A few weeks ago Susanne and I ventured to a large banking institution to open a joint checking and savings account. I mean, we are married, after all, I suppose it’s time we join our moneys — even though, ahem, I have no income to speak of at the moment. I haven’t gotten desperate enough yet to start selling brownies and Shrinky-Dinks in front of the house, even though that pulled in a nice $2.85 for me weekly in the late 70s. I spent a lot of time making those Shrinky-Dinks, thank you very much, mostly traced from SuperMag and Scooby-Doo comics. There were also the little “shell people” I would craft after visits to the Jersey Shore, with googely eyes crazy glued to the tops to give them that little extra something. Those were my seasonal wares and were always gone by late September, so you had to get there quickly before they were snatched up, pipe cleaners and all.

So in the Bank of [insert country name here] we set up our accounts, and then had the banal joy of selecting debit card designs from a wonderful panoply of choices that would really say something about us as individuals. Oh, the variety was stunning — any particular baseball team we wanted, a full spectrum of national not-for-profit causes and organizations, scenic vistas of various regions across the country, the list was just endless, really. I imagine it would be akin to a Soviet-era Russian standing in the middle of Wegmans trying to select just one kind of potato chip. It blew our minds, really.

There were those that we could rule out quickly — nothing anti-choice or overly religious. Nothing with an animated character, lest German businesspeople scoff at us like they do in that American Express commercial (talk about advertising by snobbery!). Nothing falsely or extremely patriotic — because also, I am not one for breaking the Flag Code of the United States. The flag is the flag, and it’s not supposed to be represented except as a flag, for the love of Pete. And if you don’t believe me, here is the text from the U.S. Code:


§176. Respect for flag

No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.

  • (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
  • (b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.
  • (c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
  • (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
  • (e) The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.
  • (f) The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
  • (g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
  • (h) The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • (i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
  • (j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
  • The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.


Who’s patriotic now, huh? Okay, back to the story.
If all of our choices had been equal, I suppose we would have picked some innocuous card face, though we did intend all along to get something different so that we could easily identify the joint account cards from our individual account cards. The bank employee working with us pointed out that the Washington State University cards would give us 15% matching on our “Save the Change” program, and that tipped the balance for us. We ordered the WSU cards, which smartly bear the university’s logo, which is this:
Cougars logo

Cougars logo

Cute, right? I mean, sort of. How logo-y of it to use the letters from the institution to form the cougar, its mascot. Now for those of you unfamiliar with the situation, as I recently counted myself among all of you, there is this big big rivalry between the University of Washington alums and fans and those of the WSU set. University of Washington, or “U-Dub,” as they call themselves, are mostly western Washingtonians, and WSU folks are mostly easterners. If you’ve been following this blog closely (and don’t lie, I see my readership falling off in the last week, so you can’t fool me), you’ll remember that I’ve mentioned an east-side, west-side rift before. Seeing the Cougars logo apparently causes great happiness here in Walla Walla, because every fricking time I’ve pulled out the card over here, the person delivering our service exclaims, “Cougars!” At lunch last week at this little Internet cafe/diner (no really, it’s an Internet cafe and diner), the owner saw the card and clapped me on the shoulder, saying, “Everett, I didn’t know you were a Cougar! I learn something new about you every week!”
Oh buddy, if only you knew. If only. Cougar is the least of my surprises!
I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was just for a 15% match for three months from our craptastic bank. Well, I say craptastic, but at the rate the bank system is going, it will be the last one standing, and then it’ll be like that bad movie that had Sly Stallone in it where all the restaurants were gone except for Taco Bell and the 7-layer burrito and Chilito are the only things anyone eats anymore. It’ll be just like that.
I figured I didn’t want to destroy his happiness at seeing another Cougar in his midst. Besides, he’d walked away to go ring me up. But now it’s like a running joke — my days, rather on the boring side, punctuated by brief moments of exuberant “Cougars!” among my neighbors and people in this side of the state.
During our trip to Seattle last weekend, it was a different story, however, since that’s the west side of the state. I begged forgiveness when using it to pay for things, I pleaded ignorance of their long struggle against the truly inept and ignorant easterners who blithely voted against them in every election. They looked down their noses at me or sighed or said “it’s okay,” in that bored Seattle way that signals that it’s really not okay, take your awful Cougars card and get the hell out of our pretty store that sells Spanish haute cuisine preparation materials. Perhaps I should blame it on the rain — they get so much rain there it’s bound to curb your enthusiasm at some point.
It’s weird to be situated in the east, in the conservative part of the state, and have people be so instantaneously overjoyed by a slim piece of plastic, and attach their newfound happiness to me, just because I’m wielding it. I’m probably more of a Seattle kind of person than I am a Walla Walla person, long rows of vineyard or not, but to them I’m one of their kind because this is where I live now and this is the damn debit card I’m holding, and look how cute it is that I’m assimilating. Very weird. And in its own way, sweet.
Hydrangeas in Seattle

Hydrangeas in Seattle

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3 Comments on “Idio(t)syncrasies”

  1. Robin H.
    September 23, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    Hey Everett,
    All is well in Maryland.

    Mike Mussina is only two wins away from the magical twenty. He has never reached that mark. He was one game away with the O’s. He had three games to break the barrier, but our bullpen screwed him each time. It would be nice to see him reach the twenty mark. I didnt’ feel that way a few years ago, but time passes on.

    I roared reading your Cougar story.

    Sounds like you are making the rounds in your area.

    How is that wine cooler doing?

  2. tony
    September 23, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    people who claim to be patriotic and then blatently disregard the flag code – that is seriously one of my BIGGEST pet peeves!

  3. Esther
    September 29, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    Thanks for the giggle!

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