Sep 30, 2008

Arrangement of numbers

On the phone with student loans, trying arrange a better payment plan, I tell the operator this should be easier now that my one bank bought my other one.

Oh, she says.

Isn't that right? I say. Didn't that happen today?

She doesn't know. She says this like she's been inside a fluorescent cube for days. Like she's locked in a cube in a tower of cubes and all of them glow so she only sees her own reflection, in the window. She says this dazed, like maybe I've unsettled her, unsettled the rules for this, whatever this is, this transaction between us. It's as if I told her there's no money anymore, only numbers inside other numbers, and she knows this and knows I know this, but we have to act like we don't, or else it's all too strange, too bottomless, too stricken with vertigo.

Her name is Candice. Or Candeece. On Andi or Andrea or Mercedes.

I have never gotten the same name twice, all the times I've called. Though sometimes the voices are the same, seem the same, the name is always changed and I'm always verified by a series -- social security, home address, phone number, e-mail, and would I like to give them another number, another address, another e-mail. The arrangement is always the same, I'm told a new name and I give them my same one but they don't believe it and they check it, against the numbers that know I'm not lying. It would seem like I'd eventually get a name twice, when I called. Not the same operator maybe, in the tower of operators, but there must be two operators with the same name. Two Susans or Marys, Heathers or Samanthas. This seems like it would have to be the case. Even if they randomly chose names when my call rang, worked through all the possible names in all the possible lists of names, I'd have to get a repeat sometime. But in the fluorescent tower of operators, in the bank that bought the other one, I never call the same one twice.

Didn't that happen today? I say, and I can't recall her name. Didn't I read that?

She doesn't know and she says something that sounds awkward like a laugh, like I shouldn't say these things to people at the bank. Just like you don't talk about terrorism to officers at the airport, you don't tell the woman on the phone at student loans how the one bank bought the other. It's not funny. It's not discussed. I don't know what I could tumble loose or free and she seems to say this, in her awkward, off-tone laugh. Like I should be glad it's me, out here reading things about banks and not in there, connected to phones by the ears. And I apologize. I don't know, I say. I could be wrong. I just thought I something -- something, I don't know. I don't really understand this -- crisis or economics or um anyway, I just need to arrange payments?

I don't really understand economics or operating at student loans or any of this. I just have socialist suspicions and a phone conversation with a woman I imagine in a tower of telephones, tangled up in curly cords, attached to them, millions of them, each one giving her a randomly selected secondary name. She has a South Dakota area code and a Las Vegas address, a South Carolina subsidiary where my paycheck is automatically deposited and in my mind, she's normally in New York but sometimes, strangely, in Tokyo.

OK, she says, did you want this to be checking or on a debit card? And in the end she says Is there anything else I can help you with? and I want to know if it's weird that three banks own almost all the banks now, so that banks are false fronts for banks. I want to know if I'm the only one who's fascinated and confused, hearing how my numbers inside of numbers where exchanged, in a nominal noumenal taxpayer-protected exchange, to be put inside of other numbers nested in numbers.

But I say, no, thank you, because I wouldn't know what I was asking. I say her name, but I can't remember which one it is, so I say it in a mumble, I say, No, thank you (c) ...ANd ...s.