6.12.2006

Safe Deposit Box Buddy

I’m attempting to become a grown up. This transition is well overdue, but for a woman who remains most comfortable sitting cross-legged on the floor, I may never act my age. If only I didn’t look it.

During the past few months, I finally drew up a will and created a living trust to ensure the legal wellbeing of my child if I ever get hit by a bus unexpectedly. Yes, I know. Most encounters with moving buses are unexpected, outside bold acts of self-destruction and insurance fraud.

I come at this lightly, for if I truly imagine the implications of my son charging forward in life without me, I’ll have my first panic attack. To fend this off, I tell myself that everything works out in the end, even if I find the evidence a tad dubious. An acceptance of this concept rests completely on how you define ‘working out’ and ‘in the end.’ If you’re content with the knowledge that regardless of our exhaustive efforts, we all age and die and thus worrying is unnecessary, saying ‘it all works out’ is a fine, calming mantra. That’s what I cling to.

My will and trust documents finally arrived, a booklet overwhelmingly thick with precision and legalese, along with a letter from my lawyer instructing me to keep the originals safe from flood, fire, and burial under all my other neglected papers. Knowing that a safe deposit box is best, I called my bank and learned that as an account holder, I am entitled to a tiny free box, but my branch had none available.

“I can offer you a larger one for $99 per year,” the bank employee informed me.

Nice bait and switch. I declined. He kindly offered to call other nearby branches seeing if he could find me a free box. Four days later, one was on reserve.

I grabbed my documents, hopped into my toy-like Aqua Blue VW Beetle, and put the top down as if thumbing my nose at the mature act I was embarking upon. As I zipped down the local streets, my hair tousled into an ugly beehive mess, I remembered why my convertible is more of a concept than a regularly enjoyed experience.


“Here are your two keys,” the employee in the safe deposit area said, handing me a small white envelope as I signed my rental agreement.

“So, I can give one key to someone else in case they need to get into my box if I die or, um, go into a coma or something?” I asked.

“No. Sorry. Only a co-renter can get into the box,” the bank employee informed me.

“Not even my mom or another relative?”

“Only if she is a co-renter.”

“But my health care directive is in there,” I said, motioning towards the box. “My family needs to know which body parts I’ve authorized for harvesting if I get into a fatal accident. Or when to pull the plug. No one really wants to discuss these details right now,” I explained. “My family is a bit squeamish, and when I bring this up, I get a lot of ‘God forbid.’”

“Only a co-renter,” she reiterated.

I left the bank in search of a safe deposit box buddy, someone who only needed a tiny corner of space in my obscenely small free box. I dialed my friend who’s also becoming a grown up by getting a will together.

“Hey, do want to share my safe deposit box?” I asked. “I need to find a co-renter who will gather my papers for my family if I die so that they don’t have to wade through probate to get their hands on my official docs. I’ll return the favor.”

“How much?” she asked.

“Free, but it’ll only fit some folded papers.”

“Sure.”

Done deal. A few weeks later, my friend rang up saying her documents had arrived. We made a date to visit the bank.

“Hi,” I said to the safe deposit box guardian. “I want to add my friend here as a co-renter.” As the bank employee reached for my rental card, I turned to my friend, “Wait, what if we go out together in a fiery crash? It could happen. We socialize.”

“Not that much,” she said. “You know I don’t like to go out.”

“But it could happen, and then all of this is pointless.” She responded that maybe we needed to add her husband to the account as well. “Can we do that?” I asked, turning toward the bank employee.

“Sure,” she answered. “But all three of you will have to be here at the same time to sign a new card.” I was not loving the hassles of being a grown up.

“Relationship?” my friend asked the bank employee, indicating a blank spot on the personal information section of the rental card.

“That’s new since the Patriot Act. Because of terrorism. We never had to ask that before.”

“So what would terrorists fill in?” I asked. “Co-conspirators?” I knew sarcastic responses were risky in this new era, but I couldn’t help myself. My friend simply penned ‘friend.’

“We’re safe deposit box buddies now,” I said. “And surely on some government watch list.”

I won’t rail on about the lunacy of much of the Patriot Act, mostly because I haven’t read it. I only receive the bits and pieces that make it into social discourse through articles and experiences such as my own. But if you find the Act comforting, just remember, I’ve now probably been tucked onto the bottom of some ‘to be investigated’ list simply because I went outside the norm and invited a friend onto my safe deposit box dance card. You gotta wonder.

3 comments:

erised said...

This was a delight to read. I love the dialogue, the rhythm, and how you make something daunting into something fun. Brava.

Anonymous said...

how come i didn't get any of the funny lines?
xx :) your box buddy

ecm said...

It seems kind of crazy that a safe deposit box is so secure that no one can get it in but you. If all the important documents are there, what do you do? You seem to have found the perfect solution!