Not long ago I found myself in Manhattan, which I am not that often, and in a suit, which I am even less often, and actually going out for lunch, which I never, ever do.
And I figured, well, I have this big check to deposit (another all-too-rare situation), so rather than put it in the mail or FedEx or whatever, why not just drop in on the bank and say hello? It’s a small bank with a beautiful town house in midtown Manhattan — Bank Audi — run by none other than Joe Audi himself. Joe belongs to a prominent Lebanese banking family. If you happen to be in Beirut or Paris, you can visit its affiliates, and other Audi family members, there. (I have never been to Beirut, but know I will appreciate this convenience if I ever am.)
I love a bank that gives me a 4-digit account number.
Anyway, I get to the bank through typical bustling midtown traffic — a Monday, midday, people on cell phones checking the stock market, office workers pouring out of buildings to get an early seat at the lunch counter, business as usual — and . . . that’s funny. The bank’s huge wrought-iron-and-glass doors are closed, with newspapers wedged into it and “tried to deliver” slips flapping in the breeze.
I tried the door handle. No dice. I peered through the glass. Not a creature was stirring. No mice.
I can’t say I was really alarmed. But I did worry that maybe some key figure at the Bank — perhaps Joe himself — had died, and the Bank was closed for the day out of respect, so all the employees could go to the funeral. That’s what we did with the Tip Toe Inn when my grandmother, who had run it for so many years, died.
“Poor Joe!” I thought.
Or else maybe it’s Lebanese Kwanza or something I just don’t know about. I could see people going in and out of the Citibank branch across the street . . . so why was my bank closed?
And if there had been some scandalous hanky panky of some kind — if Bank Audi had just up and disappeared — would that mean I didn’t have to pay off my loan? This could be very good news indeed.
I pulled out my cell phone (how I love excuses for doing that) and tried calling the bank. I got a recording. The best I could do was to leave a concerned message.
“Hmmm,” I mused, as I walked over to the lunch that had taken me to midtown in the first place. And then, with one thing and another, I sort of forgot about it the rest of the day.
At dinner, the undeposited check still in my pocket, I suddenly remembered. “Excuse me,” I interrupted whoever was speaking, “but is today some sort of Lebanese holiday, do you know, or did my bank just go belly up?”
That’s when I found it was Veterans Day. Everything was open but the banks. The people I saw going in and out of Citibank were just going to and from the ATM machines.
Why does Wall Street stay open when the banks are closed? Simple: they don’t want to lose any trades. (That’s why casinos are open, too.) Banks, on the other hand, are a little less concerned. They know you’ll be back. And I was.
Tomorrow: How to Ruin an Insurance Company
Quote of the Day
A veteran Massachusetts politician not so long ago was horrified at the conduct of a less savvy colleague who was indicted for bribery: 'Imagine taking money from a stranger.'~Wall Street Journal, 10/14/93
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