ESCHEATING HANS HAAGEN, A SHORT STORY FROM THE INAPPROPRIATE LIBRARY
by Kim Isaac Greenblatt, Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved.
“Why can’t you just take the tape off the tape drive?” the man from the California State Controller’s office asked me.
“It’s been stuck on the spindle for the last twenty plus years.”
“Well, old timer, I am going to unstuck it.”
The man motioned and seventeen men in overalls entered the backroom of our bank and moved toward the old vacuum tube tape drive and the old IBM 360 mainframe. They were literally standing alone away from the other routers that connected to computers that were offsite.
The machines were dusted everyday and looked pretty much the way they were from when they came from the manufacturer back in the 1960s.
I had seen it all before. Every few years somebody from the State of California tries to come and get the $1,032,035.09 (or whatever it is that it has accrued to with simple passbook savings interest) and every few years they leave empty handed.
One of the reasons that I stick around as an operations assistant for the West Hills City Bank (which was originally a Crocker Bank, that was purchased by United California Bank, which changed its name to First Interstate and was sold to Security Pacific Bank to be merged into Bank of America and spun off) was to see what was happening to Mr. Haagen’s money.
I turned down retirement and actually asked to stay on working for minimum wage. I make some extra money living off of some of my investments and a little social security that I am taxed on.
I was a bank teller forty-two years ago. Don’t laugh. Back in the day, it was a full time job. It didn’t pay much (which was why I worked evenings as a night club manager) but it helped pay some of the bills while I went to college at night to get my degree. Back then I was thin, worried about not getting laid and I use to actually like dealing with customers who came to the bank.
Haagen was one of them.
Hansel Haagen use to come in and make regular deposits to his savings account. He was an old man back then with gray hair, thick spectacles, and a small hunch in his back. Dressed in a white shirt, black slacks, black shoes.
He had a passbook back then that he always wanted to get stamped to indicate that he made his deposit. He would always deposit $6.66. I use to joke with him about it being “satanic numbers” and he would laugh with me.
He would say in a slight German accent, “Actually, six six six is the number of Rome and the church wanted to demonize Rome by associating it with the devil. The number six six six is actually an old mystical number of power.”
I would say something like “Cool” and we’d laugh and he’d be on his way.
At holidays he would tip me $6.66 and thank me for being so helpful. I didn’t think he had too many friends.
I looked at six of the workers that the State man had brought over as they tried unsuccessfully to pry the magnetic tape reel off of the spindle. Six of the men went over to the old IBM mainframe and tried to lift a corner of it. Six more got on the other side of the behemoth. The mainframe didn’t budge.
The tape drive did.
The giant twelve foot double-reeled vacuum tube tape drive fell forward with a boom on top of the man from the State Controller’s office.
He cried and yelled.
His crew lifted up the tape drive off of his body. His face was scratched from the tape reels cutting into his cheeks and he was cursing up a storm. I think he cracked his ribs. He was whimpering like a kid from the islands being hit with a bamboo cane.
He got off lucky. Some of the other guys who tried to remove Mr. Haagen’s money ended up in worse shape.
Back on June 6, 1966, the bank was open for marketing reasons. We were giving away toasters to people opening new accounts. It was unusual because it was a Sunday and banks are usually closed on Sundays.
We didn’t get a lot of customers that day.
In walks Hansel Haagen. He was wearing a white suit, with a pair of white shoes. He wasn’t hunched over either.
It was completely out of character for him.
He was decked out like Ricardo Montelban from Fantasy Island or one of those rap singers, Puffy Daddy Squiddly Diddly, or whatever his name is that the kids today like.
He walked over to my teller window. He smiled. He said, “Today is my last day for my last deposit.”
“Are you going to be closing your account?”
“No, no,” he said as he handed me a five, a one and sixty-six pennies. I placed the money in my cash drawer. I took his book and stamped that I had received his deposit. He placed the passbook in his top pocket over his heart.
He tapped it twice with his index finger.
He winked at me and said, “Today, I am going to be with my money and start earning some interest.”
Without even saying another word, he tottered backwards and fell down dead.
We went nuts. The security guard thought at first that somebody had been involved in a robbery and drew his pistol. I was yelling that he just fell over. I didn’t want to have that dumb doofus shooting everybody in the bank!
The bank manager came over and calmed everybody down. Somebody called the fire department.
The fireman (we didn’t have paramedics back then) said that it was a fatal heart attack. I went home and cried I was so disturbed.
Six weeks later I received a package at the bank addressed to me. It was from an attorney.
Inside the package was a letter on really nice stationary saying that Mr. Haagen had requested that I be the caretaker for his passbook until he gets back.
I thought it was some sick joke but I called the attorney and he said it was on the level.
The letter stated that for my services, I would be compensated at 6.66 percent of whatever the balance of the account would be when Mr. Haagen came back to claim it.
That was it.
After seven years of no contact, the money in his savings account was suppose to be escheated to the State of California as unclaimed property. It was suppose to become property of the State of California.
It couldn’t be done.
No matter what entries the bank auditors or computer programmers tried, they could not remove Mr. Haagen’s account from the system.
Over the years, as the bank was bought and sold, people tried to remove the computer and tape drive that Mr. Haagen’s account was stored on. Everything else has been removed from that machine except the operating system and that one account.
Every few years, somebody from the State of California tries to take the money off the machine and they just can’t do it.
Sometimes they try to move the machines but that never works out. Something always seems to go wrong and people get hurt.
They’ve tried everything but it is like the account just isn’t ready to be escheated to the state.
Once a year, I go into the passbook that was left to me. I look at what the system calculates the interest at and I make an entry into the book. When we went to the electronic reporting of savings accounts I saved the stamp and stamp pad that I used for the passbook. They were going to throw it out anyways.
I am running out of pages to stamp.
I have no idea how Mr. Haagen plans on coming back to get his money. I am no spring chicken. I didn’t marry and don’t have any relatives.
I don’t know who to leave the passbook with if I check out.
I’ve joked to myself that Mr. Haagen didn’t take his money with him but rather decided to go with his money.
My commission if he comes back at this point, today, is $68,733.54.
I don’t know if he is with his money, if it is just a coincidence, or what. I would love to know how he is going to come back and get his money out of the bank.
Maybe he didn’t figure that part out as well as he thought.
A million bucks isn’t as much as it use to be but it still is a million bucks.
I’ve thought about getting an attorney and going to court to try and take out the money. I have the letter as proof that I am the custodian of his estate. Well, sort of.
Maybe I can take out the money, collect my commission and set up another kind of trust to keep the money growing in it in perpetuity.
Maybe he really wanted me to keep all of his money. Maybe that is what he meant. Maybe that was his way of thanking me for being his friend when he was lonely.
I watched the paramedics helping the crying, wheezing State of California man onto the stretcher.
Maybe I better just shut up.
If you like the story, perhaps you might enjoy Clean, A Tale of the Inappropriate Library, or The Inappropriate Library?
Comments? Suggestions? Kim Greenblatt can reached here.