At Glacier Park July 2020 Photo by Adam Ruff: Unspunnewz



From the labyrinths of



All I wanted to do was cash a check. I approached a lady who’s name plate said “Teller”. The name plate did not indicate whether she was married or single, so I decided to call her “Ms. Teller”. She was an outstanding product of the finest training conjurable by the modern banking industry, so she naturally had little extra for me by way of cordials as I stood there before her with my little piece of paper. She looked past me as she asked, “May I help you?”

I spoke right up and explained that a fellow had given me this piece of paper and had told me that if I brought it into this bank someone would exchange it for some money. I apologized for interrupting her day for a trivial request. She looked past my shoulder and mouthed a really good question in my direction.

“You got any I. D. ?”

I looked at her for a moment, then asked, “Can you say that again please?” I wanted to be sure she had not asked if I had VD, or any CDs.

“I.D.; you know; identification.” Her tolerance was thinning. My nervousness was becoming self-conscious. Somehow I felt like this was all my fault. But it finally did dawn on me that she wanted me to declare who I was. “Oh” I said, “I am Elias Krater, beatnik at large. Pleased to meet you, Ms. Teller.” And I tried to shoot a little smile at her. I was willing to do what we had to do to conclude. When I extended my hand to her, expecting to shake properly, she drew back like maybe she thought I had a gun in it or something. I yanked my hand back fast, sorry I had scared her. I was beginning to notice that this check cashing business could be a little sticky for beginners, so I tensed up a little more, took a breath and resolved to control myself better.

I have always wondered why one would want to go to all this trouble. Why not just pay or give with real money? Now I’m not really bright, you must understand. But knowing that myself, I am always willing to wait and see during situations which I feel might include more than I can readily see at first. It’s just my way of being me, which is not against anybody’s law yet, `far as I know. And beside being just an average dude, I have always been a “cash and carry” sort of person. I seldom have money enough to trouble a banker about what to do with it. I do odd gigs helping my musician friends with their shows and sets around town in Memphis. They usually pay me something for helping, but it has never been much. Fortunately, I enjoy my work, and I get to catch a lot of good acts for free. That’s kewel, you know?

But I have given some thought to the money thang, which led to the banking thang. Now I ain’t no authority on the matter, but if I’m not mistaken, things sort of came around to what we have today from the simpler basics of economics. I think you can trace exchanges all the way back to the caves, you know? Like, when a hairy old dude had a couple of kewel clubs for weapons, and another dude had an extra woman at his cave, like, it was only natural that both parties might come up with a satisfactory trade; one good chick for one good stick. Back in those days, there wasn’t any money. That hadn’t been thought-up yet, you know? But soon enough, somebody did come up with the idea of money.

It was like magic, I’ll bet. The king could stamp some coins from his gold stocks and he could tell everybody what one of those coins was worth; say, like one gold coin might be worth three chicks and two sticks, or whatever. And then everybody bought into the idea. Then everybody wanted gold coins, wanted money. They would sit around the fire at their hooches and daydream about everything they’d do if they had a sack full of gold coins. No limit to what they could dream up. Money became popular in the population.

And kings found out that they could convince people to work for them in exchange for gold coins, and then tax them to get the coins back; an improvement over the slavery thang insofar as the king no longer had to house, clothe and feed his workforce. Nosir, by payin’ his workforce with money, he could leave it up to the individual worker to pay for his own housing and sustenance. Pretty kewel idea, kings thought, because after the workers paid for everything they needed to be healthy and regular workers, the king could tax `em for what money they had left over, and put that money back into his treasure room.

We’ve had money for many centuries now. I don’t know when the first bank was thought-up, but I’m sure it was a long time ago. Maybe it happened back in the times of the Knights Templar. But since then, there must have been millions of the things opened up around the world. And here in America I noticed, when I was a truck driver runnin’ coast to coast, that in every big city across our land there are huge skyscrapers which were put there by bankers. They crown skylines across America, they do! It’s like they are bragging about how much wealth they have accumulated off the work of American citizens, you know?

But this much we can know, that money was here before banks, and money was here before checking. I think that somebody probably just invented the idea of writing checks. I think it had something to do with protecting one’s money from theft or robbery or other types of loss. The banker would hold your money, and give you some little booklets of papers which signified that your banker had your money and would fork it over to anyone who presented him with one of your little pieces of paper.

Even I can see how this opens up an entire realm of possibilities, such as the banker deciding to charge you a tiny fee for the privilege and thereby profiting his organization in some insignificant way. That, by the way, led him to think about convincing more and more people to do the same thing, until he had lots and lots of people giving him their money in exchange for little booklets of papers. Bankers love to do this. They compete with each other for people’s cash, and the right to take a tiny part of that cash every month and keep it. They call it: service charges. For using the little booklets of papers which they traded to people for their money, the bankers get to charge a fee.

Let’s see. If half the people in America, say about a hundred and thirty million people, give their banker one lousy buck a month for the thrill of using his little booklets of paper, that should produce a cash flow basis for the banks in America of, let’s see, uhmm, about a hundred and thirty million dollars a month. I’ll bet the guy who thought up the idea of trading little books of papers for people’s cash was amazed when he saw how well his idea took root in American society! He probably ran a printing company, ya think?

But as I was saying, all I wanted to do was cash a check. To do that, I learned that I had to play a little game with Ms.Teller.

Ms. Teller’s face seemed contrived to hide her initial disapproval for my beard, which I haven’t cut in some number of years. I’m used to nice ladies looking somewhat miffed the first time they see it. It probably has to do with the cockleburs and dust bunnies which are sometimes found within the stringy auburn strands of untrained, cigarette-singed wildness which trails downward from my weathered old face like a wind-blown advertisement which says graphically: “I am the president of the Hair Club for Chin.”

It could have been the fact that I was barefooted, but I doubt that she could have seen my feet from behind her barrier, which was so high that I had felt compelled to tip-toe up and lean over the ledge to take a peek at all the money I imagined she might have back there at any given time.

I.D. puleaeez.” she said, forcefully. I backed down to flat-foot height and replied, “I just told you who I am, Ms. Teller. Elias Krater, beatnik at large. At your service.” But this time when I told her, I couldn’t quite get the smile up. I could feel my shoulders scrunching up. I looked left and right to see if I was disturbing anyone but her. Everybody looked fairly busy, normal, except an armed guard who stood under a shiny-billed hat like a statue and stared over my head at a clock. I could tell he was noticing me, and that made me want to hurry and finish my dealings with Ms. Teller. Like, ya know what I mean?

“Ok; sir! Would you like to speak with one of the Bank’s managers?” she blurted.

“I don’t think I know any of the bank managers, ma’am. I do know a few band managers, but none of `em work here. Actually, with my apologies, I’m kinda in a hurry. Blind John Tangerine is waiting outside for me, and our car is so low on gas it might run out just idling in your parking lot. So I’d rather visit with one of the bank managers some other time, if that’s ok?”

Ms. Teller then had an idea. She asked, “Do you have a driver’s license?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do.”

“May I see it please?”

“Yes ma’am.”

She looked at it closely, then looked up at me and exclaimed, “This license is expired!” Her body language and her tone really made me feel self-conscious then.

“Yes ma’am. Sometimes I have lapses. Guess it’s been a while since I looked at it.”

“Well, I can’t use this for identification! You must get this straightened out immediately. Understand?”

“Yes ma’am, but if you would just look at that picture right there on the thing you can see that it’s me. And the state of Tennessee gave me that picture on my license, so I can’t see why that won’t work for you to use to identify me, right?” This was beginning to concern me.

“Sorry, sir! I have to have legal identification or I simply cannot cash your check. It’s the rules.”

Have you ever noticed that you ain’t *Sir!* until you piss somebody off?

Now I was desperate. I hated to do this, but the check really was mine to cash, and I really was who I was claiming to be, and I could tell she knew it too. But apparently she was gonna make me enlighten her more than I feel is proper when dealing with strangers. I stretched a little taller in my resolve, then joined the battle.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry to have to ask you, but aren’t you being paid by this bank? I mean, don’t you work for this here bank?”

“Obviously I work here! Sir!

“So then you must only work for the Tennessee highway patrol during the evenings, right, like as a part-time moonlighting job, right?”

“I do not work for the highway patrol! Whatever makes you think that?”

“What makes me wonder about that is you’re sittin’ here acting like a damn cop. Checking people’s driver’s licenses is what cops do, you know. Countin’ out money is what bankers do, right? So where do you come off trying to act like a highway patrol officer and giving me some crap about lettin’ my license run out? All you wanted to see it for was to see if I was really me, which it certainly does say. So if the state of Tennessee ain’t  payin‘ you to set here in your box surrounded by money and help them enforce their license laws, I mean, if they ain’t  paying you a state trooper’s wages, then you must be just trying to be difficult to me, and I’ll promise you, Ms. Teller, I ain’t exactly the first dude you might want to get difficult with. Now just give me my damn money and let me get the hell out of here, if that ain’t askin’ too much! OK?”

That did the trick. She rose up off her stool with the beginnings of a sneer trying to jump out of the corners of her pursed mouth. “Thirty-seven dollars and sixteen cents. Sheesh! This is not worth it! Here is your money. Get that license renewed today. And,” (with a fabulous scowl,) “have a nice day!”

She forgot to say “thank you for banking with us”, but I wasn’t going to remind her of that oversight with that guard standing near and me with a handful of cash which I had already had to work for twice. Instead I just turned and walked out with my money. I got into the car with Blind John Tangerine, who’s unwarranted query went like this: “What was you tryin’ to do in there, get one of them girls to lay ya? What took you so long?”  He took off, pulled out of the bank’s parking lot like an escape artist, and went west on Poplar.

“Aw, hell; my license was expired and she had to make a case out of it. I hate it when people put rules ahead of common sense. That roboticized woman as much as told me that since my license was expired, so was my rights to cash a check. Y’ think that don’t spell it out for you as to who’s in cahoots in this country? I mean, where does a danged bank come off gettin’ into the law enforcement business, anyway?”

“Oh, since the cops got into the behavior-enforcing business to help out the insurance lobby, I suppose.”

“What does that mean?”

“You see that seat belt you forgot to put on when we left the bank parking lot? If you get caught ridin’ in a car without a seat belt, it’s a fine. The insurance companies pay the government to make us wear `em, and the government pays the cops to catch us when we don’t wear `em. Think about it. You go out and buy a car, and you drive it on roads your tax dollars built, and here comes john law screwing with you for not wearing your damn seatbelt. I mean, like, what authority does an insurance company have, really, to reach right inside your car and screw with you for not wearing a seat belt? I mean, they don’t buy the car for you, do they? Ain’t it your damned car, on streets your tax dollars put there? So where do they come off trying to regulate what you do in the danged thang, huh?”

“Well, how do they get away with it, Blind John?”

“The bastards! Same way special interests did it back during Prohibition! How did the goody-goodies talk the federal government into making a law against drinkin’ during prohibition? They went up to Washington DC and told the congress that alcohol was bad for people, and that it hurt society `cause of all the bums and winos that washed up on the streets of cities, and this whole string of sad stories about how irresponsible people were who could not control themselves if anybody nearby popped a cork. Then the congressmen called the press and told them to make an item out of the social problem of alcohol, which the press did. Then all the goody-goods ran around campaigning across the country, saying that we should let the government have enough control over our personal lives to save us from ourselves.

“Finally, the politicians thought they had enough votes to get it through, and lo and behold, it worked. Prohibition became a law and was enforced.

Insurance companies are doing the same thing today. Who else gives a hoot about seat belts? The only people who want the damn government to look out for them are people on welfare and the banks and insurance companies. And maybe you can throw in the pharmaceuticals and the oil comp’nies, and some others. Them big corporations hold tight purse strings over the government’s head, kinda like a noose, if you get my drift.

“Just look at the insurance companies! Their bean counters told them one day that they could save millions in payouts if people in cars all wore their seatbelts. So the insurance brains announced to the public that it would save the insurance companies millions of dollars if everybody would wear seatbelts. But the people didn’t give a hoot, and they kept right on driving without their seatbelts. So then the insurance companies tried to bribe the public, telling them that if they would wear the bothersome things, the companies would lower their rates. Well, that worked on a few of the public, but not enough to let the savings roll in as fast as the insurance companies wanted. So they started a national “education” campaign, trying to show that seat belts save lives. Well, anytime you mention saving lives, the damn do-gooders will climb on board your wagon. It’s like people are an endangered species, ya know? Gotta save every life we can! Enough people bought into the scheme that the insurance lobbies could soon show the politicians where their bread was buttered. And to help congressmen push the seatbelt laws through, the companies slipped them each a nice little campaign contribution. Next thing you know, it’s a law. And, no matter how stupid and intrusive the government acts, most people just blindly worship the law. They don’t care if the law got on the books by the back door, or if a law is constitutional or not. No-sir, if there is a law, just keep it! That’s what the public thinks. They forget that the fools who make the laws are supposed to be representing us; instead, they wanna act like every damn law on the books came directly off the tablets of Moses.”

“Well, that’s for sure what that danged teller back there thinks! I think I’m gonna call my congressman.”

“Yeah, and you might as well plan on having dinner with the governor’s daughter, dumbass. I’ve been trying to tell you for years that the banks and the insurance companies are all part of the conspiracy to take over free Americans. Don’t you see it? They scratch each other’s backs, and we are supposed to pay for it. And not only that; they want the right to insult us in the bargain.”

I thought on it, and the ring of it sounded true to me. Ms Teller had not been very friendly, had actually been ready to insult me vocally on top of the insult she implied in doubting my word on who I really was. “Yeah,” I said, “you’d think that it was banks and governments that crawled out of the sea and grew legs, instead of it being human beings. They think they made us, alright, and that we belong to their little system. Well, they ain’t got a brand on my ass, and as far as I’m concerned, when they get any more power-hungry and greedy than they already are they might be surprised at the little tea party the people who live across this country might just up and throw for `em.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Elias. That was back in the times when Americans had to work for what they had, and had morals and ethics. But corporate America has bought out their souls now. You ain’t gonna find too many citizens caring what the damn government does nowadays, so long as it let’s them keep their tv sets and their cars and swimming pools and such. We’ve mostly gone soft and lazy as a country. The pity is there’s a whole generation being educated under their guidelines for how to think, and they’re buying into the brainwash. Shades of Brave New World meets 1984. It pisses me off just to think about it. Where do you want to go after we buy gas?”

“Let’s get out of town. Let’s go to the fishin’ camp and get out on the water.” I said. “I’m sure we both got our fishin’ licenses in order, right?” I poked Blind John on the shoulder for punctuation.

“You’re on. We can get some beer at the gas station. To hell with `em, anyway – next thing you know, the bastards will be wanting our fingerprints on our driver’s licenses.”

“Yeah, and then on our fishing licenses !”

“Yeah, and next thing you know, the law will be having the banks call `em up every time a dude comes into a little money, right? Like, you know, they’ll want the banks to turn into snitches.”

“That’s right, and after that they’ll do away with money all together, ya know? They’ll just use numbers. Believe me, they’d do it right now, but they ain’t got all the kinks worked out of their plan yet. I’m guessing it will take them a full generation to get the people to go for it. Maybe that’s why the national government is so keen on taking over the education of our kids, you know, so they can train `em to think that money is where crime comes from, and raise `em up thinking there is something wrong with money. All it will take is one generation of Americans believing what the government says to wipe out everything America used to stand for. And it will happen, too. There goes freedom, right out the window like a tweety bird that thought he was an eagle, and flipped out when he found out what he really was!”

“Hee-he, ya got it, dude!” Blind John Tangerine said as he pulled into an Amoco station, grinning. “Too bad ain’t nothing gonna wake the people up to it before it’s too late. But they won’t wake up. Government already has their souls all locked up in a cell, with bars made of creature comforts, convenience, and constitutional concessions.”

“Right on, dude!” I said as he got out of the car to pump the gasoline. I waited at the car, and wondered how much longer he and I could exist before the government found out that our way of thinking, you know, the way of being individual about how you live your life, was a danger to the welfare of society. Not long, I figured. Things were changing fast. The gold and silver have been missing from our money for a long time now. The government keeps a list of all our guns. The CIA has taken over the smuggling of most of the dope. And the government and the banks are in bed together with the insurance companies, having an orgy over unified law enforcement. And if Americans ever do wake up to it, they’ll have to give up their jobs to fight against it, and that won’t happen, `cause then they wouldn’t be able to feed their kids. They’ll just take it.

And me?  I’ll probably be dead of heart trouble.

© Elias Alias ™ 1999

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