Ben was loading a dresser into his truck. I asked him if he’d like to do an interview. He asked what it would be about. This was only my third interview and no one had asked me what it would be about before and I wondered how best to answer that question without ruining the surprise of the first question and considered I really ought to think this through later. He asked me if it was anything that would have the government showing up at his door. I told him no. I told him I’d also want a photo, though it could be simply of his foot if he wanted to remain anonymous. He had no problem with me taking his photo but he promptly plopped a big white hat on his head that sucked the sun into it and the pictures came out rather inadequate so I thought I’d just use this one of a book he was giving to H.o.p., “Explore a Spooky Swamp”, as counterpoint to the interview. Ben takes in thousands of books and has regular sales to raise money for the library and has won a number of prestigious awards for his volunteerism.
H.O.P.: This is H.o.p. and Mom and their questions and we’re going to do it right now. Go ahead mom.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: My first question is always, “Have you ever seen a UFO”?
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: I knew that because we’ve talked about that before. The second question is always, what is the most interesting coincidence you’ve ever had happen to you, the most memorable.
BEN: Coincidence. Things that you’ve thought of that happen later…
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: All kinds of coincidences…
H.O.P.: Like my alien balloon popping.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Yes, that was a coincidence.
BEN: This is tough.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Yeah.
BEN: This is a tough thing. I’m having trouble thinking, my memory slipping I guess.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: It is a tough question.
BEN: I have a latest thing that happened.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: A coincidence?
BEN: Explain what you mean by coincidence.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Say you’re thinking of something and something that has to do with what you’re thinking about happens. For instance, you’re thinking about somebody and they call. It can be mundane and every day or exceptional. Some people have exceptional coincidences. Or if you can’t think of a coincidence perhaps something…eerie. (Ben had, after all, just given H.o.p. the book, “Exploring a Spooky Swamp!”)
BEN: I’m not sure I can even think of a coincidence, where something happened that I had a premonition…
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Not even a premonition. It can be like, “Oh, I was just thinking about such and such…”
BEN: Oh, yeah. Wow. This is hard for me. I can’t think of anything, right now. This now.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Can’t think of anything? OK.
H.O.P.: Move on to the THIIIIIRRRRD question.
BEN: This is bad. I’ll think of something as I ride home.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: You probably will and it will be too late for me. If you want we can come back to this.
H.O.P.: The third question!
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: What is a story you’d most like to tell, which is going to be tough as you always have so many stories.
BEN: Yeah, what is a story?
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: A history.
BEN: Yeah, well I just recently spent a few minutes telling a lady the history about why I’m banking with Sun Trust bank.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: That would be just fine.
BEN: It’s amazing because for years, I started off, I banked with C&S bank from 1950 to 1963, and every Monday I would go into the bank on Pharr Road and Peachtree and cash a check for $10.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Why $10?
BEN: Because that’s what I needed for lunch money that week.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: All right.
H.O.P.: Umm hum.
BEN: So, I would go in and I would walk up to the teller with my $10 check and she would look at me very suspiciously because every week it would be a new person.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Were they dressed in yellow or other colors?
BEN: That’s a good question.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: I used to know a person who worked at C&S and she said they preferred that they dress in yellow because it was nice and sunny.
BEN: That’s a good…that’s interesting. Well, C&S I think liked blue suits for men and gray suits, kind of like IBM, gray suits, and for women white blouses and you couldn’t see below the blouse so whatever. So, anyway, up to the lady I would go with my $10 check and she would ask me if I had an account there and I would say yes I have this check and I have an account here and I would like to cash it and she would hum, well, you have to get it approved by that person over there and I’d say ok and I would go over there and they would say have a seat and sign in this little book and I think the vice president would come out and he would ask me for my driver’s license and they he’d look very carefully at it and sometimes he would go back over to the teller and check and uhm my signature card, so, it was an arduous, what would you call it?
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Yes, a difficult process…
BEN: Yes, a difficult process and they’d look at me and then look at my signature and look back and I always had a suit and a tie on and my hair wasn’t combed just right probably. I tried to shave and do the rest of that stuff properly. So, anyway, I decided I would go into this little bank there on Peachtree Road called the People’s Bank, and there was a nice lady, an older teller there, looked like somebody’s grandmother, named Mrs. Mason. And, with glasses and reddish brown hair and a white blouse with a ruffled collar, and always looked the same. There was nobody else in that bank except for Mrs. Mason and over sitting in another room a nice old feller named Mr. Clodfelter. And Mr. Clodfelter was the president of the bank and she was the teller, and I’d go in to cash my $10 check, she would look at me and say, “Good to see you,” and she would cash my check so I was a customer of People’s Bank. But Mr. Clodfelter got old and he decided and he decided (laughs) this is a long story…
IDYLLOPUS PRESS (laughing): I’m waiting for the punch line.
BEN (laughing): You may never get there. So, anyway, Mr. Clodfelter’s getting old so he decides to sell the bank to Georgia Railroad Savings Bank of Augusta, so…
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Oh, no, no, no, no, no.
BEN: So they become First Georgia Bank.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: When was this?
BEN: Oh, this has got to be sixties, seventies.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Right, years ago.
BEN: So, first Georgia Railroad and Savings Bank and I go in there and they have four or five people, but generally they have the same people in there and I don’t have a lot of trouble cashing my check. But, and it goes along pretty well for twenty years. Well, for fifteen years.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: We started out with them in Augusta and I didn’t like them.
BEN: The sixteenth year they become First Union Bank, they sell out to First Union, and my daughter goes to work there during the summer. I mean we were pals, you know? So she works there, they train her to be a teller, they train her to do something, they give her an award for selling more savings bonds than anybody else and this goes on for four years off and on. So my daughter decides to get married, this is my daughter, Anna, and I need money, right? Because this wedding’s, Linda’s planned this incredible wedding. And it’s going to cost lots and lots of money. So I go back into First Union Bank and there’s this nice little lady I’m friendly with named Mrs. Something-I-Can’t-Remember-Right-Now and I say I want to borrow $20,000 because my daughter’s getting married.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Uh-hum.
BEN: She’s finished college and she’s marrying this guy she met in college and they wanted, oh, they were so thrilled, and what I wanted was a Home Equity Loan and I want to pay monthly payments on it until I pay it off. And the lady says, “That sounds OK, now where do you live?” So I gave her the address and everything and we got to talking and she said, “Who built your house?” And I said, “I built my house.” And she said, “What kind of house is it?” And I said, “It’s a log house.” And she said, “Log house?! Wait just a minute.” She went back into a room and out comes the vice president and the vice president comes up and says, “We don’t loan money on log houses.” And I said, “Well, wait a minute, I don’t owe any money on my log house.” No, no money on log houses. It would be a first mortgage. So I said it’s not that much money, I can pay it. Anyway, to make a long story out of it I was very discouraged and I got home and we got to talking and I remembered Susan Houston, a long time contemporary, was working for Trust Company of Georgia in the Home Equity Department. Became Sun Trust Company. So I called her up and she said, “We’ll send the appraiser out there.” The appraiser went out and looks at the house and he says, “Well, uh, I don’t see anything wrong with this.” He calls back to Susan. By that time, I didn’t need the whole $20,000, I only needed fifteen. So they said they would loan me a lot more than that, the appraisal was a mammoth amount of money. Not a million dollars but to me, it seemed like to me.
So Susan Houston loaned me the money. I paid it back. And I was relieved, a lot of the strain was gone from worrying if poor Anna was going to be able to have the lavish wedding she needed, and that wedding turned out to be kind of a copy of… now, this is a coincidence…!
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: OK! A coincidence!
BEN: The wedding turned out to be almost exactly like “Father of the Bride”, the movie. Hmmm…have you ever?
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: H.o.p. has never seen…
BEN: Oh, there are two of them! The first one’s the best one, with Spencer Tracy, and the other…
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: You know, I have’t seen that one, I’ve only seen…
BEN: Well, it’s the same story, but it’s much better with Spencer Tracy.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: OK, we’ll have to get it.
BEN: Anyway, I can’t watch it because it sets me into a dither because I was so stressed out anyway. So there is the Father of the Bride at the wedding and he’s supposed to dance with the bride, you know, where the orchestra is playing, OK, so where is the father but out in the parking lot helping to get the cars parked around the building. I was that same guy. That’s a coincidence.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: A similarity.
BEN: So I can’t watch “Father of the Bride”, I’d rather watch something else. Even with Steve Martin, I’d rather…so that could be a coincidence. They used to laugh about the movie and they’d, the kids, they wanted to show it and wanted to watch me react (laughs). I’d go into tears. Oh, my goodness. So, happily ever after, the bill got paid and Sun Trust lent the money and I feel a great loyalty to them and I do not feel a lot of loyalty to First Union who has become now Wachovia or whatever that weird name is. They’re nice people, they were always nice people, they were always nice to me, they took my money and they put it in their bank and did with it what they did and I checked it all back out at one time. So there you are H.o.p., we may have come up with a coincidence.
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: Or similarity.
H.O.P.: Is it over?
IDYLLOPUS PRESS: The story is over, thank you very much!
H.O.P.: OK, everybody, clap. One, two, three and now! (H.o.p. and Idyllopus clap.)
The interview done, we then talked about a lot of other stuff.