Natural Disasters: A Tale of Two Banks

25 July 2009 2:19 am



Build bank

While we have not been as badly hit as many flooded communities in Queensland and New South Wales in recent weeks, things have been messy here.


Roof iron blew off the shed roof, the python got in, as well as rats and mice. And many things were damaged.


Paper did particularly poorly.






Up a ladder and too tired to pay the account


So imagine me on the day that a credit card account was due for payment trying to convince Karl – up a ladder for hours mending the roof – to pay it online as only he knows how.


Understandably, he chose bed after an exhausting day and the account was late.


In the morning – at 9 am – he paid it. I then rang the bank to ask for a remission of the late fee.


I proudly answered all the identification questions: my childhood pet, great aunt’s maiden name, Karl’s favourite brand of German sauerkraut… Anne, from Tasmania, seemed sensible enough.


Then came the question I could not answer: what recent charges have you made on this card?


The earlier statements were with my bookkeeper, who lives in a local community whose road access was flooded out by what the locals came to call “the chasm”.


Airlifted tofu


(As a side note, it was humorous to hear that all the tofu in Lismore was bought up by the emergency services and airlifted by helicopter to the cut-off alternative community members!)


Anyway, I could not remember my purchases. It never occurred to me that they would be, of course, on the statement I was ringing about.


Anne didn’t think of that either.


The upshot was that I was deemed not to be me and therefore had my credit card access cancelled.


“I AM me! Truly, I am. Ask me anything else? Ring me back on any of the numbers you have on file,” I cried, then remembering that the floods had cut the home line.


“Ring me back. Email me! Anything! I’m in a tiny village. Don’t make me go into that terrible bank again with those appalling people who send me away, telling me I have to make an appointment to collect my credit card. I have sworn never to go into that bank. Never.”


On my desk is the morning paper with their latest advertisement: “We’re for… [all good, sensible, community and local things].”


I’m encouraged to believe that they are the bank I can bank on.


They are for me. Hah!


Deep carpet sobbing


I am crying now. Deep carpet sobbing.


I ask to speak to her supervisor.


The supervisor, also from Tasmania, takes the same hard line. She does not say my name because, of course, I am not me.


I am not me


I am not me. I have to drive 75 kms. round trip to Lismore. I have been cut off.


I explained again, sobbing, that I was me, that the account was paid, that all I wanted was a little compassion (the neighbouring community got helicopter loads of tofu, for God’s sake!).


I closed the account and moved things to another bank .


Which bank?


(Which bank? That bank!)


There a compassionate and generous officer sorted out my affairs and made me and Karl cups of tea.


Complaint addressed


In the end, someone from “complaints” rang from the first bank and apologised.


But when I asked here whether State Government policies on natural disasters had any impact on how banks operate, the woman said she did not know. She thought probably yes.


Disasters come in many forms.


For us, blessedly spared, this one just brought us a lot of mess and the loss of some treasured mementoes.


And a new bank. With real people.

Knispering: Are Rats Smarter than Humans?

Jarlanbah Eco-village, Nimbin, NSW, 17 June 2009


Karl in the Shed


The Introduction to Kitchen Table Sustainability starts the book off on a bucolic, if pessimistic, note.


Three of the authors are sitting around the tables on the porch of our shed here in Nimbin and speculating about the future and the future of all generations – of all beings.


So far, so good.


All beings


All beings. Good Deep Ecology thinking for a woman with a PhD in environmental ethics.




May all beings be happy and free from suffering.


All beings. Hmmm.


Karl in the shed


For the past week or more, my husband Karl has been up a ladder in the shed with me acting as the trades assistant, that is, holding the ladder.


And what are we doing, two ageing humans with six university degrees between us? We’re trying to rat-proof our 6 metre by 6 metre shed.


So far the little suckers have eaten everything in sight. I mean everything: lids to glass jars, lids to boxes, boxes of files, toiletries, creams and lotions and vitamins and calcium tablets,aspirin, the plastic water filter cartridge AND the carbon pellet contents.


The only thing that dissuades them is a locked metal filing cabinet, which now holds cereal, nuts, and other treasures I’m trying to rescue from the chaos.


Messy eaters


They’re very messy eaters so the floor is littered with their droppings, washed with their urine and blanketed with a multicoloured carpet of half-chewed plastic, cardboard, paper, cellophane, food, vitamins…


The rats came in when the floods came and the winds blew the iron off the roof.


The python followed them, but it got too crowded in the roof space for everyone. So the python (we dreamed he’d evict them) departed after knocking everything off the tops of the bookcases.


He was a messy worker, too.


We’d had lots of rats and marsupial mice before.


But now, apparently sensing that Karl (with a stern countenance, rolls of vermin mesh, a drill and metal rods to attach the mesh to the walls) means business, they are redoubling their efforts to chew up and through everything not locked in a metal box.


Local remedies


All the local remedies are futile: scattering chilli powder where they go, various humane and not-so-humane traps, ratsack, traps camouflaged in potato crisp bags…


Nothing works.


Fortunately, we’re not sleeping in the shed any longer… because the night-time antics of one small mouse can drive an adult human berserk. And quickly.


Tearing out the door and baying at the moon seems a perfectly reasonable response when you have been wakened a dozen times by what German-speaking Karl calls “knispering”. “Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!”



Knisper away


Well, knisper they may. But not for long. We’re coming to the end of the job of securing the downstairs of the shed so that they will have to knisper only in the roof space and not in my cherished envelopes of chocolate pudding or my treasured antique fan.


They’re smart, these little creatures. They’re persistent and wily. They make plans for their future.


They take care of their family’s needs. So they should be worthy of consideration as part of our ethical community. (See chapter 3 of Kitchen Table Sustainability.)


They’ve outsmarted us for years. We may be bigger and have bigger brains, but, trust me, rats are not to be underestimated.


I definitely don’t think we humans are the pinnacle of creation or the top of the evolutionary pyramid when I’m standing holding the ladder for hours on end, ankle-deep in rat mess.


And I wonder: what will happen when Karl is too old to climb up the ladder and manage a drill and I am too frail to hold the ladder?


Will rats rule then?


All beings!