I’m incredibly excited to be home! I am definitely ready to be done with the whole ridiculous story with the bank/phone company/housing office/Caltech study abroad office. On the bright side, I have some good stories to tell.

On the day before I left, I called my bank counselor and told her that I wanted to close my account. I realize this is cutting it a bit close, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to close it at all because of a whole ‘nother story with the housing office.

Me: Hello, would it be possible to close my bank account today? I am leaving the country tomorrow.

Counselor: Okay, but you have to send a written letter to the bank.

Me: See, the thing is I would like to do it in person today.

Counselor: I’m not working today.

(I should have guessed. I’m pretty sure they work once or twice a week, or when they feel like it.)

Me: Are none of your colleagues at the bank capable of handling this?

Counselor: You’ll just have to go ask at the front desk.

Lovely. I now have a plan of action at least. Fast forward to when I show up at the bank:

Me: Hello, I would like to close my account today please.

Bank Teller: Why?

Me: I’m leaving the country. Permanently.

Bank Teller: And you won’t live here again?

Me: Not if I can help it.

Bank Teller: You have to send a letter to the bank.

Me: Can I write it in front of you?

Bank Teller: I suppose that would work.

Me: Great. So before I do that can I withdraw the 226.49€ left in my account?

Bank Teller: We don’t have any cash here.

Me: (stunned) The bank doesn’t have any money?!

Bank Teller: You can just go get it out of the ATM over there.

Me: I can’t take exact change out of the ATM. Also I already passed my withdrawal limit for the week because I had to pay rent in cash because the bank didn’t get me a checkbook in time.

Bank Teller: We can wire the money to you if you give us your American bank account number.

Me: I’d rather not. (There is no way anyone in France is getting my American bank account number.) So, theoretically speaking, if I needed 1000€ in cash but I can’t get it out of the ATM because it exceeds my limit, what would I do?

Bank Teller: Hm. Wait two weeks? I guess it might also be possible to unblock your ATM card to be able to withdraw 220€ from the machine.

Me: Great, let’s do that.

The teller talks on the phone for about a minute and then I go over to the ATM and successfully withdraw my cash. I also write a quick letter on paper that the teller had given me saying, “Hi Société Générale, I would like to close my bank account. Sincerely, Margaux Lopez”. I then walk over and give the teller the letter.

Me: Great, so that’s it?

Bank Teller: Actually, we can’t close your account because it’s not at 0€.

Me: You can have my six euros. I do not care even a little bit at this point.

Bank Teller: We’re not actually allowed to do that. But we can wire you the remaining balance.

Me: You have got to be kidding me. Hold on, I’ll be back.

I walked across the street to the supermarket and proceeded to use math in real life as I tried to make a purchase for exactly 6.49€. This is the only application of those stupid math word problems you have to solve when you’re in grade school: “How many more sticks of gum can Susie buy?”. On the bright side, I got some pretty delicious organic apple juice because the price ended in a 9. Plus some almonds for the plane and some random biscuits that added up to the right total. At this point I am feeling very good about myself. Then I go back to the bank and proceed to wait in line for 15 minutes.

Me: My account is now at 0. Please can I close it now?

Bank Teller: Oh, okay. Yes. Can I have your bank card?

She proceeds to cut my card in half.

Bank Teller: Can I have a phone number to reach you just in case we need it?

Me: Is it okay if it’s American?

Bank Teller: You don’t have a French number?

Me: I’m leaving the country, remember?

Bank Teller: Right. An American number is fine.

Me: So how will I know if my account got successfully closed?

Bank Teller: You can stop by next week.

Me: Did we not go over the fact that I’m leaving the country?!

Bank Teller: If you have access to your account online, you will be able to see it there.

Me: Thank you. That was the information I was looking for. Have a good day.

It took 4 days for my bank account to actually show 0 and the account hasn’t closed yet but I’m surprisingly hopeful.  Although that might turn into yet another story considering France’s bureaucratic track record.  I don’t know how this country dresses itself in the morning.

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