What with the Lehman Brothers mess on Wall Street, I hope nothing bad has happened to my, ahem, brokerage account at HSBC. My brokerage account is no big deal, hence the "ahem." But it matters to me. I keep an eye on it.
Which, as I understand from Howard, I should not do. Every time the thing takes a dive, which it seems to do every month, Howard tells me I should just forget about it, that it is long term. And I know Howard knows what he is talking about, because he has thousands of years' worth of financial acumen bred into him. But still I can't understand, I just can't.
"What is long term?" I asked him fretfully, a few days ago. "I mean, I have already had the thing for 10 years and it has not made me a cent. I would like it to make money while I am still around, not a million years from now after I am dead."
This is how these conversations go.
But here is what has me especially worried. Last week, I had a day off and was at my desk at home, making phone calls to people I am hoping to interview for my Leonard Pennario book. This is a loooong, sloooow process, calling these people. They are nice about talking but they are so slow to call me back. Weeks pass. Then when they do call me back, if I'm at work or for some other reason I can't grab the phone, they just say, "I'll try you back." Um, could you tell me when? I can clear my schedule but I have to have an idea of when to do that.
The actor Robert Wagner just did that to me the other day: "I'll call you back." I wanted to kill myself. I have been trying to get a hold of him for weeks. If I were at that cabin in the wilds of southwestern Oregon I would be able to grab the phone any time, presuming that it worked. But in my present chaotic life, alas, I cannot.
Back to my financial woes. Last week I was trying to reach the great cellist Lynn Harrell, whom Pennario used to play with. He had sent me a nice email telling me I could call him so I did, and I got a machine, which I am used to, and I left my message. And right after I hung up, the phone rang. "That must be Lynn Harrell," I exulted. "I left him my cell number, but he must have seen this number, my home number, on his machine and he is calling me back."
With that in mind, I did what I never do, and I answered my home phone. Normally I screen my home calls with my machine because 90 percent of the time the calls that come in on that number are junk.
And it was not Lynn Harrell. It was HSBC, wanting to set up an appointment to talk with me about my brokerage account. At first I didn't even understand this woman. I thought she asked for Marian. I said initially she had the wrong number. Then we straightened it out.
And what torqued me off was, she just kept laughing at me. "Well, it's a good thing we got that straight," she kept saying. "I mean, I would have hung up and not known what happened." Then she laughed at me when she insisted on my making an appointment right then and I didn't have my calendar handy. I just found her attitude insolent -- that is a word I like, and one we don't use enough these days -- and annoying. I was nice and everything, but, I mean, these people should not be so in your face. They don't know what your situation is. Here I had been all caught up in the stupid hope that for once, I was going to get a hold of this person I needed to get a hold of for the book -- that for once, it wouldn't take months. I had this window when I could talk, and I had been looking forward to talking to Lynn Harrell, and I had been so sure it was he, and here it is this jerk, and now she keeps laughing at me and she won't shut up.
Fie on her! Fie!
So I made the appointment because if that's what it took to make her go away, that's what I was going to do. Then I forgot about it because number one, if something on my calendar doesn't pertain to food, wine or music, the odds are pretty good I'll forget it, and number two, I was so annoyed by the whole thing that I am afraid I suppressed the memory.
Then Lehman goes blooey. And now I am thinking: that appointment might have been to tell me I was supposed to take some kind of action. When my next brokerage statement comes in and it is worth zero, HSBC will tell me, "Well, we tried to get you to come in."
Howard, of course says that things will be OK. He tells me to sit tight.
But with the bank, and with the book, I am so tired of playing the waiting game!