Far Out, Zaidie

A friend of mine told me a story that is, to say the least, disturbing. Their bank has mislaid $3,000, which was being transferred to our friends’ account. The branch manager at Bank Leumi said they would look into it but, somehow, her sense of urgency and concern seemed inadequate to the situation.  (Maybe we find it.) Another of my friend’s friends suggested that they switch to a different bank, either the competition in our local mall or an Anglo-friendly bank in Jerusalem. My friend and I mulled over the matter. For Barbara and me, it would be a nightmare to start changing banks this late in the game. So many of our financial arrangements, Barbara’s social security coming in and many of monthly payments going out, are tied part and parcel to our Israeli account, that to start figuring out what’s what and where’s where…… I don’t even want to think about it.

All of us started using Bank Leumi the minute we arrived in The Land because we could go to Zehava, our friendly Anglo banking rep, who would take care of us when we had a problem, which was almost always. And then the bank changed the way it worked; we were assigned to a banking rep, most likely not Zehava. And then she retired. And then……. These days, if you want to see a banking rep, you have to call and make an appointment (COVID-19 and all that) to see someone who speaks amazing Russian and good Hebrew – but that’s about it. Let us pray we don’t have a problem and that our friends get their $3000 back.

Our story, as I told my friend, is just the opposite: found money. We have an extra $12,000 thanks to the generosity (???) of the Nationwide Insurance Company, and here’s how that happened.

A week or so ago we found in our mailbox a check from the insurance company for that amount of money – with no explanation. Because this scenario has happened before, we sort of had an idea what was going on.  It seems that Nationwide has more of our money than they’re allowed to keep by U.S. regulations, and they have to return the excess to us. Barbara can explain this a little better, and our friend Sal Guggenheim, an insurance broker in The States, can explain this a lot better, but you don’t need to understand any of this. It seems crazy, but then again, if you have ‘too much money’ in an Israeli bank account, they’ll call you to do something about it.

Anyway, like the honest and dutiful person she is, Barbara called up Nationwide and spoke to Sam, one of their customer reps. He did a little investigating and decided that the check was a replacement for one that they had sent us last year, and we had never deposited.

OK, now it was our turn to do a little digging. After going through a year and a half’s worth of transactions at Citibank, Barbara hit paydirt. There it was, $12,000 deposited in May 2019. Of course! We had gotten the original check last year, and when my wife went to The States to visit Tina and David and their two boys in Hoboken, she deposited it at one of Citibank’s machines – which are as ubiquitous as Starbucks in that part of the world. The check which Nationwide thought was lost wasn’t after all. We weren’t entitled to the $12,000 after all; easy come, easy go.

Barbara sent an email to Sam at Nationwide explaining the situation. And you know what he replied? There was no mistake; it’s our money. (What?) Barbara dutifully scanned a voided Citibank check and sent it to him to deposit the $12,000 directly into our American account, which as I am writing this, he has done.

Does any of this make any sense? The biggie is that a top-of-the-line insurance company was unaware that a check of theirs (chump change to them but not to us) had been deposited a year and a half ago and then, when we pointed out their mistake, ignored what we told them. But stop to think about it. Who in today’s day and age sticks a check for $12,000 in a regular envelope and sends it halfway around the world to people who aren’t expecting it?

Barbara and I had a conversation on this topic:

Me: Why didn’t they do a bank transfer in the first place?

Her: Maybe they don’t have our banking information.

Me: Don’t we pay them some kind of premium? How do we do it?

Her: They take something out of our Citibank account every month.

Me: So they do have our banking information, after all!

Her: Yes, but maybe they have other customers who don’t have bank accounts.

Me: Then how do these people pay their premiums, and what would they do with a $12,000 check?

Because my mind works in strange and wondrous ways, I started to think about Zaidie, Frank Caplan, Barbara’s mother’s father, who, almost a century ago, sold insurance for Metropolitan Life. Every week, he would go through poor African-American neighborhoods in Baltimore and collect a nickel or a dime from his customers to pay for their insurance. His customers regarded him highly because he was always cheerful and, most important, they knew they could trust him with their hard-earned nickels and dimes.

Zaidie was obviously much older when I first met him, a few years before Alzheimer’s took him away. Barbara and I would drive down to Baltimore to see her large mishpacha in the area, and we would often stay with Momsie and Zaidie in their small house right off the Beltway.  One Sunday, as we were getting ready to drive back north, I noticed Zaidie rummaging through the drawers of the breakfront in their dining room. What are you looking for, Zaidie?, I inquired. He opened one drawer and replied in his inimitable accent, I’m looking for yesterday. It was here before, and now it’s gone. All I could think to say was, Far out, Zaidie.

Was this the Alzheimers speaking, or had Frank Caplan, nearing the end of his productive life, stumbled onto something of major importance? Some things are gone forever in the twinkling of an eye; get used to it. Let’s hope that does not include our friends’ $3,000.

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