I try to go see my mom in Flushing every couple of weeks, but a visit sometime near the beginning of each month is pretty much mandatory because I have to help her pay bills – not financially, but literally. My mom feels comfortable sending out physical checks rather than letting me set up some kind of online bill pay account, but she cannot read or write in English, so I have to write out the checks on her behalf. I fill out the “Pay to the order of” section, spell out the dollar amounts, and occasionally I have to explain mysterious new charges like this:
Last month, it was business as usual, but after I finished writing her checks, my mom asked me to help her with her debit card. Apparently the last couple of times she had tried to use it, it was denied. I called Chase for her and managed to get a Korean interpreter on the line with my mom. (I’ve had to do this for my mom several times and it’s always awkward; the customer service reps are always thrown off by this request and they’ve put me through different protocols each time.)
The interpreter was this nice patient woman who seemed to just happen to work at a Chase branch and speak Korean. She explained to my mom that Chase had put a hold on her card due to suspicious activity, but she wasn’t able to tell us just what that activity was. So she transferred us and we were put at the mercy of the Guy Who Can Tell You What The Suspicious Purchases Are, who didn’t speak Korean. I was put back on the phone.
The Guy listed the few debit card purchases my mom had made in the past month, and I verified them.
“$23.85 at Jetro Stores.” “Yes, that’s a place she goes to a lot.”
“$19.40 at Assi Plaza.” “Yes, that’s a grocery strore near us.” (Yeah, I know. Assi. Heh.)
“$600.00 at Linden Jewelry.”
“…No, that does not sound right.” (over my shoulder) “[Mom, you didn’t spend $600 at a jewelry store, right?]”
It turns out, she did. I got off the phone with the Guy, thanking him. I was shocked; my mom really isn’t one to spend lavish amounts of money, especially on things for herself. I asked her what she bought. She pointed to this:
That, my friends, is what a $600 geode looks like. I had noticed in her apartment before, but had figured was a gift from a business associate or something, because really, what grown person blows such a huge load on what is, essentially, a large shiny thing?
Anyway, I gave her a lot of grief about it, perhaps a little too much, mostly because I was flabbergasted by the situation. I asked why she got the geode. She said she wanted it. I know that’s sweet and I shouldn’t expect her to not treat herself to something she wants once in a while, but this was seriously erratic behavior for her and my natural reaction was, apparently, STRANGER DANGER. I may have barked several times in Korean, “[Don’t do it again!]”
My mom just shrugged it off, looking maybe a little embarrassed but not terribly bothered by my tantrum. “[It’s really a good thing to have around for luck.]”
A few minutes later, though, she came up to me and asked me not to tell my brother what she’d paid for the geode. “[He asked me to lend him some money last month.]”
The little sticker on the base actually says $1280. See, she IS lucky! And not only did she get a “deal,” but now you know she likes to keep it classy and leave misleading price tags on big-ticket purchases.