“Were you expecting this check?”

That was what the teller asked me at the bank yesterday as I deposited an unusually hefty check representing months of work for a particular project. I think she said something like, “Is this for winning a contest or lottery?” and in response to my blank look (likely the “Are you insane?” look I’ve been told I have), she asked “Is this a check you were expecting?”

I said, “Yes, it’s a paycheck.” Then, puzzled, I asked, “Does it make a difference?” 

“Yes, it does,” she answered. “There are so many scams going on and counterfeit or fraudulent checks out there that I always ask. You wouldn’t believe the calls we get from people saying, ‘I got this check. It says I won a contest. Is it real?’ When we ask if it says they have to send money, they say ‘Well, yes, to cover taxes.’ and we have to explain it’s a scam. Or we ask, ‘Did you ENTER a contest or lottery?’ and they can’t remember.”

Good Lord — are that many people that gullible? Or is it just a matter of wanting to win something so much that all reason escapes them?

Or maybe it’s neither of those. Maybe it’s not that I’m smart and they’re not; it’s just that I’m not that optimistic.

They probably think, “Why wouldn’t I suddenly receive a big check in the mail?” (Why not indeed? Didn’t Mike and I just get our “free money” last week, courtesy of Uncle Sam?) 

Clearly, I don’t expect good things to happen unexpectedly, money to fall from the sky, or life to suddenly go my way. I’m more prepared for everything to go wrong and, knowing that, anticipating what I can do or should do to put it right. Or just sitting back and waiting for it to go wrong, just so I can be right…again…as usual…since I’m never wrong (another endearing trait I’ve been told about, along with the insane look).

It’s a cop-out attitude and I know it. Much the same thing I chastise Mike for during Steeler games. They get behind by one field goal and that’s it, they’re losing, they’ll never win again, it’s all over, change the channel. I know it’s just a tactic to avoid disappointment, but it’s also awfully annoying.

I’ve read enough books advocating The Power of Positive Thinking (it’s truly a seminal work) that I know better. The proper attitude is to expect good things. Tell yourself you’ll get that job, the test will be negative, the party will be great, the project will be your best yet. Repeat your mantra. Positive thinking fosters positive happening.

Is there a downside? Not as long as you don’t abandon all reason in the process (à la all those would-be contest winners), I suppose. Though it’s probably a fine line between being positive (I will make ends meet.) and being duped (Yay, I got the money I need!). What’s the difference between a pessimist and a realist anyway?

Oh, I can’t decide. Should I race to the mailbox or not?

“I was going to buy a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking,
and then I thought: What the hell good would that do?

                                                ~ Ronnie Shakes


  1. Anonymous said,

    Friday, June 13, 2008 at 8:20 am

    If your always pessimistic then things can only make you happy. I’ve learned that wishing does’nt get you to Wilsons’.

  2. mel said,

    Sunday, June 15, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Everything in moderation, with an extra helping of realism. That’s my motto. Embracing pessimism isn’t good, but neither is living in dreamland. And keeping your eyes open, a.k.a. realism, is simply necessary to be a responsible, conscientious person. At least that’s been my experience.

  3. WritingbyEar said,

    Monday, June 16, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I would agree, Mel. Yes, if you’re always pessimistic, you will rarely be disappointed, but who wants to live such a negative life? I think you still have to believe in good things and that “the universe is unfolding as it should.”

  4. barbie said,

    Monday, June 16, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    On a different note – I thought it was great that the teller asked the question. Unfortunately, there are loads of scams like the infamous “Nigerian scam”: I’m a member of royalty or high placed official and need your help in getting funds to someone, if only you would help, I’ll give you a percentage, …” I know it’s hard to believe that people fall for it, but it happens and there are lots of losers in the transaction. Of course, the depositor may be a little thrown off by the question and not want to admit where the money came from, but at least they were asked.

    I’m more of a glass half full kind of person on the outside and a worrier on the inside – the eternal struggle.

  5. WritingbyEar said,

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Yes, I guess it’s good that the teller was proactive. I suppose if they found out after the fact that the check was counterfeit, they just deduct the money from your account and you’re left holding the bag. Ouch.

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