A Sudden E-mail from U.S. Bank Disrupted My Writing Habit for Two Months

Roughly four decades ago, I opened a checking account at First of America Bank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. With my Japanese passport, a banker assisted me in becoming an owner of $1,000 for use in academic purpose. This ownership has been a token of being part of America for a long time. When the school was over in 1985, I returned to Tokyo without closing accounts there, hoping that I would come back to U.S. for school or business in the future.

Six years later, my second journey began at Georgia Institute of Technology for MBA. In 1991, I looked around the banks in Atlanta but couldn’t find First of America Bank. Instead, Atlantans owned checking accounts at Wachovia Bank. The balance at my saving account went to Wachovia for daily expense at shops in Atlanta. That was really fun. My wife and I wrote checks at most locations in Atlanta. That was sort of being part of America. I returned to Tokyo in 1993 and began to work at Coca-Cola without closing the accounts.

Two months ago, Wells Fargo notified me of new requirement that an account holder must live in the United States to keep all accounts at the bank. I cannot meet the requirement because I live in Tokyo, Japan and it is not possible to provide them with permanent residential proof for eligibility. I called a banker at Wells Fargo to tell them the intention to close my accounts. For two months to this day, I have been feeling lost with something. I felt like losing home. America is the second home for years.

For me, an account ownership with a U.S. bank meant a lot. First, I could write a check to pay for almost anything. In Tokyo, there is no paper check to write and to pay. When I applied for school in Michigan, they asked me to send a check for application fees. I remember that the fees were something like $25 or so. If I had owned an account, it was easy to write the numbers to include in the application package. I did not have one so I had to visit the branch of the Japanese banks who were not familiar with paper check. It was a messy process.

Second, writing the numerical letters and figures on checks were a privilege for me. It is possible to write any numbers in check notes. I felt awesome because with some illusion, I felt that I can afford anything even though I was not rich as a student. Some day, I thought that I could write four digits, five digits, and even more. In the Japanese currency, no one can do that.

Third, the signature certifies the check. In Tokyo, there is not such business custom to sign one’s own name in writing. I thought that signiture was cool. I often saw the movie that actors wrote checks and gave them to pay for. The act of signing is like becoming a movie star. It is not, of course, but the signature make sense for me.

For two months to today, I abruptly lost my mind because I finally leave U.S. for good without my bank accounts. It was like losing home, the second home, which shaped my minds for 38 years. An unexpected email from the bank disrupted my writing habits. I didn’t ask the banker of Wells Fargo about the background of the new residential requirement. There is no choice but to close my accounts. It was more than a monetary loss for me. A closure had been unsurmoutable for two months.

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