In Which Elena-Mercifully-Goes to the Bank: Part 3

(Previously, in part 1 of this joyous little pilgrimage, I had to deal with Construction but found something to laugh about, on the way to the bank.

In part 2, there was nothing to laugh about, except that a pilgrimage should have emotional significance. There were definitely significant emotions occurring.)


Remember that bank that was being built, right near my apartment? The one you could see right through to the other side?

In the middle of August, I decide to investigate this further. I had found several online reviews lauding this exact location for its excellent service and friendly atmosphere. These are not the sort of reviews one leaves, no matter how rapturous one is feeling, for a pile of dirt. No. I am suspicious, and set out on my trusty bicycle (read: squeaky beyond embarrassment) to see for myself.

I squeal my way over to the Construction Bank site, sounding like the PedalPub for crazed chipmunks. Pedestrians leave the sidewalk when they hear me coming. Instead of stopping and lamenting the construction site when I get there, I decide to keep going around the bend.

I round the corner, and there–there, ladies and gentlemen–there sits the bank. Tucked just behind the under-construction bank, calmly, where it has clearly been doing business for years.

I’m sure you can join me in imagining the rest–me parking my bike in a real parking lot, me walking into a real bank during real hours, me being provided excellent service in a friendly atmosphere by real people, me rending my garments in the lobby from grief, from pain, from the sheer exasperation that this institution has caused me, me being escorted forcibly by excellent friendly service people from the building, me and my chipmunk bike driving the whole 200 yards home.

For those of us who like visual things, recall that this is where I went:

And–my computer cannot even put the stars close enough together to demonstrate this to scale–this is where I needed to be:

The length of this distance is what we call a “blip.”

Time spent on transaction, including bicycle ride: 10 minutes.

Distance traveled: approximately 193,280,010 yards more than necessary.

I feel like there should be something profound about all this–maybe some zen-like statement about ending where you started from, or the beauty of a pilgrimage that brings you home at last. I don’t feel profound or enlightened.

I feel like an idiot.

But now I am an idiot with a bank.


Attack of the Phantom Stress: Welcome to The Real World

I graduated. It’s been fun. It’s been real. No, wait, not that…that comes with joining The Real World. And along with graduation comes a host of unsettling events they don’t tell you about when you sign up to pay your entire life savings…or at least the one you would have made in the future…

Things They Don’t Tell You About The Real World:

Attack of the phantom stress. You are dozing in the early morning. It is peaceful. You are dreaming of golden afternoons, lemonade, and the birds chirping through the open window. Suddenly your dream takes a nasty turn. You are struck by a vague but very insistent feeling that Something is not right Something is not right Something is wrong. You wake up, sweating, heart pounding, wrapped in sheets, reaching desperately for an alarm clock that isn’t there, shouting, “What day is it? What’s due today? How much did I oversleep? Where are my pants?” Then, as you come to, out of your groggy sleep-induced panic, you realize several things.

1. There is no homework due today, because

2. It is Sunday, and

3. You have graduated.

You lie on your back wide awake, staring at the alarm clock you finally found, watching it blink  7:02.    7:02.    7:02.   You do this for several hours while the adrenaline, which served you so well when going deep-sleep-to-shower in 4 seconds flat on a school morning, has a party in your veins.

Housing deposits. The school who has taken so much of your time, your young adulthood, your sweat, your tears, your desperate pleas for mercy and assignment extensions and better grades than you deserve, and most of all has taken your money, oho yes has it taken your money!—this same school has the gall to deliver an envelope to your high school self’s old home address. It is a check, addressed to you. It is the original housing deposit you paid four years ago when you were youthful, carefree, and starry-eyed with the future. It is worth less than 1% of the loans you took out to pay for your education. You open the envelope and laugh hysterically for five minutes, then use it to pay a quarter of the rent.

Laundry. It’s always awkward. You move out of the dorms where you have been living as an admittedly lame senior in college. Along with the bright and hopeful views in The Real World, you’ve been hoping for a new setting for washing clothes. Alas. Your apartment building, where you are living as a capable, confident, independent adult (read: staying up way too late watching Youtube videos because you can), has a laundry room. Which means you can still pay too much to be able to wave your underwear around in front of everyone!

Citing your sources: an exercise in futility. In academia, if you don’t cite your sources, you get points off. In the Real World, the bleary-eyed intern (yes, that’s you) spends hours on the internet wasteland, fact-checking obscure author claims about heart failure and stress, using websites that are somehow both free and scholarly. Like you don’t already know these answers first hand…

Some things never change, I guess. Hooray to the graduates!

The Real World: it’s not as different as we thought.

photo credit:

Harry Potter Will Turn You Into A Serial Killer: Yet Another Review of, you know, that one book…

The third Harry Potter movie has just ended, and a birthday party of sugar-stoked eleven-year-old boys begins laying waste to the movie theater lobby. One boy separates from the group with a bright idea. He runs, full tilt (I am not making this up), straight at the movie theater’s brick wall. The result is a staggering, completely unforeseen display of the laws of physics, in which the brick emerges victorious. (Who knew?) After regaining consciousness, the boy’s mother asks him why, if he wanted to deprive himself of his senses, he didn’t just leap into oncoming traffic. He wails, “But Harry Potter can do it!…” The rest of the birthday party watches eagerly while sucking down cans of Red Bull. Other moviegoers begin backing away before the other boys start impersonating the hamsters from a preview.

The above is a true story with an important moral: Never, never combine sugar and eleven-year-old boys. Or at least let them wear helmets. But the second moral, only slightly less important, is that stories move us. (Literally, in this case.) Stories shape our motives and enlarge the world we live in, for kids even more so. (Just ask the hundred or so children who flushed their own goldfish down the toilet after “Finding Nemo,” only to find out Guppy was taking the Long Swim to the water treatment plant.)

It was an intense discussion for a while there, whether Harry Potter was the devil or just his apprentice.  It went something like this:

Person 1:  Harry Potter will turn your child into a Satanist!

Person 2:  No, Harry Potter will help kids to read!

Person 1:  About evil!

Person 2:  No, about being a kid!  It isn’t real anyway.

Person 1:  YOU’RE a Satanist!…

and so on, until both are so worked up they’ve got to sit down and sort out which one of them was 1 and which was 2 all over again. Here’s the deal, folks: If, one morning after reading Harry Potter, you wake up and think that, by waving a stick, you can turn your mother into a lampshade, you have other problems. Get help now! Operators are standing by!  What Birthday Boy above needed was a good dose of reality (and let me tell you, he sure got it).

On the other hand, J. K. Rowling’s “magic” is a cousin to some very dangerous stuff that doesn’t belong in quotes or children’s books, and readers better be discerning enough to know the difference. The question becomes, what are you willing to be desensitized to? I’m personally not concerned about Harry’s brand of magic unless it leads to other things.

Stories may not turn us to the Dark Side, but they influence us. So what’s more dangerous than Harry’s magic? Well, real life.

We learn about human relationships from books too, and, though I hate to say it, Rowling’s characterization is lacking. Rowling’s characters, while they feel complete and believable, don’t develop like real people. (Come to think of it, that is like some people.) Harry, Ron and Hermione barely change throughout the series. They don’t learn from their mistakes, and they interact in excessively predictible ways–Hermione nags, Ron sulks, Harry turns narcissistic. It gets a bit irritating. I find that, after I read this series I’m crabby and irritable and selfish with the people around me. I swear it’s the characters in the books rubbing off on me. This never works for an excuse (“Harry made me do it!”)–but it reminds me how much I learn from the books I read. Harry’s relationships are just as significant as his magical fantasy world, and they will be to readers too.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, if she can get this way over a kid’s series, keep her away from the serial-killer novels…

Yeah, I know, it sounds paranoid; I’d just rather read books with my eyes wide open. (As opposed to the other way, where it gets real dark and it’s hard to find your spot…)

I love these books and will end by applauding J. K. Rowling, who excels at (at least) two things: creating a world and spinning a plot. The wizarding world is incredibly well-imagined, from a bureaucratic Ministry to a highly original sport (where in the world of sports do we have a Snitch?) down to the candy names like Fizzing Whizbees and Toothflossing Stringmints. Rowling picks the kinds of details that not only sound true, but make me wish it were.

Rowling also spun a vast story that kept readers guessing, weeping, and up all night. (Um, not that I would know…) The seventh book is brilliant, really brilliant, in the way events pull together. I was thoroughly engrossed–a live hippogriff in my room could not have made me look up. Great books. But not because of character development. I can still enjoy Rowling’s fantastical plot in spite of her rather flat characters. I just wish that Harry had grown up as much as he thinks he has.

Books are meant to be shared–what was your experience of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the series as a whole? Did you find the books irritating and inspiring?  And have you ever tried to reach Platform 9 ¾ ? (Would you admit it if you had?)