Thursday, December 23, 2004

Remember Me?

And you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow,
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go,
Stand to, and put up all your strength of arm and heart and brain,
And, like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!

Rise Again! Rise again,
Though your heart it be broken and your life about to end.
No matter what you've lost,
Be it a home, a love, a friend,
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!
Stan Rogers (the other one), The Mary Ellen Carter

I have recently and rightly been taken to task for my long absence here. It's not so much that I've given up on the blogging idea; I've just had my mind elsewhere lately. Yes, I've been seemingly active elsewhere on the web, but it only takes me about ten minutes to scan all of the other blogs I read, and throwing a short comment in takes just a few seconds. There have also been the developerWorks postings, but trust me, they don't occupy much of my time either.

I've been busy fighting with DXL, trying to keep my mind off of my non-Notes life. The DXL bit will appear in another posting — it's really pretty cool — but this bit's about the non-Notes life, such as it is.

One thing they don't tell you in the "So you've decided to become homeless..." pamphlet is that it will follow you for the rest of your life. I've been involved in a truly ridiculous situation of late, the upshot of which is that until yesterday I hadn't been paid yet by my new employer. At all. Ever.

On the one hand, I (like most people in the white-collar world) work for an employer who pays exclusively through direct deposit to a bank account. I have such an account, of course — that's how my former employer paid as well. However, the company contracted to do the payroll requires a void cheque in order to begin payment. As luck would have it, my chequebook, which has been otherwise unused lo these many years, was one of those items that are inevitably misplaced in every move. It would seem a simple thing either to get new cheques or, failing that, to open another bank account, right? Not if your name sets off bells and sirens in the credit system, it isn't.

It's not that I have debt owing or anything, I just haven't had any bills to pay that weren't cash on the barrel head for the last dozen or so years, and cash businesses don't make positive reports to credit bureaus. (Or, often, to the revenuers either.) I have essentially been living off-paper for more than a decade without knowing it. Couple that with the anti-laundering measures that have been introduced into the banking system over the same decade or so, and any odd requests come up "potentially criminal". Apparently, requesting cheques from a city in a different province from your home bank branch (which is still in Toronto for the moment) with near-zero balances in all of one's accounts is an "odd request". No cheques for you! Next!

For the benefit of my American readers, I should point out that the banking system in Canada is quite a bit different from the system in the States. Here, the system consists principally of five chartered banks: TD Canada Trust; BMO Bank of Montreal; RBC (The Royal Bank of Canada); The Bank of Nova Scotia (ScotiaBank); and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) along with a few large regional players. All of these institutions are huge (think Citibank), and you can't just go down the street to the Second National Bank of Fourth Street if you don't like the service at the Fourth Street Commercial Bank.

The one constant across all bureaucracies is that policy and procedure take precedence over common sense. I earn a pretty decent salary in modern Canadian terms, am single, debt-free and live in cheap, though comfortable accommodations selected specifically to allow me to save a whole whack of money in the too-few years I have left before I'll have to consider retirement. And here I was, reduced to eating plain white rice for more than two weeks (I knew there was a reason I always buy the feed-an-army-sized bag), looking at January's rent due-date, and seriously wondering what a Montreal winter outdoors might be like. Surreal. And not something I wanted to spend a lot of time dwelling upon.

Almost everyone has had some sort of financial fright at some point in their life. Going through the big one a second time gives me, I think, the right to assert that the fear of the unknown doesn't begin to compare to the fear of the known. Yes, I was scared. And angry. I've worked my buttocks off (figuratively — I have actually accumulated surplus pew-padding in the physical sense) to move from homeless disposable humanity through skilled shoe-shine boy to relatively well-respected Notes developer, and it all seemed to be coming to naught in a huge hurry and for no good reason. I tried to write about it, but the level of venom in what I was writing was beyond the pale. (A pale, by the way, is one of those sharpened-log, overgrown picket fence deals you see around forts in Western movies, or, rather, the mediaeval version of it. That which was beyond the pale was out of the Lord's protection, lawless and wild.) Angry as I was, even I could see that my anger had displaced reason completely. The recent little incident (hereinafter referred to as The Incident) in the Notes blogging community wouldn't have been noticed at all had I published, and I would have committed social and professional suicide.

It seems that some sort of resolution has been reached, though. And my bank was kind enough to let me take 25% of my earnings — I still have to wait until January 4 for "clearance" (on a certified corporate cheque?). It's a bit late for Christmas, but the new year should be a happier one. Perhaps with that load lifted, you may see a bit more output here.

If only I had listened to the other Stan.


Anonymous said...


I wish I had known about this. I would have tried to help. There's nothing I could have done about the bank accounts, but I could have FedEx'd you a cashier's check for food or rent money, for Pete's sake. I don't grok all the things that can go wrong once you've been homeless because it's so far outside of my experience. And I'm sure that there is no way to elegantly ask for the kind of help you could have used in this situation, even assuming your pride would allow it. But please consider this a preemptive offer of assistance if anything like this happens in the future. I do NOT want to see you rejoin 'homeless disposable humanity,' and I'm quite sure I'm not alone.

Rob McDonagh

Stan Rogers said...

Thanks for that, Rob, and here's to never having to take you up on the offer. Sometimes it's hard to remember that one's eFriends actually ARE friends.

Bruce L said...

I think you must be a cork Stan. You quite naturally rise to the surface. I know the venom you talk about when the shit seems to be choking. I usually write it out anyway as means to get it out so it doesn't kill you. Best wishes for the festive season.

Jess said...

No kidding! We ask for code help, and at the drop of a hat, this wonderful bunch of people will drop everything to help. Not because they feel they have to, or are under some sort of obligation, but because they *want* to. That's what friends do. They want to try their damndest to minimize any pain, suffering, or struggling of their other friends. In fact, I can think of NO greater compliment than when a friend feels comfortable enough to ask a favor. That's when I know I've truly done my job. :-)

Glad to see you posting again.

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