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Carlton Fletcher

“Your love give me such a thrill, But your love don’t pay my bills. I want money.”

— Barrett Strong

They’re something of a Catch 22, these stimulus checks that have poured in while we slogged our way through the global pandemic that now appears to be abating ... or at least it does locally.

Those of us who have continued to work know in our hearts that we’ve done nothing to deserve such checks, and yet ... when they show up in our accounts, we react like we used to on Christmas morning after Santa dropped by.

I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not be getting the original $1,200 stimulus check when months passed and everyone I knew — except for a few ne’er-do-wells who would prefer that the government not know where they were, even if it meant not getting a check — had talked about getting theirs. One day, though, I got a notice in the mail that said if I hadn’t gotten a check and had filed my 2019 income tax return, I could go online to find out the status of my stimulus.

I tried that, but was denied access. Again, I was not going to cry over not receiving money I’d done nothing to deserve when I knew people who were struggling through the virus-damaged economy.

But the notice I got offered a last-ditch phone number to call if all else failed. I figured I’d give it a shot, and I called the number one morning. I was informed, by a recording, of course, that I’d have a wait of 30-45 minutes if I wanted to talk to a real human being. Not being the most patient person on earth, I started to hang up — screw it, again, this was money I’d done nothing to earn — but decided what the heck and just went back to work while muzak played on the phone.

I’d really pretty much forgotten making the call, the hold muzak settling in as part of the background, when suddenly a lady’s voice interrupted me. I was actually talking to someone from the federal government.

Now, I know many of us have a tendency to be smart-asses when we talk to such folks, especially after sitting out a 48-minute wait, but I figured this lady’s job was difficult enough without me adding to her woes. I thanked her for answering my call — she sounded pleasantly surprised — and she looked through my file. After a few questions and a bit of back and forth, she told me I would get my stimulus check in less than a week.

While I had her on the phone, I rolled the dice and asked her about the hold-up on my income tax refund, which I’d filed months before. She informed me of its status and told me, again, that the refund would be sent to me within the week. I got both checks on back-to-back days a week later!

Now to the Catch 22. Getting my tax refund check was a blast; getting the stimulus check was something like getting a bonus (which I’ve heard that some companies give their employees). But, again, I read day after day how our economy is struggling and our national debt is being measured in the trillions of dollars, and yet virtually everyone in the country got a bonus check because of this virus?

And then there was another one? And another is planned?

Now, not surprisingly, I’ve overheard conversations during which people are actually planning what to do with their “extra money.” And these were people whose jobs had not been impacted by the pandemic. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right to me.

And I know what you’re thinking: No, I don’t intend to send the money back or give it away or anything like that. As BoDean and the Poachers sang, “I ain’t a saint.” I just kind of marvel that 1) so many people who’ve always worked for a living now plan out what they’re going to do with money being sent to them for no specific reason, and 2) some of those same people who complain about the individuals who get monthly government checks at least somewhat understand now the allure. Who among us wouldn’t like to have a regular “job” of running out to the mail box each month to collect their latest infusion of free money?

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

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