In Which Elena Goes to the Bank: Part 2

Previously, on Bank Pilgrimages

[car radio sounds, honking, construction]

Elena: [steering] If you wanted it to be a one-way street, why didn’t you say it was a one-way street?!?

Stoplight: [RED.] Don’t Walk. Don’t Walk. Don’t Walk.

Elena: [in line at the bank, happily] It’s all so space age! [Girl behind her in line edging away, giving weird look]

Fifteen cars behind Elena at a confusing intersection: Honk. Honk. Honk. Honk. Honnnnnnk. Honkhonkhonkhonkhonk.

Join us now for Elena Goes to the Bank: A Pilgrimage, part 2.


Once again, I decide I need to go to the bank. (Really, if we’re being honest, this was my first mistake. Who needs to go to the bank?) I have several checks to deposit. (A happy problem, for most people, but one I nevertheless could have ignored in relatively peaceful poverty.) I decide to combine it with another errand, and look it all up on Google Maps ahead of time.

So first I do my errand.

I’ve used my extensive artistic ability to demonstrate the journey for you all:

I arrive, no problem, in less time than the internet estimated for me. I even leave with free potatoes from the Salvation Army next door. Who’s complaining? Nobody, that’s who.

Next, I carefully look at the map, to go to (what I think is) the same location I went to last time. How hard can this be? I start off toward the bank.

The bank starts off, too, and moves several blocks over. At least, that’s the only thing I can figure, because I swear my navigational skills are good. Really. I carefully drive to the exact intersection specified on the map (which I can no longer zoom in on, because I don’t have internet in my car…#21st century problems…).

I arrive at the location, and nothing is there except a giant volcanic pit, several Big Bertha backhoes digging their graves, and a spindley little construction stoplight damming up cars all the way to Canada. You decide which part of that is an exaggeration, and which part of that is a bank. Drawing on my deep observational skills, I conclude that I should begin hunting elsewhere for the elusive bank, and set out again, for the banks labelled, respectively, E, J, and G. (That means there’s a lot more alphabet letters out there luring poor suckers into hunting the tribal banks…)

Watch carefully now.

Actual path taken.

The rest is pretty hazy, but there are a few things I remember.

Rumored banks in the area: 3

Actual banks found: 0

List of obstacles on the way to real bank: Big river, construction-cone driving course (professionals only), aforementioned Pit of Doom, the Capitol building, stoplights that never turn green, streets with multiple personalities that change names without warning, shiny distracting statues of famously dead people.

Actual bank found after accosting a real person on his smoke break: 1. “But I think it might be closed.”

Out of the pity of God, I finally find the bank. It was not even on the map. I scramble out of my car, weaving across the parking lot in an exhausted zigzag. A sign firmly tells me that the bank has closed 15 minutes earlier. Which would have been right between the “heading north for 10 miles before deciding I’ve gone too far” and the “pulling over next to nice house in the hopes that they’ll let me use their free WiFi from the road.” Neither of which worked very well.

At this point I am considering taking the heaviest thing out of my trunk (my sewing machine) and smashing the bank’s glass doors down. It would have been spectacular. You would have seen it on the news.

But a small pinprick of light is trickling–nay, cackling–down from above: the space-age drivethru is still open! I march back toward my car–whoops, nope, my car, sorry sir–and turn it on and back it around and pull into the drivethru and wait. The line is long. It is hot out. Google maps has deserted me. My computer has died. All I can find is a pencil. I sign my checks with what I want to be a flourish. My signature looks like I’m four.

And then this actual conversation happens between me and nice teller via the little space-age tubes:

Me: “Um, how do I use this?” (Remember, I don’t get out much.)

Teller: “Put your stuff in it and push the button.”

Me: “Okay…” (Not okay. Not. okay.)

Teller: “You’ll need to add it up on the deposit slip.”

Me: “What if I can’t do math today?”

Actual amount of time spent looking for a bank only 20 minutes from home: 1.5 hours.

Then I drove the 20 minutes home. Watched six episodes of The Nanny. And ate peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon.

[You’d think I wouldn’t try again, but apparently I’m young and stupid and part 3 also happened.]


Book of the Week: Wolves Of Willoughby Chase

Sometimes we read to improve ourselves. Sometimes, to learn from others’ mistakes. Maybe we read to pretend we’re smart and know things. And then sometimes, we read for the sole purpose of playing make-believe.

Wolves of Willoughby Chase is one of the latter.  If you have ever wanted to be a rich 12-year-old girl wandering through secret passageways, wearing pelisses (whatever they are, it sounds like luxury), and going on adventures with the goose-boy—then this book is for you. For the rest of you, I deeply apologize. You may want to keep your smelling salts nearby in case you get queasy.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is a fun book! Here’s the plot: Bonnie is the aforementioned girl with oodles of money and few cares in the world. Cousin Sylvia comes to live with Bonnie just as Bonnie’s parents are leaving on a long voyage. The cousins’ adventures begin, however, when an evil governess takesover the estate in absence of parents. The girls are sent to a boarding school in conditions worthy of a Dickens novel, and all is surely in despair—what will they do??

Seriously, I don’t want to ruin it for you. I liked the solution. (It involves Simon the goose-boy.)

I get shivers just looking at it. I'd take wolves over this bad boy any day.

Wolves of Willoughby Chase is part fairy-tale, part social novel, and a little scaryness thrown in. The wolves from the title would have frightened me badly as a kid (heck, we watched “Pinocchio” when I was three and I dreamed about giant man-eating whales for years—so maybe I’m a bad judge).  For the overall feel, think Series of Unfortunate Events, minus the doom and despair.  But that’d be a whole different book series, wouldn’t it?

Willoughby Chase‘s only major life lesson is that one should always check the evil governess’ references before leaving on vacation. But author Joan Aiken wrote about things she liked, which can be a good deal better than pleasing an audience. And in this case, she did both.

If you liked this book, you might also like:

other books by Joan Aiken
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
and, if you’re willing to wade through long sentences (which you obviously are if you read this blog…) any books by Charles Dickens

(Speaking of Charles Dickens, Oprah has recently discovered him. Good to know his existence has been validated.)

What do you guys think? Aiken’s plot seems rather unoriginal to me—but maybe that’s overrated. Do authors need to be original–or should they just write about whatever they like?


[click on photos for photo credits.]

The Princess Bride (Wait, is this a kissing book?)

"S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure"

Today we’re continuing with a review of a book better known by its movie counterpart–but it’s a book first and forever.  If you’ve seen the movie, “The Princess Bride” you’ll still want to read this book.  For those of you who haven’t seen it or read it (do these people even exist?), here’s a little teaser:

Buttercup, who has risen to the title of most beautiful woman in the history of the world, waits for her true love, Westley, only to hear he has been lost at sea.  She vows to never love again, and keeps her vow, but agrees to marry the evil Prince Humperdinck (evil, but ridiculously smart and wants her for low-handed political reasons).  But when the Prince’s plans go slightly awry, and the Dread Pirate Roberts comes on the scene, it’s only the beginning of scores of adventures and interesting characters.  The prologue says it best:

[Young William Goldman] “Has it got any sports in it?”

[Father] “Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison.  True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.”

[Young William Goldman] “Sounds okay,” I said, and I kind of closed my eyes. “I’ll do my best to stay awake…but I’m awful sleepy, Daddy…”

Do you ever find an author that makes you want to keep reading, and you’re fifteen or twenty pages in before you realize the author has said nothing of significance?  And you don’t care?  The Princess Bride does that for me.  And it happens while I’m reading the preface, for pity’s sake.  (Side note: I’ve done this with other books too–once I read a whole 432-page kid’s thriller novel like the outcome of World Peace, and possibly the World Cup, depended on my finishing it in under half an hour.  (And it took me longer than that–now we know why the world is the way it is.  Sorry, folks.)  Anyway, I read the last page, shut the book, gasping like a marathon runner, and thought to myself, “That was dumb.”  Ah, the power of thriller novels.  I was powerless to do anything until it was read cover to cover, and then I realized I didn’t even like the book. And then I read the second one! (It was very persuasive.)  And this wasn’t even a full blown ax-murderer story!  It was about some genetically altered kids with wings.  I don’t know if I should link to it, since this wasn’t an entirely positive description, but if you’re interested, you can find it here.  Just cancel your life beforehand.)    Warning warning warning we are now returning to our previous altitude in the above-parentheses stratosphere.  Thank you.


If you flip the movie case around, it says the same thing upside-down.

They say that readers have to like the narrator to like the story–and the narrator of The Princess Bride is both charming and snarky.  I know it’s hard to imagine both of those together, so I’ve mined some examples for you skeptics:

The land of Florin was set between where Sweden and Germany would eventually settle.  (This was before Europe).  In theory, it was ruled by King Lotharon and his second wife, the Queen.  But in fact, the King was barely hanging on, could only rarely tell day from night, and basically spent his time in muttering.  He was very old, every organ in his body had long since betrayed him, and most of his important decisions regarding Florin had a certain arbitrary quality that bothered many of the leading citizens.  (Chp. 1)

In what must be an attempt to ground the story in history, the narrator tells us whether things have been invented or not.  After mentioning stew, he says,

This was after stew, but so is everything.  When the first man first clambered from the slime and made his first home on land, what he had for supper that first night was stew.

and then has a small fight between the parents:

“What exactly is it dumpling?” Buttercup’s mother wanted to know.

“You look; you know how” was all he replied. (This was their thirty-third spat of the day–this was long after spats–and he was behind, thirteen to twenty, but he had made up a lot of distance since lunch, when it was seventeen to two against him.)

Charming, right?

Tell us what you think! Have you ever read this book? Why, after all this time, has nobody been able to locate the original, unabridged S. Morgenstern version?

Next week’s book: Alice in Wonderland…