Face, Meet Sidewalk

Violet’s Career

Posted on: June 11, 2011

Violet sat at the worn Formica table with her chequebook. It was bill-paying day. Every month, on the sixth, Violet sat down and wrote out cheques for her bills, an amount well covered by her pension. Ever since those cheats at the bank bounced a cheque she wrote to the plumber, she had done her very best to make sure the bank never got a single cent more than it deserved (which was nothing) for the privilege of holding onto her money. In fact, she spent an inordinate amount of time ensuring she never paid a penny more than she had to in what she cheekily called “bullshit fees”: interest, bank charges, and, for that matter, taxes. And she was good – no bank had had a single dollar of Violet’s for its own use in years.

Violet’s money-managing skills were one of the few benefits of coming to marriage late. For Violet’s generation, the sole purpose of a woman’s existence was to marry and look after her husband and children. When there was no one in town fit to marry, Violet was forced into the unheard-of option of taking a job. The War, which had created a dearth of marriageable men also meant a wide-open market. Violet had her pick of careers (if not prospective husbands). Since she was good at math, she chose accounting, and was the first woman in town to run her own business, keeping books for all the flat-footed (or otherwise unsoldierly) men. Apparently all the good accountants were on the front lines.

By the time Frank, a client, actually, (memories of the scandal still made her blush a little) finally came along it was too late for children. Violet had managed to feed herself and keep a neat house for years. Since there was nothing else to do while Frank was out at work all day, Violet kept up her business. The reason Violet was able to attract so many clients is that she was really very good at her job. She treated other people’s money as if it was her own, and saved her clients thousands in taxes and fees. Violet had literally resurrected businesses from the brink of bankruptcy.

She had been in her seventies when the bank bounced that cheque on her. Pure carelessness on her part. Too busy looking after other people to pay attention to her own affairs. It was a wake-up call. Violet retired the business to focus on managing her own money. Besides, even though Frank was gone, her social life was heating up – she had bridge club and the morning crossword – which left little time for doing other peoples’ bidding. Violet had paid her dues. The working life was more activity than she was interested in these days.

Anyway, as a result, Violet was in pretty good financial shape now. She and Frank had socked away her money and used Frank’s to live off of, leaving a tidy nest egg for retirement. They paid off the house in a few years.  They had the first television on the block, and the first telephone. Poor Frank, he loved technology. He would have loved DVDs and cell phones. Violet couldn’t be bothered with those, but she did have a computer (for which she paid cash, of course). It helped her keep on top of trends in the marketplace.

And today was bill-paying day. It might even be time to change banks again, depending on who was offering incentives. Over the years, by cycling between banks, cable companies and telephone services and taking full advantage of their “free introductory rates”, she figured she had made back anything they might have overcharged her, even if it was mainly by aggravating their “customer service representatives” with interminable phone calls during which she calmly pestered them with deliberately inane questions until she got what she wanted. The key was keeping on top of them. Their raison d’etre was to screw nice old ladies… and this nice old lady was determined to screw them right back.

Violet finished writing her cheques and double-checked her balance on the computer. Her pension had been deposited and would cover her bills. The difference, minus a small float to cover any unexpected bullshit fees (none of which had been required of her in years) would come home with her, in cash, and be added to the painstakingly annotated stockpile in the lockbox under the floor board in the living room. She laced up her good walking shoes and tucked her purse into the basket on her walker. The Internet said the weather was nice, so she added a rain jacket (those websites were wrong more often than they were right). Since the postal workers were striking, she would have to bring her payments down to the bank herself. It wouldn’t do to make a payment late. That would ruin her perfect record. She (and the plumber) had learned that one the hard way.

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