Thursday, October 19, 2006


Last week on Wednesday I left work early, a bit excited as I was going home to recieve my new bed. On the way out of work I stopped by the administrative office, workplace of a number of wonderful, I might even say noble, women who have been extraordinarily helpful, finding ways to get me various advances to keep me from starving during my enforced penury . What enforced penury, you ask? You have been working for almost two months now, how can you be poor? I will get to that in a moment.

What I was doing at the office this particular day was was dropping off a reimbursement check from a hospital affiliated with Einstein that had bounced.

I know. How in the hell does a univeristy bounce a check. Its ridiculous. I mean, by univeristy standards it was literally nothing. Its not like I was taking away part of the endowment. It was 500$ people!!! And its not like the check bounced for some far out but explainable reason. Nope, the check was bounced for non-payment. Not because it was unreadable or some beaureucratic mix-up, simple non-payment. The bank tried to collect for 4 weeks, and the bank attached to the university could not be bothered to, you know, honor the check, so nothing happened and Washington Mutual bounced it and charged me. At least, this is what the bank tells me. The university tells me the hospital says that the check was damaged and that it was not their fault so they cannot give me back the six dollars the bank charged me ...

Recent Update: I have now been informed that the check has indeed been reissued, and is on the way to California ...

As a side note, it took me a full week to figure out that this is what had happened. It started with the surprise information that I could not withdraw 50$ in quarters to do laundry because my account was spontaneously overdrawn. Without warning, the bank just removed the 506$ from my account. I still have not recieved a warning. Slightly embarrassed and very annoyed, as this information would have saved me a walk to the bank and allowed me to dig up money to do laundry, I went home and proceded to have a 2.5 hour conversation with a number of rather dull Washington Mutual employees trying to explain what code RFLI 56704 meant. After an hour of moving between a number of witless human resource professionals and managers more worried about how to get this angry customer off the phone without sounding bad than about fixing my problem, I get transferred to one of those departments full of the employees that banks and other institutions that work with lots of numbers must have but work stringently to keep away from the customers. This department was called the lost exchange department and the individuals I spoke to here clearly had an excellent understanding of what my mystery code meant and no clue how to explain it using language.

This brings me to the other part of my cash flow problem, which is that after 7 weeks here I am still not in the system and so still have not been given an actual paycheck. Its a bit comical. This massive institution, capable of saving lives and generating ground-breaking research, is unable to process a single individual research fellow in less than 2 months. Two months!!! I had to get processed and tested and screened for diseases and processed further, trekking literally all over campus to do so, so that I could finally hand my paperwork to someone who did I don't know what with it because that was 4 weeks ago and I have heard anything about it since.

And its not just that I cannot get paid, its that everyone who I speak to actually wants me to get paid. They are all working for me to get paid. I am accumulating owed favors as fast as my debt, trying to get paid. Its crazy, we all work for this gigantic, benevolent institution, and we are all working against it, calling in favors, trying to get me integrated into the same system we are working against so that I can work for it.

Anyway, due to this minor beauraucratic error and the bounced check, I am now 2 steps from the poorhouse all the time. Its a bizarre feeling really, because essentially, I am broke and wealthy at the same time, thanks to our nations fabulous credit system. I can buy anything I want (except for single drinks at bars) thanks to my credit, but at the same time, because of that credit, each thing I purchase ends up costing 50% more. Its like being in London, but I don't get to hear any of the fabulous accents.

I have a quote a the bottom of my email that states that "Any sufficiently advanced bureaucracy is indistinguishable from molasses". I have rarely found this to be so true.

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