I was paying some bills this weekend and realized that hey, I’m moving in less than a month, and I should probably really stop, I don’t know, writing checks on an account I’m going to be closing soon. Duh.
Why yes, I HAVE managed to do all of my banking with a local New England bank instead of one of the eleventy national chain banks available in the area, thank you for noticing. Ahem.
So this morning, I got the kids off to school and did some work and then set out for the local branch of Big National Bank to open new accounts. Sure, I could’ve just stayed home and shoved paperclips into my eyeballs instead, to achieve the same level of joy, but this way seemed slightly more productive.
Now is the time where we take a break from me saying blah blah blah bank accounts and watching your eyes glaze over and instead veer into a related discussion, necessary for full appreciation of what follows.
When I got married (the first time), I changed my name. When I got divorced, I didn’t change my name back, because it’s the same name my kids have. Also because I am lazy. However, when I started freelancing, I went back to my family’s name for that, because it seemed like the thing to do.
Now that I’ve remarried, I’ve decided to officially change my name… to Otto’s name. (Um, we’re talking last names here. I’m not changing my name to Otto. That would just be weird.) So I will still have my Personal Life Name and my Work Name, but the former will be changing and the latter will stay the same. (Confused yet?) I won’t be changing my name until after I move, though, because why go through everything twice?
At my current bank, I have my personal accounts, and then I have a work account as a DBA; it allows me to work under my family name even though it is not technically my legal name.
Okay. Got all that?
I walked into Big National Bank and waited for an account representative and was then ushered into a tiny office where I explained my needs. I need a personal checking account with a linked savings account. I need them in my current name but I plan to change my name in a few weeks (no problems there; I need to change my license first, then they can change things). I need a business account set up as a DBA.
The account rep nodded and mmmhmmed and took my license and credit card and typed away and after about an hour had gotten my personal accounts all set. I signed some papers and then she said it would be much quicker to set up the business account, no worries. Just a bit of paperwork and some more typing, please bear with her.
She typed a bit and then started writing on some papers and it occurred to me that she hadn’t asked me what name I use for my DBA. “You’ve got that all set up for Mir Kamin, right?” I asked.
“No, Mir Lastname,” she answered.
“Well, right, but Mir Lastname DBA Mir Kamin. Right?”
“No, we set it up as Mir Lastname DBA Mir Lastname.” And then she pushed the paperwork across the desk to me, in illustration. And indeed—just as she’d said—it said Mir Lastname DBA Mir Lastname.
“Uhhhhhh…” I struggled to regain composure. “That… doesn’t make any sense.”
“What doesn’t?” she asked, as if people regularly stride into the bank and ask for accounts made out to Joe Smith as Joe Smith and Joe Smith (undersigned by Joe Smith, naturally).
“Why…” I searched her face for an emerging punchline, but she was genuinely puzzled by my confusion. “Okay, um, WHY would someone set up an account as their name DBA that VERY SAME NAME? What purpose would that serve?”
She blinked at me. Perhaps I’d been the first person to ask. “Well, people do it,” she assured me.
“But WHY?” I pressed.
“Well… because… they’re doing business… under their legal names.”
“In that case, why wouldn’t they just have an account IN THEIR NAME without a DBA?” I felt like I was arguing with the teacher, but I really WANTED TO KNOW. There were only two possibilities here: Either I was missing some clever nuance of the business world, or she was full of crap.
We stared across the desk at one another in tense silence. I began to wonder if I had been hasty in handing her a check for a thousand dollars, back when I still thought she was a reliable financial professional and not someone who might laugh at me after I left the office. (“Can you believe she fell for that? I TRICKED HER!”)
She wasn’t going to crack. Time stretched out between us and I had a sudden vision of being trapped in this office forever. I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Okay!” I cleared my throat. “Well, REGARDLESS, I need an account as Mir Lastname DBA Mir Kamin. Thanks.”
“Oh,” her voice held a note of dismay, “I can’t do that.”
“Wait, what? Why not?”
“Have you registered your business name?”
“Have I… what? No. It’s my NAME. Well, sort of. No, it’s not registered.” Register it where? For china? Stemware?
“Well then we can’t do it as a DBA. I’m sorry.”
“Um, I’ve been doing business as Mir Kamin for a couple of years now. And I already own a DBA account in that name. Small Local Bank had no problem letting me set it up.” I tried to keep my voice pleasant. I put down the ballpoint pen I was holding so as not to slip and jam it into her hand, which was nervously tapping on the desktop.
“Well, you know…” her eyes darted to the doorway, “the Patriot Act, you know. You have to be registered.”
Now it was my turn to just look at her and blink.
“Well…” again, a glance to the doorway. “I think we can do it. I mean, I think I can. Let me just see, here. Clearly you’re not trying to defraud anyone.” She started typing again.
I dug a fingernail into my palm to keep from laughing. On the one hand, yes. I’m not exactly a terrorist threat. On the other hand, is it a rule or isn’t it? Do they get to pick and choose who looks like a threat to security? How do they know that the very safety of the American people WON’T be jeopardized by a freelance writer who CLAIMS to just want to be able to cash her checks?
Nearly two hours later, I had my three new accounts. I had input a PIN for my ATM card, and we’d set up my access to online banking. All three accounts were linked to one another, I had temporary checks, and even a spiffy bank bag. My faith in humanity—or at least serendipity—had been restored.
When I got home, I logged on to my new online banking center and started setting up direct deposit and billpay and all of that. And then I noticed that the account exec had transposed a number in my address.
I called and asked them to fix it. And then I started working on my diabolical plan to overthrow the government using my DBA account!
(GOLLY but am I looking forward to going in to change my name on my personal accounts in about a month.)