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If I had $9.8 billion


February 13, 2012
By Ian Robinson

I read recently about a humble school teacher in rural India named Parijat Saha who went to the bank.

He called up his balance.

The bank balance of this man—who earns $700 a month—was just a hair under $10 billion.

That’s right—a guy earns $12,000 a year discovered $9.8 billion in his Bank of India account.

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My bank isn’t like that.

I’m sure yours isn’t, either.

In fact, my bank is pretty much the opposite of that.

If I ever had $9.8 billion, I’d bet on my bank to have whittled it down to about $5 billion through various transaction fees over the course of about a year and a half.

“Hold on. What’s this charge for a million bucks?”

“You only get to write 10 cheques a month for free. You wrote 14.”

“Oh. OK. Seems reasonable.”

While most of us like to complain about our banks, you have to at least give Canadian financial institutions serious props for not being like American banks.

American banks had to be bailed out because somebody decided it would be a good idea to lend money to poor people without jobs to buy houses…and then stood there with that patented Homer Simpson confused look on their faces when they tanked their entire economy.

Note to Readers Who Have Not Been Following the Economic News of Late: I am not kidding about the lending money to people without jobs thing. There were lenders in the U.S. who counted welfare cheques as income toward home ownership.

“How’s your collateral?”

“That’s kind of a personal question. But my last colonoscopy was normal.”

“Not colorectal. Collateral. Your assets.”

“I look good in jeans from behind if that’s what you mean.”

“Assets. Your valuables.”

“I think it’s very valuable. If I didn’t have an asset, I couldn’t sit down.”

“No. Your possessions. The things you own.”

“Oh! Sorry. Well, I got a 1972 El Camino and as soon as I find an engine for it, that’ll be worth something. And I found about 40 empty pop bottles going through garbage cans on my way to the bank this morning. That comes to around four bucks. For just the bottles, I mean. And, oh yeah, my mom got me a new crack pipe for Christmas.”

“Sign here, you’ve qualified for a loan for a brand-new house!”

I swear, if I lived in the United States, my money would be in a sweat sock hidden under my mattress.

By contrast, getting a loan from a Canadian bank is like convincing the cast of The Jersey Shore to read a book that doesn’t come with a package of crayons.

Note to Readers Who Have Not Been Following the Literary News of Late: Snooki from Jersey Shore actually has a novel in print.

It’s a thinly disguised version of her quest for love on the boardwalk. It’s called The Shore Thing.

This is the kind of news that makes tortured young novelists with a hundred rejection slips want to open a vein with a cheese grater and bleed out in the nearest gutter while cursing the very heavens for the injustice of it all.
This also makes Snooki the only human being on the planet who has written more books than she has actually read.

But I digress.

To make things worse, after Mr. Honesty in India reports the error, the bank left the money in his account while they tried to figure out how the error was made and what to do about it.

So now every time this poor sap goes to the bank, he’s got to see this ridiculous bank balance while he takes out enough money to buy rice for the week.

Bad enough you’re the kind of guy every time you use a debit card, it’s like using a Las Vegas one-armed bandit—will it pay off or won’t it? But to have to look at this crazy $9.8 billion bank balance every time you go to the ATM?

It’s like putting the card in and having the machine yell at you: “Hey Parijat! By the way—you’re poor! And see this money? You can’t have it! Neener, neener, neener.”

Or whatever the equivalent term is in Hindi.

Actually, there probably isn’t a Hindi equivalent of neener, neener, neener. I don’t think their culture is shallow enough.

But cross-cultural semantics aside? Banks suck.

Parijat’s a better man than I am, though.

I find $9.8 billion accidentally deposited in my bank account, the odds are pretty good I’m going to try to transfer it to a bank in a country that lacks an extradition treaty with Canada.

I know that would be wrong.

I know that would be immoral.

I also know that—if I could get away with it—that $9.8 billion is a lot of money and that I could probably find things to do with that $9.8 billion that would help me get over my guilt.

Given enough time with that kind of money, chances are I’d transform myself into the kind of eccentric supervillain who could comfortably take up residence in the pages of the latest Spider-Man comic book.

Aw, who am I kidding?

Like I’d last long enough to transform myself into anything.

Give me $9.8 billion and they’d find me a week later floating facedown in a hot tub in a penthouse suite in Vegas in a casino I just bought surrounded by all my new friends—all of whom would have just happened to be high-class young ladies of low moral character.

They’d have to wait a month or so for the funeral, though.

I reckon it’d take that long for the undertaker to wipe the smile off my face.