I’m feeling all George Bailey this morning as I ponder my interview yesterday with Kirsten Grist, author of “The Lost Bank,” her chronicle of the rise and YouTube-worthy face-fall of my once and favorite bank, Washington Mutual.
We were a different country back in September 2008, too caught up in the election-year politics of McCain versus Obama to grasp the financial tsunami about to hit our shores. But I caught a whiff of what was to come when I wandered into my WaMu bank branch one Monday morning to find that, well, it wasn’t there.
Here’s how I described the horrifying scene that ensued after the FDIC took control of the bank that had always earned its “friend of the family” tagline:
“Then they replace your jovial neighborhood bankers with sourpuss replicants just like ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ — the cool version with Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams. Trust me, you’ll find their gooey discarded pods in the Dumpster out back.
“Since my bank changed hands, I’ve met so many new tellers I feel like I’m speed dating. They quite earnestly assure me that everything’s fine, but I can tell by their eyes that it’s not. It’s like I’m always braced for their piercing, pod-born space screeching to begin.”
Yes, the transition to Chase online banking was far from smooth. And the expected astringency of terms did follow. Bye bye, beloved free checking/no minimum balance that lured me to WaMu in the ’90s; hello to the Chase version, which required a $1,500 balance.
One somehow didn’t feel the pain as acutely when our collective house was burning.
I wish the WaMu story had ended like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I wish the Bedford Falls townspeople had saved George’s community loan business.
But despite missing WaMu, I’ve adapted, if not quite warmed, to Chase. They’re trying to be more like George and less like Mr. Potter. They’re trying to please me, and trying counts for something.
Here’s the best heartwarming ending I can muster: Now every time the drive-through bell rings, my golden retriever gets his treat.
How about you — do you have any WaMu memories to share?