Yes, Virginia, they can cash a check that isn’t made out to them

Image courtesy of Flickr user jridgewayphotograph by way of a Creative Commons license.

About halfway through today’s Pulitzer contender you will mutter, “Stone, you dunce. You don’t have the sense God gave the clown known as ‘Idiot Face.’ ”

I was paying bills in my post-work fugue state. I’m sure you’re familiar with the syndrome. It should have a Latin name – Workus Exhaustus Twilightzonatorum.

Two checks – one for rent, one for Gulf Power. I did the math (using a calculator … I haven’t been able to subtract in my head since second grade), put them in the envelopes and managed to get the stamps in place without permanently adhering myself to the microwave oven (can you imagine how miserable life would be with people constantly bugging you to heat up their burritos?).

Two days later I got a call from my landlord. “We got your Gulf Power check.”

&#@%$! That meant Gulf Power had gotten my rent check. How could I have been so stupid as to put the wrong check in the wrong envelope? Then a memory came filtering back, of a model airplane melting in the oven. THAT is how stupid I could have been.

I called Gulf Power’s corporate office to find out what they’d done with my rent.

“We show a $500 credit to your account,” the representative told me.

Holy cow! Not only had I put the wrong check in the wrong envelope, I’d made out the rent check to Gulf Power! I must have REALLY been tired – either that or I’d stopped off on the way home for a lobotomy.

Much as I like Gulf Power, I really couldn’t afford to pay them a five-month advance, so I shagged it to their local office for a refund.

By a stroke of dumb luck, I found my checkbook in the car. I looked at the carbon. Wait a minute! The rent check WAS made out to my landlord!

Somehow, Gulf Power’s bank had cashed a check that wasn’t made out to Gulf Power.

I hasten to add that Gulf Power was more than happy to refund the balance. Don’t be mad at me, Gulf Power. I LOVE electricity, especially the electricity flowing to my AC and my nostril-hair trimmer.

But I asked a friend at Eglin Federal Credit Union how such a thing could happen. She arched her eyebrows.

“They’re not supposed to do that,” she answered gravely.

A copy of the check revealed it was the Bank of America in Jacksonville that done the processing.

I talked to Mitch Lubitz, a Bank of America media relations guy in Tampa, who explained the check-processing system is automated.

“They’re not manually looked at,” he said, adding the Jacksonville bank processes about 34 MILLION checks a month.

If I had to do 34 million of anything I’d probably screw up 50 million times.

OK. Mystery solved. I’m not fussing anymore.

I just hope I don’t mix up the Gulf Power check with the snotty note I wrote about the person at work who stole my Diet Coke from the break room refrigerator.

This column was originally published in the October 11, 2003 Northwest Florida Daily News and is used with permission.

About the author:

Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”

Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.

As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.

Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at .