Thursday, February 24, 2011

Making Bank

Part of the annoyance of moving is that you have to disconnect and then reconnect all those services you don't want to think about but, nevertheless, need.  You need a new doctor, a new dentist, a new library card, a new gynecologist.  You need a new electric company and a new cable company if you go in for that sort of thing.  A new gym, new car insurance, new renter's insurance.  And, as a prerequisite for acquiring many of the aforementioned annoyances, you need a new bank.

My method for selecting a new [annoying thing which makes me long foolishly for the days of cholera outbreaks] is simple.  I pull up my address on Google Maps.  I plug in an appropriate word, like "bank."  I search.  I select the closest institution, in terms of mileage, from my house, and proceed to avail myself of their services.

In this way, I have acquired a gnome-like, wizened doctor who still uses tongue depressors, a state-of-the-art dentist, a gynecologist who keeps eyeing me avariciously for signs of incipient mommyhood, and the New Generations Federal Credit Union, of which I appear to be the only white member.

It took me a while to figure this out.  At first I simply though, "Ah, I live in a diverse city." This being Richmond, former capital of the confederacy, I suppose I should have known better.  My new credit union is constantly sending me subtle cues that it's set up to serve, well, someone else.  It bombards me with advertisements for short term loans and speedy tax preparation services, but is curiously silent on the subjects of mortgage lending and investment advice.  At the ATM, the torn off account balance slips read $106, $35, $7.  I tuck mine guiltily in my pocket.  The last time I took the drive-through lane, the man in the van preceding me tried to hustle me for cash.

All of this makes me uncomfortable.  I am uncomfortable belonging to an institution that serves, and is not-so-subtly geared toward, people who are not like me.  I am profoundly uncomfortable with the fact that I am uncomfortable.  In addition, I am uncomfortable that I am uncomfortable that I am uncomfortable. Not to mention, writing about it is making me yet more uncomfortable....

Setting aside the question of whether an institution serving poor black people should or should not be offering different financial products and services than one serving middle class white people (and this is a question worth asking), what do I do?  Do I contribute to de facto segregation by hieing my uncomfortable self to a bank full of comfortable white girls?  Do I stick it out and keep tossing the endless solicitations for payday loans?  I want a mortgage someday.  I want an integrated society some day.

Oh, Richmond.


Anonymous said...

I recently wondered how difficult it would be to start a bank. I read an article once about a guy in Texas who had done it in a storefront.

At first, it was barely a depository institution, more like one of those payday loan places, but it grew. And this dude was the owner! He owned a bank he founded.

So far I am not too keen on doing all the regulatory compliance stuff myself, though.

- Will, esq.

Dana said...

Has the medical industry moved on to something other than tongue depressors? Is that why I can't ever find any at work?
And stick with the technical wizardry dentist. Laser=no drill.
Bummer on the bank, dude.