The check is in the Mail

Putting down a steaming bowl of hamburgers swimming in a pool of brown mushroom gravy, I glanced up at the clock on the dining room wall. As I turned to get the boiled potatoes, I questioned in surprise, “Seven o’clock already? It’s still so light out!”

After dumping half the potatoes onto his plate a few moments later, my husband ladled meat and gravy over them answering me, “Daylight savings begins next week.”

“You’re so busy this time of the year,” I commented, thinking about how many long hours he was away from home to deliver his customers’ organic seeds and fertilizers.

Arnie forked food into his mouth and nodded. After swallowing he said, “It’s a good business, but right now, all the farmers have on their minds is getting into their fields the minute the soil is warm and dry enough. They want the product they’ve ordered to be there when they need it.”

I took the last of the cooked carrots from the serving bowl and savored their sweetness in silence. A cool breeze from the open kitchen window made me shiver. The sweet carol of a robin came in along with the breeze and filled me with pleasure. I said, “It was so warm this afternoon, I opened a few windows. Now that it’s getting chilly again, I’d better shut them.”

The phone rang while I was away from the table. I groaned because I hate to have meal-time interrupted by telemarketers. When I sat back down I could tell Arnie was talking to a customer. He said, “I want you to have a check ready for me when I deliver the product tomorrow.” After listening to the person on the other end of the line for a few minutes, he said, “Look, I’m not your banker. You’re not taking out a loan. I need to be paid.”

After my husband hung up the phone I said, “Wow! You were talking firmly to that customer! I don’t know if I’d be able to do that!”

Shaking his head, Arnie said, “The last time I sold this man fertilizer, it took him ten months to pay me. You know I have to pay my suppliers right away. If all my customers didn’t pay or held back payment, I’d go out of business.”

Talking about money always makes me feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. Even as a child, I felt apologetic when Mom and Daddy had to pay for my tonsillectomy. As a teenager, although I wanted money, I felt bad asking Daddy to give me some of his. Years later, hiring babysitters for my children was a hardship. It was necessary for us to work out how much they wanted to be paid per hour.

Oddly enough at a garage sale I don’t feel uncomfortable saying, “Would you take one dollar for this three dollar item?” It seems that my love for good bargains supersedes my money angst. Receiving a wage for working at the hospital didn’t embarrass me either. Of course after being hired I didn’t have to talk about what I was earning, either. The paycheck just magically appeared every two weeks because I showed up when scheduled and did what I was asked to do.

Several months ago when I decided to retire, I worried about income and insurance. When my husband was alive, he would have taken care of these things for me. The arrival of my Medicare card in the mail prompted me to go out and purchase gap insurance. That took care of one part of the equation. The second half of the equation involved popping the cork on the pension plan for which I’d worked forty-six years.

A rational person would think that a worker should get his/her pension paperwork completed as their last days of work draw to a close. It made me very uneasy when I wanted to do that and was told by the Human Resource office that none of the paperwork could even be started until I was officially unemployed.

Two weeks after retiring I called the HR office. I asked, “Why hadn’t I received the paperwork yet?”

The office girl calmly said, “We don’t send out the paperwork until four to six weeks after your last paycheck.” I freaked out.

Apparently it is common for retired people to wait three months to begin receiving their pension checks. No one had warned me. I certainly hadn’t planned on not having a flow of money for that long! Losing my timidity about money, I made a pest of myself by calling often to ask them to hurry the process. Each time I called, I thought about the customers that didn’t want to pay Arnie and about how fast I was expected to complete my tasks when I worked.

After one of my calls my daughter asked, “What did they say this time?”

I answered grumpily, “As the old saying goes, ‘The check is in the mail.’”

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