Following are my last two columns for the Devils Lake Journal, where I write articles and sell advertising. Last weekend, I flew back to Denver, loaded up my “stuff” in my storage unit into a truck and drove back to North Dakota. The challenging journey is worthy of a blog post, however, I’m not quite sure when I’ll have time to write it!
Tues., May 22 Ch…..Ch……Ch…….Ch…….Check
It might seem strange to write a column about writing checks, but then so was writing about my stop-sign challenged issues in my first column! As I wrote before, it’s interesting the things that strike you when moving from a large city to a small town. So here it is. I am oddly fascinated by the number of people who still write checks in Devils Lake. I’m guessing it’s still a common practice in lots of other small towns in rural America.
However, in a large city like my former home of Denver, it’s an uncommon, in fact a rare thing to see, at least when customers purchase items in a store. I could probably count on two fingers how many checks I wrote in the last couple years I lived in Denver. Usually at stores such as the grocery store, I used cash or my ATM card. I paid all of my bills online except for my rent. In fact, I think my rent is the only thing that required writing a check except for a few other rare occasions.
Here in Devils Lake, check writing is commonplace. And it’s not just in stores where I see people writing checks. A friend recently paid for lunch with a check, and another friend wrote a check for some raffle tickets. I think my mom still writes checks when purchasing items, however my Dad (aka as Pops/Fast Eddie – more about him later!) has jumped on the online bill paying bandwagon in place of checks.
When I opened a checking account here in DL, I told the teller I only needed one box of checks, telling her I rarely wrote checks. When I commented on how many people still write checks in DL. she said there was a little cafe in a local town near DL that only accepted checks and cash, and they would not accept your ATM card. This is quite the contrast to a large city like Denver, where lots of businesses do not accept checks. When I went to the local Verizon store, a saw a sign saying it no longer accepts checks. I asked the clerk if it had caused a problem, and she said some people didn’t like it.
I have to admit that all this check writing when buying things in DL stores sometimes annoys me just a little, because it seems like, although I’ve never actually never timed it, that it takes much longer for a person to write a check than pay with cash or a card. Then again maybe I just need to be a little more patient. So that’s what I’m trying to do. When I see someone open their checkbook and tear out a check, I just grab the People magazine to read the latest Hollywood celeb shenanigans or the National Enquirer for its latest wild and wacky news.
“Birth and Death – We all move between these two unknowns”
Poet Bryant H. McGill
I recently found out that a former co-worker of mine back in Denver committed suicide. He was a young man in his early 20s and became a first-time father in December. I only worked with him a few short months and didn’t know him well, but I liked him. He was a friendly, thoughtful young man, who also was very polite and had good manners, which isn’t always the case for some young folks. In fact, I told him multiple times that his mom must have raised him right.
Talk of suicide makes some people uncomfortable. When I mentioned his death on my Facebook page, I was surprised how few people commented – even just to say they were sorry. Suicide among young people is a problem in our country. If I remember my statistics right, it’s more common among young men than women, and also that women are more likely to seek out help for depression. I don’t know all the details of my friend’s death, however, it is sad that if indeed he was suffering from depression and did not seek help.
You are closer to death in a smaller community. Here at the Journal, we are located directly across from St. Joseph Catholic Church. In the month and a half that I’ve been with the Journal, it seems that at least several times a week a funeral is held there. That is not site I was used to seeing on such a regular basis, in fact ever, at places I worked in Denver and Washington DC.
As I travel around our town, I sometimes pass by the Devils Lake Cemetery. I also have been inside it a couple of times since returning to DL to visit my nephew Levi’s grave site. I couldn’t even tell you where a cemetery is located in either of my former cities of Denver or DC – aside from Arlington National Cemetery, which I occasionally drove by.
I go visit the “cop shop” (the Devil’s Lake Police Department) most mornings for their daily briefing, where there is often talk about untimely deaths. Here at the Journal I and others often proof the obit pages. You can tell family members put lots of care and thought into writing these obituaries, which is reflected in in their fond and interesting, and sometimes unusual, memories about their loved ones who have passed away.
When I was thinking of a name for this column, I came across the quote that became the heading, I as I think the poet’s words describe birth and death so well.