Friday, September 02, 2005

Paying Bills

When we lived in the US, I hated paying bills. Somehow it seemed too much trouble to write the checks, put them in envelopes and actually mail them. Even once I had online banking, it took a lot for me to remember to actually log in and take the ten seconds required to pay a bill.

My life has changed a lot.

This morning Russ and I had to go pay some bills. I say some bills because we can't pay all our bills in one place. Russ paid our insurance bill last week at one bank. We paid our phone bill yesterday at a lottery kiosk. Today, we paid the bills due at Bradesco, one of the major Brazilian banks. We'll pay the power bill next week at the grocery store. (If we had waited until next Monday to pay the bills we paid today, we would have had to pay one of them at another bank.)

To pay our bills today, we had to first go to the ATM to pull out enough cash to pay it. We were paying our rent, property tax and condominium fee, so we have to make more than one ATM trip to get enough cash. Then we headed over to Bradesco. To get into the main part of the bank, you have to go through a revolving door/metal detector. It usually takes me a couple of tries to get through it--each time I remove any offending items from my purse and put them in the pass-through box. I've even shoved my whole purse in there before. (It doesn't seem like the most effective system to me; I could have almost anything in my purse!) Anyway, after two or three tries and a handful of "desperate" facial expressions, the security guards will usually take pity on me and let me through anyway.

Once inside, we head to the cashier's counter. There are lots of different banks here, but they all share one characteristic: you can't see the line at the counter until you are well inside the bank. Why? Because if you could, you wouldn't even try. Some days, the line is thirty or forty people long with only one or two cashiers working. Every so often we luck out and there's no line and we're left trying to figure out what to do with our suddenly free day. Today was a good day; there were probably only twenty people in front of us and there were three cashiers working. We only stood in line for about fifteen minutes. Once you get to the front, it takes about thirty seconds. Yes, all that for thirty seconds. Then, we get to freely walk back out through the revolving door, shooting pitying glances at the people stuck in line.

There have been adventures while standing in line. We've seen fights (just verbal). One day while standing in line with Stacey, I started bleeding profusely from a couple of spots on my ankle. That wasn't much fun, but it meant I got to experience first aid! There always seems to be some story to tell after bill paying.

It's funny--back when paying bills was simple, I hated it. I'm not saying I love it now, but I really don't mind it, especially not if I've got someone with me to talk to. And I have the consolation of knowing that one day I'll be pregnant and get to stand in the express line. Then I'll be paying bills every month. However, there are many things I've put off getting (monthly cell phone plans, satellite television) partly because it will mean more bills!

Time, lines, extra-sensitive metal detectors...these aren't that bad. The worst part about bill paying is that it occupies a two week period of time each month, meaning that once we're done, it's only two and a half more weeks until it's time to pay bills again!


JenniferReinsch said...

i understand your misery. it was exactly the same way in russia. it sure taught me a lot about patience, though. next time you are in line, start coughing violently as if you have some major communicable disease. perhaps that will get all of those around you to move a little more quickly.

Karen said...

What an adventure. I'll try to appreciate more the point and click option.

Court said...

Wow. Val, my hat's off to you. I don't know if I'd have the patience to deal with all that!