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I walk into the nearest branch of Tatra banka, where I keep all of my accounts. I proceed to the cash window.
I have two tasks:
- Exchange a quantity of Slovak koruna banknotes for euro notes
- Purchase a number of commemorative coins for a friend who is a collector
I hand over the banknotes, my card with my account number and my canceled US passport, asking to exchange the money for euros. The teller lady flips through the passport a few times, checking the data page and my visa page. She types in the passport number and confirms it against my account records on her computer screen, satisfied that they match. She then returns to look, curiously, at the four holes punched through the passport booklet, then picks up a telephone, signaling me to wait a bit.
A supervisor lady comes over. I tell her that the passport is canceled. She steps away to speak to someone out of sight for a few seconds, and comes back to tell me that they can’t accept the passport since it’s no longer valid. “I’m sorry,” I say, “but I probably don’t have any document, then, that will be sufficient.” I present my still-valid Florida driver’s license and the notarized copy of passport and visa I had made before the passport was canceled. No love. The supervisor steps away again, this time for about ten minutes. She’s on the telephone with someone.
While she’s away, I briefly address the teller, saying, “This is a matter of identity; I lost my citizenship, not my identity.” She just smiles emptily, and asks my patience for waiting.
The supervisor comes back and apologizes, saying that she’s spoken to the bank’s legal department. The passport can’t be accepted since it’s no longer a valid document.
All I wanted to do was exchange one pile of fiat currency for a different pile, and maybe buy some shiny metal tokens with the remainder. I didn’t even need any access to my accounts.
I wonder if, when the US State Department person was operating the hole punch on my passport, little wisps of smoke might have been observed coming out — magic smoke which wafted away, carrying my identity as well as my citizenship along with it.
There was a time when presenting ID at a bank was done for only one purpose: to verify that the person attempting to withdraw money from a given account is actually an owner of that account. Just ten years ago in the US I could walk into a bank and deposit cash or endorsed checks into any account, even one I didn’t own, without needing to present any ID at all. I haven’t tracked exactly what’s gone on in the US banking system lately, but with the introduction of POS fingerprinting and all manner of other “Know Your Customer” measures and such mandated under the guise of combating money laundering — which isn’t even a real crime — I imagine the situation there has only gotten worse.
You are not the bank’s customer any more. The bank’s primary customer is the state. You are just an epiphenomenon, fluttering about that core, corrupt relationship.
If the bank people wanted to serve me, they would have responded to my letter asking about alternative forms of identification differently than they did. Instead of saying, “you must bring us one of these official documents,” they could have said, “come to our office, satisfy us of your identity; we will then take your photo and put it in the computer, and establish a password by which you can access your account at the branch.”
Remarkably, I can log on to the bank’s internet banking website using nothing more than a password and GRID Card code. I can move money between accounts, issue payment orders, even invest in securities. Nobody even needs to see my face. Yet that same method of authentication is unavailable or unacceptable if I appear in person at the branch.
So, whatever. My collector friend won’t get his coins unless he can find someone else in Slovakia to deal with it for him. And I’ll phone up the guy I know who operates as a black-market money changer and see what kind of rate he’s giving on Slovak koruna notes. I’ll bet it’s still better than the official exchange rate.
Roderick, do I get Agorist Demerit Points for this, or issue them?