Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Twenty Cent Wire

There was silence on my end of the receiver. No, make that dead silence.

"Your wire was 20 cents short. You will have to send another wire out for 20 cents. Today."

Not too many months ago I was asked, no required, to address a 2 cent error that THE OTHER SIDE had made in a real estate transaction. Once burned, twice infuriated.

"Are you still on the line?"

The dead air had caught her attention. I was trying to control my emotions.

"Are you kidding me?"

She repeated her instructions, almost verbatim. The message was clear and unmistakeable. She was not kidding.

"I need the wire by 5PM today and the fed reference number."

I understood that her client was about as huge an entity as took up space on this planet. Fannie Mae. I comprehended that the red tape could suffocate even the best intentioned. But really, was there never any room for the tiniest sliver of common sense?

Earlier in this transaction I had advised that my client wished to acquire title to the premises not in individual names, but in a Limited Liability company. You would have thought I had just requested a presidential pardon. After days of endless point and counterpoint, the royal thumbs down was given and the deal disintegrated. Only later, did rational thought intercede and a one sentence amendment found its way into print.

It is just the endless barrage of bureaucracy that is overwhelming. It seems to follow all of us, constructing its own labyrinth of obstacles. Recently my son was seen in an emergency room for no more than a few minutes to examine a bruised finger. Despite all attempts at reason, the hospital refused to adjust, even the tiniest bit, the $1250 bill, all of which had to be paid out of pocket. It was, we were informed, a level 4 protocol. I can only imagine what would fall in a lesser, less expensive category. Cutting fingernails, level 3.

What, I thought in fleeting fashion, would happen if I just mailed them two dimes, or even twenty pennies. Even worse, what if I just refused to accede at all to their demand? The inevitable, inescapable conclusion, was mountains of potential problems, professional sanctions and maybe worse.

My local banker was most sympathetic to my plight. She would, she advised, try to intercept the first wire to add the missing 20 cents. But when she called back to say that it was too late, and indeed I would have to come to the bank to fill out the paperwork for the additional wire, I was not in the smallest sense surprised.

When I did not get there quickly enough to assuage the concerns of those protecting the rights of their client, the calls and emails began. Not one or two, but several, bordering on many. All with the same urgency, all with the same deadline.

I was advised that the inquiry would be made on an hourly basis until resolution was achieved.

"You are not going to believe this." When I informed the real estate broker on the deal what was happening I could almost see his head shaking on the other end of the call.  And oh, by the way, the sentence you just read did not contain the expletives that followed almost each word.

Am I telling you too much, revealing in too bright light, my frustrations and my contemplations? I wonder whether any of you reading this would have responded in a more dispassionate manner. And if so, how can you be so calm in the face of such nonsense?

The banker had the paperwork all filled out on my arrival. As I sat there, I checked my cell phone to see yet another email reminding me that my obligation was still not met. I emailed back that I was doing what needed to be done at that very instant.

The next morning I was in court and did not get to my office until early afternoon. The email  that greeted me advised that there was no confirmation that the wire had been initiated. My first order of business, get the Fed reference number.

Finally, the proper information was relayed and my task completed. I got a very cryptic "tyvm" from my insistent friend.

Are there life lessons in this tale? Be more attentive to detail, maybe? Be less frustrated by the inevitable small calamities that mark everyone's life, possibly? Be happy, be at peace, who knows. Or maybe it was sending me just one large message in blinking red lights. Contemplate retirement.

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