).
I knew what this phone call was about. He wanted to talk to me about my mortgage.
“I’d like to talk about your mortgage, Mr Bealing” (told you).
“Ah, ok Malcolm, but I first want to let you know that for training purposes this call may be recorded”.
That confused him.
“Now,” I continued, “Can you tell me your date of birth and your mother’s maiden name?”.
“Er…no, Mr Bealing,” he laughed, a little nervously “I’m supposed to ask you that”.
“Oh, Ok then” I said in mock indignation. “Does seem a little odd, though: I’m trusting you with my money and I have to prove my identity to you ! You see what I mean? Arse-about-face, isn’t it?”
“Er..no, not really, Mr Bealing.”he snapped.
‘Hmmmm…big mouth for a little bloke’ I thought to myself. ‘He may pay for that snap.’
To cut a long story just a tiny bit shorter, we arranged to meet at my home (yes, that’s what I thought) at my home the following week, one night after school. That night soon arrived:
“Ding dong” (see, I do all of them) I opened the door and was confronted my young Malcolm and someone I presumed was his dad. It looked like “Chris and Paulie- The Early Years”. But it wasn’t Malcolm’s dad, it was my “Financial Adviser”.
“I didn’t know I had one”I said
“Well I’m the financial adviser for the branch”came the reply. “ Malcolm thought there might be a few services you could benefit from.” This was turning into an organised hit.
For the next two hours (count ‘em, TWO hours) I was told my account was in a mess, my loan was killing me, I was paying too much for my mortgage, I had no insurance in case of sickness, no Will in case of death and my coffee was shit. None of this was a problem, apparently: I’d remortgage for a larger amount, including the money I would pay my current mortgage-lender as the early-release penalty fee. Apparently I’d save that in interest within two years. All that means I’d be about 300 quid-a-month better off. Bada Bing!! Bye Bye overdraft!!!
But, (and aye, here’s the rub), they recommended I took out sickness insurance to protect that mortgage and other bills (£117) up my contents insurance (£60) and use their Will-writing service at a fee of 100 of your British Pounds.
Two hours came and went, in which time I’d read reams and reams of paperwork and forms (my very favourite), listened to lots of chat I didn’t understand, and agreed to sign up to Mr Walnut’s various insurance schemes. I would, I was told, be getting calls from the mortgage dept, the will dept and a nurse from the insurance company. They left, off to find a decent cup of Kenco no doubt.
Pause. (I had the phone on silent)
We went thru a rather probing medical questionnaire which took 45 minutes to complete, and I answered as honestly as I could. I couldn’t remember if I went for a jog 3 or 4 times-a-week so I said 5; Only drank mineral water — that sort of thing. You get the picture.
No sooner had I replaced the receiver when the mortgage girl (named Kelly) called me. This call took an hour, either side of a 45 minute interval when her computer crashed. More bankspeak which I didn’t understand, but we got there in the end. It was all over by noon and she said she’d call me early the following week and send out the offer toute-de-suite.
The Will people called yesterday. Took the girl at the other end 20 minutes to tell me she was sending me a form.
This morning at work I received a call from Kelly, the mortgage girl. Having established my D.O.B., password and favourite pet’s middle name she told me my application for a mortgage had been rejected.
“What????”I blurted, café latte dribbling down my chin.
“I’m afraid your account has not had sufficient funds in it several times over the last quarter” she said
“I know that” I spluttered “that’s because I’m paying too much for my current mortgage”
“ I will let Malcolm know, I’m sure he’ll call you”
“But this was his idea!! He came to ME and suggested the whole thing!” I was winding up.
“hmmm… oh well, that’s a shame. But we won’t grant mortgages to those who go over their limit within the last three months”
“but he has my account. He handles my account. He knew I’d been overdrawn. I’ve spent hours with him and his mate and this was their plan to get me out of trouble. I’ve answered all your questions, most of which I didn’t understand. You’ve wasted Hours of my life!!!”
“I’m sorry about that, Mr Bealing” said Kelly “ but the bank doesn..”
CLUNK. That’s my impression of me slamming the phone down on poor Kelly.
Two minutes later I picked up the receiver and called the insurance company nurse and suggested a few anatomically impossible acts which he might like to perform with his questionnaire. Then, after I threatened to cut his hands off, he agreed not to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Then I booked an appointment with my therapist.
But waddya gonna do?