I’ve been appalled that my son’s bank in the US has been unable to replace a deleted debit card. On a recent visit to Berlin, I discovered why nothing had happened even after my son’s complaints to the bank. He was being overly polite.
One evening, I heard my boy talk to the bank rep. He sounded as if he were at a confessional. I grabbed the phone from him, ambushing the gentleman at the other end of the line.
“This here is the boy’s mother,” I said. “I’m sick of this runaround! Did you hear me? I’m sick of it.” I proceed to tell the man just how furious I was with the delay and ineptitude. I used bombastic words. I threw dates. I spat facts. It wasn’t enough that they would not deal with me in America because the son was not a minor anymore. Now that I was in Berlin with my son, I was still being given the runaround, I said.
Ten minutes later, I handed the phone back to my boy, satisfied that I’d dragged the clerk through the coals. “And that’s how you deal with these people, baby,” I said. I felt proud. I deserved the Distinguished Service Medal in Mothering.
My son demurred. He said I had been unpleasant and rude to the clerk.
I told him he needed to bone up, that he needed to stop sounding as if he were on his first date. I told him he needed to pretend he was being evicted or extradited or something nasty like that. “You need to learn to yell as if you are on your last euro.”
“But the clerk is merely a cog in the wheel, Mom,” the boy said. “They have rules, you know. The bank guy told you exactly what he told me. You didn’t change the outcome.”
Days later, we were still at an impasse, even after my son mailed them a letter with the requisite information and a signature. Today, two weeks after my return from Berlin, I called the local bank. The accounts manager at the bank, Mike, told me to calm down, that nothing could be accomplished by yelling.
An hour later I walked into the bank with a copy of my son’s letter. Mike was as calm in person as he had sounded on the phone. His eyes were sky-blue. He had a day’s stubble. He looked like a young philosophy grad who had arrived at his job as a last resort. “Let me check your son’s signature,” he said.
I wanted to tell Mike there was no need. No signature had more cachet than a mother’s testimony. Mothers were always right. We were privy to conversations about warts, fears, girls, dreams—and signatures. No bank or physician’s office could take that away from us just because our child was past 18 years of age. Yes, my son wasn’t a minor anymore. But my major was Mothering, first and foremost, and so I could also weigh in on the point of signature comparison.
I warned Mike. “If you check his current signature against what it was four years ago, I bet it will be quite different.” I told him that college transformed a young man’s outlook as well as his signature.
Mike looked up and smiled. He asked about Berlin. After looking through the folder they had on file, he nodded.
“Yes, your son’s signature has changed since 2011 and I’m unable to verify it. But you know what? I’m going to help you out. This has gone on way too long. You’ll have a new card in the mail next week.”
I thanked him. As for all the spit and rant over the issue—which will end only when my son receives the card—I believe it was justified.
My son needs to know this: A little shouting may not open doors but it certainly unlocks a window.